My Story of Perseverance: 21 Years and 220 Submissions

Hi everyone! Today I have a special post as part of the Writers Persevere event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward.

To help them celebrate this release, many of us are posting stories about some of the obstacles we’ve overcome as writers. As we all know, this isn’t an easy path. Writing is hard and as writers we tend to struggle with doubt. Sometimes too, we don’t always get the support we need to follow our passion, or we have added challenges that make writing more difficult. Because people are sharing their stories this week about how they worked through these challenges to keep writing, I wanted to post about it too.


As of October 11, 2017, I was finally able to say I was a published author. And while newly published, “new author” isn’t a title that fits. I wrote my first novel when I was in junior high, around the age of fourteen. I had to look up how many words even qualified as a novel at the time, and mine was 55k. I subsequently rewrote that novel many times, and my very first recorded submission was in October of 1996. I *might* have been convinced that I’d be one of the youngest successful authors in history. 😉

I’ll do the math for both of us, since I confess I never have. That’s twenty-one years between my first submission and actual publication. It’s more than half of  my life. It’s also around thirteen completed manuscripts, and since 2004, it’s 220 submissions that include queries and requested submissions. In that time, I’ve also gotten married, built my dream house, and had two children.

When I began writing, it was because I loved the idea of story. I loved the scratch of my pen across paper, the feel of the words, the very act of creation. Sometimes in my years of writing and submitting I’ve misplaced that initial love. Sometimes I’ve doubted myself, doubted the possibility of my dream. And in the end, my dream of becoming a published author didn’t come about exactly how I’d imagined. I chose to independently publish when I realized I was letting other people determine my self-worth and the value of my writing, and when I decided that while I still want to be a hybrid author (both traditionally and independently published), perhaps I’d start with indy.

Not that this meant I just threw my work out there – I hired a developmental editor and went through three rounds of editing, rewriting almost three-quarters of the manuscript in the process, because I was determined to put the best work out there possible. I also hired a talented cover artist to make sure my book looked at least as good or better than some traditionally published books. This was neither cheap nor easy, but this was fulfilling my dream: it wasn’t supposed to be.

Over the years, I’ve also used different coping methods to continue to persevere. I’ve made a list of reasons why I can’t just quit which is personal to me, and contains the fact that I don’t want to disappoint either myself–or my children. I’ve made connections with other writers so I don’t feel so alone in this process, because the “process” is so much more than just the journey to publication. I’ve improved my craft, taken workshops, entered contests, found an amazing critique partner, and joined a group of incredible writers who kept me going even on the days I wanted to quit. And I’ve worked hard to remember we all rise together, so that when I feel professional jealousy over someone else’s success, I don’t let that jealousy cause rancor or resentment, but try to turn it into something more positive.

So why am I sharing this story with you today? To gloat? Far from it. I’m writing this today for you, the newbie author, still glorying in the power of words, but also for you, the not-so-new author, still writing, still struggling to fight on, to persevere. And I’m writing to say that I believe in you. I know YOU will find your success story, too. I’ve found one of mine, and I continue to persevere, continue to move toward new goals, and I know that you can, too. I’ve been there. I know it can hurt, I know it can seem so much easier to give up. But you know what? You’re not going to. Because you are a writer. You have a story to tell, and someone out there needs that story. So keep writing. Keep believing. Borrow some faith, ask for some support (I love comments and mail – email or snail-mail!) and I am more than happy to cheer you on. Because you’ve got this. I know you do.


Do you have a story to share, or some advice for others? You can join Becca and Angela at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell them about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, write a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere. Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us.


There’s a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost at Writers Helping Writers.

I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!

The giveaway is only from October 25-27th, so enter asap. And don’t forget to share this using the #writerspersevere hashtag so more prizes will be awarded!



8 responses to “My Story of Perseverance: 21 Years and 220 Submissions”

  1. Jennifer Lane Avatar

    Wow, that’s a long time to keep persevering! Working with a developmental editor has been so beneficial to me as well. I agree that connecting with authors is an effective coping strategy. Are you part of the Insecure Writers Support Group?

    1. Shelly Avatar

      Hi Jennifer. Yes, that is a long time – a *bit* longer than I’d realized when I officially did the math for the post. 😉 But I also started very young…and probably pretty clueless. I love the big picture view my developmental editor can offer – especially when I’ve lost that perspective. They pretty much rock, don’t they? And yes, connecting with other authors is SO important. I’m not part of the Insecure Writers Support Group, but am part of an amazing group of ladies known as the Dreamweavers, and my 2014 Golden Heart Class. They’re full of information and support – and it’s because of them I’ve found a terrific CP AND that I’m published today. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Angela Ackerman Avatar

    Shelly, I LOVED reading this post! My goodness, I am so glad you kept at it, and you respected yourself and the craft to keep improving and putting only your best work forward. And congrats a thousand times–I am so happy for you. This was a beautifully worded post and I hope all writers take heart. Passion is a beautiful thing, and so is #writerspersevere!

    1. Shelly Avatar

      Hi Angela! Thank you so much, and thanks for stopping by! I was really inspired by your call for stories of perseverance to tell my story, and your fabulous hashtag – #writerspersevere. You bet we do! And I hope it helps reminds others out there too who might be struggling to keep going. No, the path might not be easy, but they only fail if they quit. Wishing you all the best with getting that message out there, and with your new book (I’m a huge fan of your whole series of writers’-best-friends-books, and this newest one looks like no exception to your excellence.) 🙂

  3. Talia Avatar

    This is so encouraging. I finished my first novel when I was fourteen, too! (I’m sixteen now.) As I’ve been thinking about eventually publishing something, I’ve gotten a bit overwhelmed… but your post encouraged me to keep trying, even if it takes a really long time. Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Shelly Avatar

      Talia, first: congratulations on finishing your first novel – that’s huge!! Some people never get that far, ad you’ve already done it. 🙂 I’m so glad my post has inspired you, as that is definitely my hope. Yes, looking at publication can be very overwhelming. When you’re ready, try breaking it down into steps. My first step was research: figure out what steps I needed. From there, work at it step-by-step, and if you don’t give up, you will get there. And while I’m glad you’re encouraged, I do hope it takes less time for you. 🙂 Please feel free to contact me if you ever have specific questions and I’m happy to help. Keep going, never give up, and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  4. C. Lee McKenzie Avatar

    What a great idea. Make a list of all the reason you can’t stop. I’m doing it! Thanks.

    1. Shelly Avatar

      Glad it helps, C. Lee McKenzie. 🙂 Some of the items on your list might start out as not super important as you brainstorm them (I generally brainstormed first, then ordered them by priority – if you’re curious, here’s the link on how I made my own list:
      However you come up with your own list, keep it close and you keep going. Wishing you luck making your list and on your journey. Thanks for stopping by!