Writers who have given up cite many reasons for why they stopped writing. Fear, struggles, embarrassment, discouragement, lack of time, etc., are a few examples. For me, the biggest struggle I had to work through in order to keep doing what I love was rejection and negative critiques. The thing is, I assumed that because I did not excel immediately, it must have meant I was a terrible writer. But my eyes have been opened from some great people who have recently come into my life, and I have moved past it.
I’m sharing a quick version of my story in hopes that I can encourage fellow discouraged writers to keep going and not give up.
I have written stories my whole life. In fact, my first story was written in Kindergarten using terribly drawn pictures and horribly misspelled words. I always wanted to be an author, and all of my teachers told me that not only could I be an author, I should be one. Still, I never took my writing seriously enough to actually finish a book, until recently.
In school, I was always the teacher’s favorite student, which was true even in some of my college courses. I am a very compliant person, always followed the rules and always went above and beyond in my assignments. School came easy to me. My jobs have come easy to me. Even parenting has come easy to me, (which surprised even my parents). When I finally decided to go for my dream of being a published author, as you can imagine, I assumed this would come easy to me also. It didn’t.
I finished my first book and submitted it to agents. I received many rejections and each time, my confidence was a little more deflated. The truth is, although I excel on paper at many things, I lack confidence in my abilities. Therefore, if something I worked on is not well-received, it is not hard for me to feel like a failure. I am the type of person to believe the few negative things said about me than the hundred positive things. Being rejected could only mean I was a terrible writer and should quit now.
Many other writers out there who face rejection may have experienced the same things I did. I felt like giving up, deleting my whole book, erasing everyone’s memory of me declaring I would one day be an author, then digging a hole to hide out in.
I am blessed to have two great critique partners who have given me excellent feedback on my manuscript (one of which is the author of this very blog!). However, when I first opened the Word document with Angela’s feedback, the feelings of failure hit me all over again. I read her feedback as “Wow, you really are a terrible writer.” “Maybe you should try something else instead.” “It is hilarious to me that you thought you could actually publish a book.”
Of course, she said NONE of these things! What I was reading as her feedback was really my own inner thoughts about myself. Because of my fear of failure, I could have missed out on everything Angela had to tell me by projecting my negative fears into her words.
I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity for one night and one night only. The next day, I opened her feedback again and I found treasure in her comments. She gave me such great resources, tips, and tricks to make my writing stronger.
One of the resources she gave me was a video on the elements all great stories should have. With a positive perception of feedback, I was able to see I did in fact have all of these elements; they were just out of order. Without approaching the feedback as a learning opportunity, I would have missed that, and continued to call myself a bad writer.
Writers have to approach this craft with a positive mindset. Each rejection teaches you a lesson. Feedback from a CP is going to make your writing stronger. You will not fail if you persevere and if you are willing to learn a lesson. Writing is about passion, but it is also about hard work, growth, effort, and subjectivity. Agents may not feel your work is for them, but it doesn’t mean it is not good for someone else.
Most importantly, you have to be able to know yourself and your work well enough to know what needs to be changed, and what needs to stay the same. You can’t hold onto every piece of your book because you like it. If it doesn’t work for your story, be willing to change it. Likewise, if someone doesn’t think that a character or plot point works for the story, but you know better, keep it, but rethink the flow of where the character or plot point comes in.
Find yourself a great CP like I did and never give up your dream. The best lesson I learned is that each rejection and negative comment brings me that much closer to my first published book. I turn the negative into a positive and improve each time.
I leave you with a list of lessons I learned in the process of trying to get published. I look at this list every time I feel like a failure, and it reminds me that I have not failed because I learned and grew as a person, and as a writer. (click the photo to view list)
If any of you ever need encouragement, or someone who understands what you are going through, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter (@lorenneal4). You can also contact me through my blog (www.lorenneal.com). I may not be the best authority on the subject, but I can offer you an ear to listen and some advice to help you get through your discouragement! Angela is also a great support system!