Gaye Mack’s Blog

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART-DISCOURAGEMENT AND PERSEVERANCE: THE REALITY FOR ASPIRING WRITERS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Articles, Worth the Read, Writer's Work 2 Comments

Like a bad cough you can’t get rid of in the winter, discouragement and perseverance are part of the package for any aspiring writer who dreams of their work being valued by someone other than their mother.  My guest for this post is the best-selling author of The War of the Roses, Warren Adler.  Warren’s piece on ‘Rejection and Renewal’ is a reality check.  The reality is that it takes more than just WANTING your creativity to land somewhere other than on a forgotten USB stick or in garage boxes…that ‘the road less traveled’ is fraught with discouragement and one that demands perseverance.  For readers, it gives a peek into the prelude of that book they love.

THE PRELUDE

 You’ve spent months, perhaps years, composing your novel. You’ve read and reread it hundreds of times. You’ve rethought it, rewritten it, and revised it, changed characters, dialogue, and plot lines. Writing your novel is the most important thing in your life. It has absorbed your attention, almost exclusively. Both your conscious and your subconscious mind have been obsessed with it.

You have read parts of it to your friends, family, former teachers. Most think it’s wonderful. You have finally considered it finished. Armed with optimism and self-confidence, you obtain from the Internet a list of agents and begin to canvass. You agonize over whether to send your precious manuscript to one agent at a time or to a number of agents.

THE  DIVE

 You choose the first option. Just in case, you send it electronically, unsure of whether or not this is now standard practice. You have high hopes. You are aware of the massive changes in the publishing business, but have chosen to take the traditional path as your first option. Waiting, Waiting . . . Weeks go by, then months. The agents are, you believe, reading it in the office, passing it around, deciding to take it on. You live on such hopes. Finally you call the agent’s office. They haven’t a clue as to who you are. Somehow, they are reminded and search through the piles of manuscripts in their office, find yours, and send you back a standardized letter, perhaps out of politeness made to look like an original. Well then, you tell yourself, it is only one agent’s opinion.

You send it off to another agent. A letter comes back swiftly, similarly worded. You get bolder, send your manuscript to two agents at a time, then three, then every agent you can find. Nothing happens. “Good luck on getting published,” they tell you. “Not for us.” Sometimes there is a personal, scribbled note that says something nice and you live in its glow for days. More Waiting . . . Years go by.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…

 You start another novel, but you are less optimistic now, less confident, unsure. You tell yourself you have not paid enough attention to the marketplace. You begin to analyze what is selling, what is not selling, what is being published. You read books on the best-seller lists and are certain you can do a lot better. You try to use these books as a guide to what is selling and you write accordingly. Nothing helps. You are continuously rejected.

Then . . . you begin to read on various websites about how you can publish your own books and get them marketed on electronic venues. Some sites promise that they can get your book in front of movie producers for a price. Some say they have the magic to make you a successful career novelist, again, for a price. For even more money, you will be told how best to market your book. You debate the idea and as your pile of rejection letters mount, you give it a try. You spend money. A book is produced in print-on-demand format and an E-Book is created and placed on every electronic sales venue on the net. Your family buys copies and sends them to friends. It is even reviewed in publications that review self-published books, yet again for a price. There is a word or two of praise in the review and you send it around to the media and everybody you know. Unfortunately, there is little or no sales, no afterlife.

THE CRASH

Despite your confidence in your ability, despite the fact that you truly believe your novel is certainly worthy of publication, you feel the full impact of rejection and failure. Try and Try Again . . . Still, you cannot shake the certainty or your talent. You write another novel. Perhaps a third. Perhaps more. You go through the same process. Again and again you are rejected. You begin to question your ability, your ideas and your talent. Is it a fantasy, an exercise in unrealistic aspirations? You are becoming embittered. Your dream is crashing.

If you are fortunate, your wife, husband, partner and family stick by you, continue to encourage your dream, help you keep it alive. Other realities begin to chip away at the dream. You have financial obligations. Your kids are growing up. You are losing out in the job market. Others are moving up in their jobs, while you are falling behind. You feel lost, adrift. Rejection after rejection has beaten you down. You see this as the end of your world, the end of your hopes and aspirations. Your high hopes and self-confidence in your own talent is petering away. What now?

REALITY

No Magic Pill. If you’ve read this far without your stomach congealing, I suppose you are awaiting some prescription offering a magic pill for coping. Sorry, there isn’t any available your corner drugstore, and you won’t find it here. Luck—that strange, illusive, heaven-sent burst of good fortune—has not fired a missile in your direction. Not yet. 

You have three choices:  

The first is personal surrender. You’ve been on a fool’s errand following an adolescent dream. Time to throw in the towel and concentrate on your day job. At least you tried.

 The second choice is postponement. You weren’t ready. You needed more experience of life. But you continue to believe it will come. Some talented people are late bloomers. Give the dream a rest. Wishing won’t make it so. There are enough popular clichés to give you courage.

 Now, for your third choice, the clincher. It is not recommended for the faint of heart: never give up. Never, never, never. It may be impractical, unwise, foolish, pure madness, but if you truly believe in yourself, your talent, your ideas, your calling, your personal mission, why not, as Lewis Carroll wrote, “go on until the end, and then stop.”

It Takes Determination and Perseverance To do this requires a monumental ego, total self-confidence in your talent, and an unshakable belief that you have been anointed with the right stuff. You will require obsessive focus, singleness of purpose, a draconian ruthlessness, and total devotion to a belief in your artistic ability. Fancy words, I know, but with the absence of luck, you will need these attributes to sustain you through the process. What this means for the true novelist is that he or she must continue to soldier on, keep writing, keep trying, taking the increasingly painful hits of rejection after rejection until, well, until someone out there catches on…or doesn’t.

We are all waiting for Godot. Sometimes he comes.

warren adler

Warren Adler

Best-Selling Author and advocate for aspiring writers

 

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THE LONG ROAD FROM IDEA TO MAKING A PUBLISHER’S LIST-THIS GRAPHIC SAYS IT ALL

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Writer's Work Leave a comment

Although  I’ll be blogging in the next few days on Sunday’s  forthcoming solar eclipse, I just couldn’t help myself from posting this wonderful info- graphic, “How a Book is Born, which appeared on my Facebook page yesterday courtesy of publishing house Weldon Owen.  For those of you in the ‘writing to be published boat’ with me, you’ll smile and nod in agreement,  I’m sure.  For those who wonder what’s taking so long for your aunt’s, sibling’s, friend’s, et al, book to find its way to the shelves at Barnes & Noble(e-books not included here), this graphic says it all and should clear up any confusion! While I note that those hard working literary agent/managers somehow were excluded from the flow(another major step), nevertheless,  I’d love to use it as my Christmas card for those not following this blog and yet wonder, ‘what’s the problem?”  Enjoy and laugh–no doubt this graphic has already gone viral in certain circles!!

 

 


GETTING THE DUCKS IN ORDER ON THE BUMPY ROAD TO ‘PUBLISHED’ STATUS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Writer's Work Leave a comment

In my last post I wrote about the effect of Mars turning retrograde and how that signals a slow down and re-evaluation in our charts.  Currently I’m experiencing this Mars effect  in the ‘circumstances of life areas ‘(the houses) of my own chart which have to do with my ‘work in the world’ and ‘creativity’.

A couple of years ago I made the decision to shift my writing from non-fiction, academic material and return to the arena of historical fiction, specifically in the ‘thriller/mystery’ genre, which I’d explored in the early 1990’s.  While fiction offers endless creative paths to explore, the reality of going from idea to the printed page(hopefully by someone else other than your new best friend at Kinko’s),  is not for the faint of heart.  Anyone who has been or is on this road knows what I’m talking about.

After working for a year on  a major reconstitution of a manuscript  I wrote 20 years ago, year #2 saw an e-file accumulation of  literary agent rejections.  I stopped counting at 55 with the realization that two years of hard work was going nowhere.  While the rejections continued to come in, I decided to write book #2.  As this book neared completion the fires around E-Publishing and Publishing On Demand ratcheted up frenetically in the literary press.  I wondered if I should trash the whole idea of going the traditional route with a literary agent and try my hand at self-publishing.  A huge dilemma because self publishing no matter which route you take, requires enormous marketing demands on your part if you want to be successful.  Amanda Hocking and her explosive success is legendary but the reality is that the ratios of self published authors to actual success levels such as hers, are staggeringly depressive.

While mired in this personal dilemma, I ‘accidentally’ came across an announcement for a mystery writer’s conference to be held in Chicago. While  I hadn’t been to a writer’s conference in 20 years,  the program offered the opportunity to ‘pitch live’ to attending literary agents.  When I looked at the list of top level agents, I didn’t think twice.  It was an ‘either sink or swim’ decision on my part, particularly because I’d never pitched any of my manuscripts ‘live’ before.  Once I’d signed up, the reality of the preparation made me wonder what planet I was on when I made this decision!  A slick pitch is approximately 5 sentences…the first sentence should be no more than 25 words which informs the agent the title, genre, audience and general overview of the book…orally from memory in no more than 4(yes four!) minutes.  Your heart pounds, your palms sweat and you wish you hadn’t eaten lunch and could ask Scotty to beam you up.  Was all of this worth it?  Yes.

A week ago I signed a contract with one of the agents to whom I pitched,  Peter Miller, President of Global Lion Intellectual Property Management.  I’m still in shock because Peter represents an  impressive client list and possesses a huge reputation in the industry.  This said, seeing my manuscripts on store shelves is no guarantee even with his help, guidance and expertise.   The publishing industry is in flux and ultra selective, particularly for fiction.   I have much ‘clean up’ work to do.  Even though these manuscripts have been edited endlessly, they need  final, perfected polishing so that Peter can pitch them to major publishers and editors in the next few weeks in New York and then the London Book Fair in April.

Despite the excitement of clearing this first  hurdle, Mars continues to have his way with me, the work is hard and the agenda is chop wood, carry water…I won’t be holding my breath any time soon for that call from Good Morning America!