Monday, April 21, 2014

Write Something Else

How many novels will you have to write before you write one well enough to get published?

You work hard on that first manuscript. You write. You edit. You polish and edit again. You get shot down by one literary agent after another without the time to edit your work into a publication-ready form because these aren't the 1920s when editors brought along talented writers who just needed a little guidance.

Frustrating, to be sure. But you persist. You think of another story idea and write another novel which you edit, polish, edit. revise, re-write and polish yet again. You get shot down by literary agents who are not impressed with what you thought was lovely prose.

But you're stubborn and you don't give up so you write another novel and go through the whole process all over again, and with the same results.

How many novels do you have to write before you learn how to write something marketable?

Brandon Sanderson wrote twelve books before his novels caught the attention of a reading public that generated buzz and sent his novel to the top of the charts.

His hard work and stubborn refusal to quit paid off with the publication of Words of Radiance, part of a long and involved series that saw his name leading the New York Times bestsellers list.

Can you keep slogging away, putting in the time and effort to create that many books, before you decide it's impossible?

His sixth book found a publisher, but he didn't explode on the scene or become a household name. Instead, he kept honing his craft while promoting himself at book signings and whatever else he could do to get his name in front of the fantasy reading public.

Maybe it helped that he hit the scene around the same time that the Tolkien books were growing in popularity thanks to a series of popular films. If he was writing literary fiction, he might not be published even now, seeing as he lacks the requisite MFA and string of literary journal publications as credentials.

Yet fantasy is a tough sell because it is a small market. Breaking in is no easy task, and if Mr. Sanderson had chosen to give up after trying mightily, no one would fault him.

But he did not give up.

He kept writing. After one failure, he wrote something else. Then he wrote something else again.

There are no guarantees that not giving up will eventually pay off. Even a talented writer could fail if timing is off or luck goes missing. Quitting will guarantee that you'll never get published, however. And what else would you do with all those words tumbling around in your head, demanding to be set down on paper? Isn't it better to write them down so they'll leave you in peace?

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