No Advice is Less Crushing than a Form Rejection

And while I’m desperately trying to entertain myself for the next 24 hours and 54 minutes, can we just discuss for a minute why all of a sudden it’s such a bad thing to tell writers just starting out that writing is hard work? I swear I’ve been told six times in the last four months that I’m “crushing beginner writers’ spirits” by being honest at how hard it is to get published.

What would they rather have happen? Be told that writing’s just a walk in the park, so the only reason why they’re getting form rejections the size of a post stamp is because they, personally suck. Everyone else is rolling around on their publishing contracts, but they aren’t because…why exactly? I’ve known a lot of editors, and most of them would be happy to give out advice if they they had more time and they weren’t afraid their hard work wasn’t going to get their hand bitten off by writers who don’t yet understand how close a no, but is to a yes. So instead the only feedback writers get is a photocopied or copy and pasted response.

Writing is continuing to write in the face of rejection. If you are not intrinsically rewarded by your own work you are never going get as much praise of others as you need. We’re such fragile creatures with such delicate, is massive egos who think that what we have to say is going to be worth other people’s time and money. Your first work may not be, your third work will be closer. But if your ninth book doesn’t make it, you might just have to keep going deep into double digits.

If writing was the easiest way to make a twenty, everyone would be doing it. Panning for gold is just dipping your plate into some running water and yet fortunes were lost at such “easy” money. If newbie writers are fortunate, they’re “just” going to be wasting all their spare time. Bilking baby writers is a billion dollar industry. When I was in my late teens, I was so sure I’d be living as a writer by the time I was 25.

Dear Baby Writer Self: stop hitting the brick wall with your face so hard and admit what you were doing wasn’t working. And then after you’ve figured out what you’ve been doing wrong and completely rework your writing style, be prepared to do it again. You had to learn how to adult before you could learn to write but whatever you do, don’t give up.

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2 comments

  1. Sometimes when I look at Twitter, I think everybody is writing but I absolutely agree with you. Writing is hard and like any significant skill requires time to learn. It takes even longer to master. So keep crushing spirits — it’s the only way to make them tough.

    1. I remember a year or so ago, I was watching a video on pyramid schemes. The one shot from an auditorium had dozens of women, all dressed in pink, all smiling, all holding their keys. I’ve always been very anti-pyramid, but there were so many success stories that my brain just skipped and said, wow. There must be real money in this.

      Then the camera panned back. They were in some kind of convention center that held tens of thousands of people, all of them trying to be as success as the fifty or so women on the stage. It was all so sad, and exactly like writing. There are so many people trying to make it, and only a very small fraction ever do make it on the stage.

      But almost every writer has about the same amount of natural talent in at least one of the ten skills it takes to write. If people honestly believe that their first attempt at anything is on par with someone else’s best attempt, no matter how much more talented they are, they will almost always lose. There is nothing sadder to me than meeting a writer who has their new book out with Tor, coming out in 2009 and then never hearing about them again. It’s one thing to polish a book to the point of it selling, and another thing entirely to understand why it sold.

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