Some Thoughts on Persistence

Stuck? At an impasse? Facing rejection? You’re at the same point that thousands of successful writers have also arrived at — and escaped from. Here, from the pages of 1999 Writer’s Market, are three examples, in the authors’ words:

Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, who took copies of his original proposal to the American Booksellers Association convention:

We decided to walk up and down the aisles and give a copy to every single publisher there until we found one that would give us a chance. After a day and a half of being rejected 111 times, we finally found a very small publisher from Florida — Health Communications, Inc. — that said they would take a look at the book and give us a call. Well, they called us the very next day and said they absolutely loved it and they were going to take a chance and publish it. We asked about an advance, and they said, “No advance. We’re taking a chance, but we’ll give you 20% across the board.” It’s turned out to be a very good deal.

Arthur Golden, author of the bestselling Memoirs of a Geisha, on the time he spent revising his book:

When I started writing Memoirs of a Geisha, I made an acceptable first draft using a third-person point of view, though I didn’t show it around. That took about two years. Shortly after that, I met Mineko, a woman who had been a geisha for many years in the Gion district. I interviewed her and followed her around Kyoto; what I learned from her took my understanding of a geisha’s daily existence and stood it on its head. I threw out my entire 750-page draft and started from scratch. I wrote for another few years. I thought I had done a good job . . . [but] I got word that the readers (including three friends of mine who were experienced writers) found the manuscript “dry.” I realized that I had been holding Sayuri at arm’s length, emotionally, and that was the problem. I started over again in May 1994, writing in the first person this time.

Anna Quindlen, columnist, novelist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, on a project she couldn’t make work:

I have on the hard drive of my computer a 672-page manuscript of a novel I wrote in 1995. . . . I still think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done, but I can’t seem to revise it satisfactorily. I figured out my rewriting was making it flatter, not better. I admitted that to myself on a Tuesday. The following Monday I had lunch with my editor and my agent and told them I was starting a new book about a nurse who takes her kid and disappears somewhere in America to get away from her cop husband, who beats her. That book, of course, is Black & Blue, which has become the most successful book I’ve done. So writing is like anything else. You fall, you pick yourself up, and you try again. When you’re discouraged, you eat ice cream.

For more advice from these and other successful writers, as well as instruction from editors and thousands of markets for your work, check out the latest edition of Writer’s Market.

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