Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dear Editor: When Should I Give Up?

You've just opened your tenth rejection letter for your from-the-heart-and-soul novel. You've even written a short story that you sent out, but haven't heard back about yet.

Some of the rejections say, "Thanks but no thanks." Others have a note or two about craft improvements you can make. But learning what passive voice is and not writing that way--or fixing it where it lies, like stagnant water, in your 100K book--is anther story. You even got a critique group and four people told you six different ways how not to do what they say you're doing wrong and you have no idea what they're talking about.

Should you give up? Decide that your writing is crap, will always be crap, and no one will like it, you can't change how you write, and that's it? Time to go back to the day job and just exist?


Don't do that to your dreams.

Never give up. You can learn new tricks. Study books on grammar and style. Study books on craft. Buy used copies of your favorite novels and highlight the heck out of that author's crafty bits. Analyze. Imitate until the methods sink in.

And above all, keep writing. Practice, practice, practice.

Have you ever looked at a portrait drawn by an amateur or self-taught artist, and thought, "Wow, that's really good. I can ignore the fact that the facial proportions don't look right because I can't even do that good. Stick figures, baby." Compare that drawing with a professional portraitist's art, someone who has studied line, color, shading, proportion, and has specific tools for different jobs. Worlds of difference in quality, eh?

Writing is a passion and an art. Craft tools and proper structure will allow your passion to shine, just as that professional artist's work is worlds above the amateur's. Perhaps that amateur portraitist draws as a hobby and is content with art for fun and stress relief. That's wonderful.

Is your writing a hobby? Then where did those rejection letters come from?

That's what I thought. Now put on your big girl panties and study.
Kelly Schaub is an editor in the Faery Rose Line. She is also author Kelly McCrady. Check out her new book, "Martial Hearts," on sale at The Wild Rose Press tomorrow, October 15!


priley65 said...


I loved this post. Rejection is a hurtful process that all writers go through unless you're very lucky. No matter how hard you try to learn from them they still make us feel inadequate. Writers now have oodles of information and advice via the internet. I try to learn and improve every day, but the best possible training is to WRITE and I mean every single day. Practice makes perfect...right? I've gotten some form letter rejections and I take them out once in a while and think what did I do wrong? How can I fix it? I ask myself was that manuscript crap or can I improve it and try again? I read an article by Mod Heat author Nicola Marsh entitled Teaching an Old Manuscript New Tricks. It had a lot of pointers. I always loved the old saying "If at first you don't succeed try and try again...

I have a partial with TWRP and if rejected or accepted I shall try to continue to learn and improve.

Mary Ricksen said...

It is a hard process, but following through and not giving up helps you prove to yourself, that you can do it. If writing is in your heart, it can't be removed, only by pen, well computer.
I look at my book from the first draft to the final product and they are vastly different, but the story is the same. I'll always ask myself though, could I have done better. Maybe the next book will be better and I'll never quit trying to make it so.

Anonymous said...

Your labels say it all, "craft, encouragement, rejection".

Excellent article. Thank you for sharing.

jj Keller