Friday, 19 November 2010

When Do I Give Up?

By Richard Jay Parker

I can't claim any credit for this week's topic. I found an interesting forum asking agents as well as writers how many negative responses it would take before they give up on a project.

Have a look HERE

The immediate answer is, of course, never.

There are many stories about writers having their material rejected myriad times before it gets published and is a major hit. Frederick Forsyth's DAY OF THE JACKAL is the classic example of this. It was rejected fifty thousand times before it was published. OK - I may be exaggerating. Fifty is the official figure.

Then there's the tragic story about one of my favourite books A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES which John Kennedy Toole's mother managed to get published after he took his life. His suicide was in part due to his failure to get it into print.

As far as I'm concerned, if a writer feels absolutely passionate about a project they should continue to submit and hope it finds that agent or publisher who feels the same way and wants to champion it.

Belief in your own talent in the face of rejection is one of the most difficult things a writer has to deal with.

But this gruelling process has to be tempered by a big dose of realism. Having slaved over and polished a cherished manuscript for so long it's easy to get obsessed by a piece of work. If a writer receives constructive rejections then taking the comments on board is a step past the 'standing on a rock howling into the wind' stage.

It's a commericial world out there and, although you should never compromise your goals as a writer, it's always good to familiarise yourself with the territory your work will have to traverse. Research is a good way to fill those days when you're waiting for responses.

More importantly, it's vital to always be writing because that next project may well supplant the last one.

It brings us back to that concept of nothing we write ever being a waste of time. If we didn't pen the last project then we would never have used that experience to lay the foundation for the one we might have success with.

Win a copy of Richard's book at (foot of home page)


  1. Writing is something I started for me, a way of relaxing.
    I never really thought about publication until the last year or so.
    Since I started trying to get published and have been, and probably will forever be, dragged through the rejection process
    I have incresingly found it hard to remember why I started it in the first place.

    You are absolutely right, the best advice, is to keep on writing. I find a new project always lifts my spirits. Because, you never know. The next one just might be the one that gets noticed.

  2. My initial response was also NEVER!

    Obviously, getting published justifies all the work put into my novels, but honestly, I love every aspect of writing,(except receiving responses from misguided agents that pass on my *brilliant* work.)

    I also create horrible, child-like oil-paintings that no one could ever consider art, but it's fun, so...

  3. Very well said. Rejection sometimes is just a test of how bad you want it.
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  4. It can all be so terribly soul-destroying. I am published, but my publisher is an independant. does that make my work of less value? I don't know. I keep on submitting to agents. The comments I get back - when they bother to write back - are, for the most part, very positive, but always tempered with 'In today's increasingly difficult market, unfortunately...' Rejection hurts. There's no way of getting round that. It knocks us, forces us to question what we do. Perhaps I am no good, perhaps my work will never be picked up, and sometimes I wake up and the world is grey and bleak and I wonder if it is worth all of the time, all of the effort...shouldn't I just throw up my hands and give up?

    But I can't. And I won't. I write, not to make a fortune (although that would be nice) or to get the recognition (even nicer!!!), but because I love it. The stories race around inside my head, and I just have to get them out. So, I'll keep creating, continue to polish my works, submit them over and over again. Maybe one day, someone will see something, take a chance.
    That's my hope anyway.

  5. Self publishsing is up and coming. Many more authors are coming by a contract having proven the worth of their novel first. It's such a varied market out there. With the halfway publishers who can provide ten weeks for your novel on leading sellers shelves, there are lots of writers keen to go that way.
    Recognition that you have a gift for something would be wonderful, but sometimes trends don't see talent, merely something that's marketable.

    But writing because not writing is impossible is the very obvious answer for why we can't give up. I don't sit in my room, tapping furiously on my keypad because I long for the glamour of London fame and transatlantic travel (lovely as the travelling sounds). Yet the idea of being paid to do what we can't live without is an intoxicating, wonderful dream.

  6. Interesting post.

    I had a project with scored high enough on YWO for a pro crit. That was some years ago. After umpteen attempts to place it, I shelved it.

    Last month I dug it out and I'm currently reworking it from a slightly altered angle.

  7. Rejection is part of the process, not the end. Rejection is an input to the continuous improvement process. Let's take a simple example. If you want to learn how to play a song on the guitar, and you played the wrong notes, or was unable to maintain the rhythm the first few time you tried it, do you give up and shelve the guitar? You practice, you learn, you get better and then one day, you play the song in front of friends and create new memories. One should never let their your own fear of judgement get in the way of creating something--anything!

  8. Hi Book Blogger - Thanks for swinging by. When it all gets too much, I usually dip into one of my favourite books to remind me what drove me to write in the first place.

    Thanks, Charlie. Yes - writing has to be a pleasure because sometimes that's all that can be extracted from it.

    Thanks, ALee - will check out your blog.

    Like all the writers I know creating stories for you sounds like a compulsion, Glenn.

    I think we all need that tantalising goal, Sandra. Anything's possible - the main thing is to keep writing and keep your work out there - and enjoy it.

    Interesting, DW. Sometimes time away from a project can be massively beneficial and allows you to be more objective. Good luck.

    Absolutely, Ara. Nothing worth having is easy!