Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Importance of Pushing On

I heard lovely news the other day - a former students has been shortlisted in a major novel writing competition. The novel was started years ago, first in one of my novel writing classes, then in a critiquing workshop I ran. She worked away at it when possible, always refining, always developing. Some people - me! - felt she should send it out and not wait for it to be perfect (because there's no such thing as a perfect novel).

But it has to be up to the author when they feel their work is ready for sending out. Novels are the writer's precious baby, and everyone would think twice before placing their baby on the floor and inviting kicks.

And yet we have to do it if we want to be published. We have to accept that our beloved babies will probably not be appreciated by everyone that claps eyes on them. Writers have to have both a sensitive soul and the hide of a rhinoceros. The truth is that not everyone will like everything, and the best thing for us to do when we come across some negative feedback is to scoop up our baby, dust it down and move swiftly on.

And actually, rejection isn't so bad. Oh yes, it hurts at the time, but it inspires you to do better, to try harder (that is, if you don't give it all up). It teaches you to investigate what isn't working and what is, and how you can make the former bits more like the latter. I now know the novel I first sent out was simply not good enough. Rejection made me pull it to pieces, and then rebuild.

Whichever route you take, either editing more and more or risking sending it out before the novel is ready, you have to prepare for rejection at some point. But you only lose if you stop writing. Keep at it, whichever your path. Push on!


Alison Morton said...

Encouraging words, Sarah, especially as I'm in the middle of this process. Sort of like the transition stage during childbirth (Sorry if that's a bit graphic, but that's how it feels!).

Hat off to your student. She/he must be thrilled.

Anonymous said...

Very encouraging indeed, thank you for sharing. I started writing about 25 years ago and have given up several times - but each time I remind myself that it's something I truly want to do and only I'm going to accomplish it. So I pick up again and 'push on'..

Sarah Duncan said...

Alison - the childbirth metaphor is spot on. At that stage I remember saying "I'm not doing this," and the midwife saying, "sorry, love, you've got no choice."

laydilejur - congrats for carrying on pushing for 25 years!