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.

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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.

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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.

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

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!

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Zombie Books and On Staying Stubborn

Keep clinging to the edge of the cliff - you are NOT going to fall. (Source: my photo)
Keep clinging to the edge of the cliff – you are NOT going to fall. (Source: my photo)

I am a stubborn individual. Actually, mule-headed, and too damned ornery to ever quit may be more accurate assessments. This is part of why I can’t give up.

I have been in rewrites on the zombie book – that is, the WIP that refuses to die, but isn’t actually healthy, alive and kicking (ie: working out like it’s supposed to). As I dive into yet another round of revisions, I find still more errors in the book that still seem to stick around. It makes me wonder if I can write at all, if I’m just kidding myself.

This is called self-doubt. If you’re a creative sort, I’m sure you’ve met it before.

Nasty fellow. And as soon as you let him start leading you, you’re not heading anywhere good, trust me.

And sometimes, when you’re stuck with a zombie book – a book that refuses to straighten out, and yet it still holds some allure to you, some promise that it could be good – then what you have to be is stubborn. Mule-headed, I-will-work-with-a-patch-over-one-eye-and-a-broken-hand stubborn.

So, here it is. My five ways to keep writing even when things look like crap (how you feel, the WIP, you name it):

  1. Get your butt in that chair, turn on the computer, and start writing. Yes, it will suck. Yes, many of the words will suck. But they will get better.
  2. Stop looking up the mountain at how far you have to come. Looking up and dreading it will not make you feel better. Instead, look straight ahead at the step you’re taking now. Keep at it. Keep moving forward, and you’ll make it up the mountain of whatever workload awaits you.
  3. Take note of what that whiny voice of self-doubt is saying – anything useful in there? Then tell it to shut up and let you get back to work.
  4. Give your fear, your self-doubt to your characters. Let them wrestle with it. And as you do, note how good your writing looks, how sincere. 🙂
  5. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. You are not perfect. Every word you write will not be perfect either. That’s what revisions are for. And remember that this is the bottom of the hill in the creative journey. Things will get better. You will feel better – so long as you hang in there long enough to ride the roller-coaster back up to the top. Treat yourself kindly, but don’t give in to self-pity. Keep at it. Keep fighting.

Okay, so now I’m about to head off to battle the WIP. Today: assessment of the chapter notes and see what lives and what dies, and if any of the structure is right at all.

But first, what about you: how do you conquer self-doubt? How do you keep fighting through when things get tough?

Thanks for reading, and I hope you gave a great week. Oh, and hey! Like the post? Why not follow the blog. 🙂

A bit of encouragement we all need some days …

Hey everyone. I know, I’ve been terrible at keeping up with this blog (my apologies). I’ll try to do better (and hope you forgive me when I forget to keep posting again. Sigh.

Anyway, today I had something I thought you might be interested in, and although it’s no specifically writing related, per say, it’s certainly still very relevant to the publishing process, and indeed all of life. It’s my favorite poem which I may have perma-borrowed from my mom when I moved out, but which ever since I first found it in my early teens, has meant a great deal to me.

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low, and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit —

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a person turns about

When they might have won had they stuck it out.

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow —

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up

When he might have captured the victor’s cup;

And he learned too late when the night came down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out —

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit, —

It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

(My copy on the base says: Paula, 1978)

Well, there it is, my favorite poem. I’m not the only one (check out this link to website dedicated to it and providing more information if you’re interested.) I know I’ve sometimes had to stand before it and trust in the words, and it’s gotten me through. May this provide a little pick-me-up for all of you out there today, too.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week.