Hanging in There

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By Rondi Olson

A couple of years ago, I had an unexpected reaction to reading a blog post. Normally I enjoy writer success stories, but after reading one particular publication journey, I crawled into bed, curled into a ball, and cried. This writer had finished her National Novel Writing Month project, then, in newbie eagerness, submitted her first draft to multiple agents and editors. After receiving numerous rejections, she realized her project needed more work. She did revisions, and resubmitted. Soon after, she had an agent, and less than six months from typing the first words of her novel, she had a book deal.

I wasn’t jealous. Okay, maybe a little, but mostly I felt hopeless. I had been writing, rewriting, and submitting for six years with no serious bites from agents or editors. Clearly, I wasn’t as good of a writer as I thought I was. Talent was someone whipping out a NaNoWriMo novel, polishing it, and selling it within six months. Years of failure should be enough to teach me I didn’t have what it took. I was never going to get published. There, with my quilt pulled over my head, I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer. One could love reading and writing, but not be any good at it. I figured that was me.

So I went on with my life. Kids, church, and work. But if you’re a writer, you know quitting isn’t that easy. Stories popped into my head. Characters introduced themselves. Plots weaved their way into my dreams. A few months after quitting, I was plucking at my keyboard again.

Still, staying motivated wasn’t easy. I turned to other writers, published and prepublished, for advice on how to hang in there. The most common responses were these:

1. Keep writing.
2. Stay connected to other writers by attending conferences or being part of a critique group.
3. Give yourself time.
4. Know God has a plan for you and trust his timing.

I was surprised to hear how many writers had worked ten or more years before they achieved their goal of traditional publication.

Of course there are more options for publishing now than there were even a few years ago. Small publishers and self-publishing are viable options. But don’t be discouraged if, like me, you’re a little slow on the learning curve. If you really want a traditional publishing contract, or if you’ve tried other options but feel like less than a success, keep working at it. Not everyone is an overnight sensation. In fact, most aren’t.

Are you traditionally published, prepublished, or self-published? How long did it take before you felt you’d achieved your goals?

Rondi OlsonRondi Bauer Olson is a reader, writer, and animal wrangler from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her debut novel for young adults, ALL THINGS NOW LIVING, was a finalist in the 2012 Genesis Contest and is scheduled for release in 2016 by Written World Communications.

Comments 0

  1. Thanks for sharing your heart here, Rondi. You are so right–quitting writing is not that easy. When I’ve tried to put it on the back burner and think I’ve shut it off, the desire is still there percolating. Congrats on your first publication coming out!

  2. So saddened by your early experience, Rondi. I have some idea what you went through because before my first book was published in 1993, I took 13 years and 13 rejections from publishers before I sold my first manuscript. Since then I have discovered in many ways that God’s timing for that was so wonderful. I had no idea the demands this minister’s wife and young mother would have once I became a “publisher author”! Also, recently I started to read again the second novel I ever wrote and am rather horrified at the number of things in it I would like to have been able to edit before the publisher released it again as an e-book. Oh, those weasel words! It has certainly made me realise how much I have learnt since those early years – and still learning more with each book.

  3. Melodie – A number of famous authors have said things like “don’t write unless you can’t stop.” I guess we couldn’t stop!

    Mary – Thank you so much for your story! Discouragement can take over as the years go by, but, as you said, when we look back, God’s timing is always wonderful.

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