Writing Requires Perseverance

Beyond the obvious need for a writer to have talent and a fruitful imagination, he must also have perseverance to become a published author. Occasionally, a writer’s first novel is extraordinary, or he writes a masterful proposal, and his book lands on the fast-track to getting published. But most first attempts fail to find a space on bookstore shelves. The failure to sell one’s first novel will end up discouraging some writers, causing them to imagine they don’t have the talent needed to get their books published. After investing so much time and emotional energy into writing a book, it can be disheartening when a multitude of agents, let alone publishing houses, reject your work.

 

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Column by J. Dalton Jennings, author of SOLOMON’S ARROW
(July 2015, Talos). Jennings is a 58 year-old retired graphic artist, who
resides in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He is divorced, with two wonderful
daughters and two feisty granddaughters. In addition to earning an
Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from the University of Arkansas
at Little Rock (UALR), he is a certified Psychological Counselor. He
also served for six years as an Avionics Technician in the
Arkansas Air National Guard.

But don’t throw in the towel; a true writer will not let a literary stumble deter him from reaching his goal. A true writer writes, he writes some more, and then he writes even more, which indicates he has confidence that the next project he undertakes will be a success.

(What makes an agent more likely to sign one client vs. another?)

Many published authors have had their first novels rejected. I can attest to this fact, because it happened to me, not once but twice before my first novel was published. In 2008, when I began writing in earnest, the first book I tackled was non-fiction. I had planned on writing it for many years before I sat in front of my computer and began the creative process. The subject matter was important to me and I poured my heart into that book. Unfortunately, it never sold, though my agent, Jeff Schmidt with NY Creative Management,  keeps trying.

My next book was a novel, an epic that I knew would sell. Even though it was good enough to get me an agent—who said he loved, loved, loved my book—it too has yet to be bought. Did that discourage me? Not at all. One week after finishing the final draft of my first novel, I went back to the creative well to write my next novel, SOLOMON’S ARROW.

Approximately one month after my agent began the process of submitting my first novel to publishers, I completed the manuscript for SOLOMON’S ARROW and send it to his inbox. Two weeks later, I was checking my emails at the local library (I didn’t have an online computer at the time), when I opened an email from Jeff that contained such terrific news I nearly jumped out of my chair and did a happy dance. He had sold my second novel, SOLOMON’S ARROW!

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When a writer gets this news, it’s like Christmas and one’s twenty-first birthday and a couple of other holidays all rolled together with a cherry on top. As one might expect, the email put a smile on my face that has not yet disappeared. However, the joy I felt in that moment might never have been realized had I given up on my dream when my first book was rejected. This is the main reason why a writer must have perseverance.

Writing is not easy, it is an emotionally grueling occupation that takes a toll on the writer. There have been many times when I anguished over the fate of my characters or racked my brain to resolve a plot problem. George Orwell wrote, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” It has also been said that a writer must open an emotional vein and bleed on the page. This is the price a writer must pay if he wants his readers to experience the truth in the stories he crafts. In a very real sense, those descriptions of the writing process are accurate.

(Agents define their “ideal client” — hear what they have to say.)

Writing can be torturous, but it can also be fulfilling—and at times glorious. When that time comes, and it will come if you keep working at it, the reward of seeing your book in print is like no other. And from that moment forward, you can call yourself a published author . . . but only if you have perseverance.

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