Progress Report, Perseverance, and Humility

It’s Monday, and things are proceeding quite nicely. All five novels and a short story are currently under consideration by either an agent or a publisher, and the list of potential places to submit my works to is growing. While “under consideration” means little other than “they did not say no as of this writing”, it is still more than what I did with my writing since, well, ever.

Which brings me to today’s topic, perseverance and humility.

Every aspiring writer in the world probably has a rather inflated opinion of his or her skills. In some cases it is warranted; in others, not so. This belief in one’s writing acumen is both a blessing and a curse – a blessing, because it does not let rejections deter one from trying; a curse, because it can lead one to overlook real issues with his or her writing. It can be at least partially mitigated through the use of friends, family, and writers’ groups as proverbial sounding-off boards, but there are some issues with that. Friends and family will rarely bluntly tell you that your writing leaves much to be desired. Writers’ groups may be hesitant to provide harsh feedback in order to secure more lenient feedback for themselves. A professional editor will not be free, and may have ulterior motives (especially if such editor is associated with a vanity publisher or an agent, and is involved in trying to get you to sign up with that publisher or agent).

Ultimately, the hardest part for any aspiring writer is to decide if the feedback you receive is honest, unbiased, and has no ulterior motivation. And with this in mind, submitting your works to publishers and agents provides a good gauge for where you really stand.

We have all read stories about J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss, both of whom were rejected time after time before finally finding success (I bet some of those publishers had an “egg upon their face” moment). Stephen King was not an overnight success, and did not hit it big until “Carrie”. Almost any writer, unless he or she is extremely lucky, will accumulate a pile of rejection letters (or a collection of e-mails) until that one affirmative answer. That said, the stories also send a wrong message to many aspiring authors – try submitting your stories for long enough, and you will eventually find success.

The truth is, getting published is easy. With the advent of the Internet and e-readers, anyone can publish his or her manuscript for relatively little cost. Getting published without having to pay for it, where you compete against hundreds or even thousands of other would-be authors, each convinced he or she is the next (insert name of your favorite popular writer here), that is much harder. And while much of the acceptance process is bound to be guided by the publishers’ or agents’ subjective opinions, after a certain point one cannot help but wonder, what is wrong?

Now, in my case I am at the very beginning of the submissions process, and while I hope that it will bear fruit soon, I do not expect overnight success. With five novels that are quite diverse in terms of genres and writing styles, I believe I have increased my chances of eventual acceptance, but I am also prepared to play by the rules and to wait as long as necessary, allowing prospective publishers to evaluate my works and decide if my novels are right for them. As such, a degree of persistence and thick skin are mandatory. But if sufficient time passes and my works gather no real interest, I have little issue with going back to the drawing board, doing additional editing and writing, and trying to craft new stories incorporating what works.

This is almost certainly one of the most important things for an aspiring writer. Self-confidence is a great thing, and positive comments from select test readers are encouraging, but in the end, one must always accept the reality that writing is an evolutionary process, and that the only opinions that matter are those of a publisher and those of a final reader. If a publisher is willing to put their resources into producing a marketable copy of the book, and someone is willing to pay money for it, it is the author’s obligation to put forth his or her best product. And in order to do that, a certain degree of humility is absolutely necessary.

Very few things are great from scratch. Every story should be re-read several times, all inconsistencies removed and all grammatical, spelling, punctuation and other errors corrected. The final product should be the best the story can be, and should be promoted as if it is the most important literary work in the history of mankind. An author who does not believe in his or her story’s potential enough to fully support and promote it has very little chance of convincing anyone else of that story’s potential. But if the story fails to solicit interest after sufficient effort was put into promoting it, if it cannot find its market and its reader base, then an author should not be afraid to return to the drawing board.

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2 Comments

  1. Could you list the writings you have under consideration?

    I remember you had some stuff posted on AH.com, but I can’t remember specific projects. I’m wondering if they’re any I’ve seen before.

    Reply
    • Absolutely! The five novels I am attempting to publish are:

      1) Samael – a dark time travel (of sorts) novel incorporating a bit of science fiction, some dark fantasy, and whatnot.
      2) All is Dust – a “space opera” novel written as my take on older style of science fiction, less action-oriented and more about world-building (and no, it has nothing to do with Warhammer 40,000 despite the title). It is written as the first novel in the series, and I actually have a bit of the sequel written as well.
      3) Flight of the Locust – a “space opera” of more action-driven variety (not the very early version I had at AH.COM – this version was completely rewritten from scratch, and the only things it has in common with the original are some of the premise and a few character names)
      4) Bring Out the Dead – my take on supernatural horror (I originally wrote it as a birthday present for my wife, but I got good enough feedback on it from the people who read it that I am hoping it can get published)
      5) The Keys of Death – a novel of post-apocalypse, science gone mad, fallen angels, Gnosticism/Manichaeanism and worse. Also written as the first novel in the possible series.

      I don’t think any of them are on AH.COM now – I might have posted bits and pieces a while back, but the latter four were written after I stopped participating much at that site (if memory serves me right – it’s been a long while since then).

      Thank you for commenting! 🙂

      Reply

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