A few years back, I was enrolled in a writer’s workshop, and we were invited to ask our instructor anything about writing and publishing we wanted to know. The instructor was a published author who’d recently landed a six-figure contract with a prominent publishing house in the UK.
One of the workshop participants asked her, “What’s your best advice for getting published?”
Her answer was simple. “Don’t give up. The last one standing is the one who gets the book deal.”
I remember thinking at the time that her answer was a bit ridiculous and an oversimplification of the challenges writers face as we pursue publication. I mean, of course perseverance is important, but there’s no way it can be the sole determining factor in who gets published and who doesn’t. Hello, what about talent? Timing? Trends? Networking? Even luck? Surely those things play a role, too.
But over the past few years since that workshop, I’ve come to realize the instructor was right. It really is that simple: don’t give up.
I’ve seen so many writers give up. Four years ago, I had a ton of writer friends, all in the same writerly place I was – in the trenches trying to get that first novel out into world. Like me, they blogged every day. They socialized with other writers. They tweeted and Facebooked about their journey. They threw themselves in NaNoWriMo every year with more zest than an orange peel. They joined critique groups. They queried literary agents. Some of them even landed representation. And some of them even made it all the way to the editorial boards of major publishing houses before their manuscripts got rejected (an impressive feat all by itself, let me assure you).
And then, for various reasons, an alarming number of them gave up. I had one friend in particular, a supremely talented YA writer who’d signed with a prestigious literary agency. She came very close to closing a deal with a prominent children’s publisher, but fell just short of her goal – the publisher turned her down at the end, citing budgetary reasons. And a few months later, her blog was gone, her website shut down, her Twitter account deactivated. When I last checked in with her, she told me she doesn’t write much anymore, and she certainly isn’t pursuing publication.
I can’t begin to tell you what a shame that is. While I understand the burnout, she’s a fantastic writer and it’s hard to imagine her novels won’t be in bookstores someday.
But the thing is, she has to believe it. She has to be the one to decide not to give up.
Writing might be a creative endeavor, but to finish a novel, you have to write on days when you don’t feel like it. Inspiration only lasts so long before sheer perseverance takes over and pushes you through to The End. Writing is work. And like any other type of work, it requires discipline. There will be days that you love it, and days that you hate it. But if you’re serious – really serious – about seeing your work in print someday, then the best thing you can do as a writer is refuse to give up.
A good chunk of that old group of aspiring author friends have disappeared over the years. The ones who are still around are either published, or are on the path to publication. They didn’t give up. When their first novels got rejected, they wrote second novels. And third novels. They tried again. I know it’s easier said than done, and that there are no guarantees, but the one thing I do know for a fact is that giving up is the only surefire way to not get published.
So don’t give up.
Jennifer Hillier is a Filipino-Canadian author with two published books so far. Her psychological thrillers, Creep (2011) and Freak (2012) are available from Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books in the US and the Philippines and from Little Brown / Sphere in the UK. Her third book, Magnolia, will be out in 2014. Check out her blog, bio, and more at www.jenniferhillier.ca, and follow her at twitter.com/JenniferHillier.