Sunday, 19 September 2010

Persistence Pays?

I've just been lurking on a writing forum, and there the discussion is raging about feedback - too nice? or too nasty? I've discussed my thoughts about feedback and when it is, and isn't, useful many times already, but one comment struck me. The writer didn't like the saying that if you persisted you'd get published, on the grounds that, while you might improve, there were no guarantees.

Fair enough. And you might get run over by a bus tomorrow, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't plan your next holiday.

If you don't stick with it, you'll never know. Yes, the stars may never line up in your favour, which is why you should enjoy the journey, but there isn't a timetable we all follow. Some are high flyers with their first novel, and go onto greater things while others flounder to achieve the same success. Some keep on writing with no success until suddenly they leap to prominence - Clare Morrall's Booker Prize shortlisted success Astonishing Splashes of Colour comes to mind, the publishing deal arriving 20 years after she started writing.

I had supper the other day with an author friend. We first met about eight years ago before either of us were published, although at the time she had an agent. In a few months I too had an agent, and also a publishing deal, something which eluded her. She kept on writing. Her agent dropped her, another took her on, then also dropped her. She kept on writing. Her persistence has been rewarded with a three book deal in both the US and the UK (and a new agent), and I hope the novels will be mega-successful; she deserves it.

But what if she'd given up, even a few years ago? We hear a lot about overnight successes, and some people do get published fairly speedily, but for some - most? - people success comes slowly not quickly. Don't be too hard on yourself, but relax, enjoy your writing and above all give yourself time.


badas2010 said...

Yes, persistence, if it means carrying on doing what you enjoy doing. If you're writing simply to get published and earn a living or better then there must come a point when, like Ian Hocking, it's better to give up. I know I will never get published, I don't even try, but I do it because I like it and feel I must do it, it's the best part of most of my days.

Sarah Duncan said...

If anyone was writing with the intention that they would earn a living (or better), then they would do better to go off and do something else.

It's only a very lucky few - and I mean few, like 1% - who make the national average wage from writing let alone more than that.

Your attitude is spot on: do it because you enjoy it.