Writing is brutal. As someone who has edited hundreds of novels, I can’t count how many times I’ve worked with clients who believe that their first novel will immediately have tremendous success. People know how hard it is now to become a paid writer (See my rant on National Novel Writing Month), and yet, everyone invariably thinks that they will be the exception. There are a wide variety of reasons that they believe this.
They think they are better writers than most people, but to take into account that agents and publishing companies are often too busy to even look at their work.
They think they already have the connections they need, fail to realize that people in positions of power get FAR too many requests of a similar nature to give theirs the proper attention.
They think they are rich enough to begin their careers on money alone, but fail to take into account the wide variety of distribution problems they will run into.
Whatever the situation, writers very very rarely receive instant success… I certainly didn’t.
This blog post is designed to show you how much stuff you might have to go through before your career takes off - but it is also designed to show you that, if you never ever give up, despite an incredible amount of rejection, you might finally get the writing career you long for.
The following are very real things that happened to me before my writing career took off--
I Got An Agent... Sort Of
About five years ago, I got a top 10 literary agent to say that he wanted to work with me. He said he was very impressed with my writing style, and wanted to sign me. Unfortunately, we never reached the signing. He was too busy to take another client, though he wanted to. He sent my name to several of his colleagues. They were either too busy or weren’t as passionate about me as he was. Eventually, it faded into nothing.
A producer on American Pie and The Butterfly Effect read and loved my scripts. Despite trying to stay in contact, it faded away in much the same manner as the agent.
Through a good friend of mine, I managed to get Kevin Costner, a Santa Barbara resident like myself, to read and consider doing one of my scripts. Soon after, he was cast to play Chris Berman, the lead in Draft Day. He got incredibly busy. I never heard anything about my script again.
I Edited A Screenplay For A Hollywood Film
Through a combination of luck and connections, I produced the second draft of a script for a New York Times Best Selling series. The director left at the last second, and after a while, it was costing the production company too much money to keep the project going. The movie was never made, and I never received a credit.
The moral here is not a sad or depressing one. It is simply this: stuff happens. If you plan on giving up over failed opportunities, then don’t try to be a writer in the first place! Writing is not an easy career. It is not something you can do instead of “real” or “hard” work. It is something that requires an incredible amount of dedication on your part – but if you never give up, it WILL eventually happen for you.
After initial failure, Jack Canfield, the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, bought enough copies of his own book for it qualify as a “best seller”. He had quite literally an entire house full of his own books. In the following months, he managed to unload every last one.
JK Rowling was an unemployed single mother living off of welfare. The Sorcerer's Stone was written in 1991. It wasn’t published until 1997, and then, only after an incredible amount of rejection and failed promises, much like the ones listed above. Strangely enough, it was only published after the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demanded to read the rest of the series.
Ayn Rand received some of the most famous words of rejection ever recorded from the Bobbs-Merrill Publishing Company. The house called her novel, The Fountainhead, “unsaleable and unpublishable.” It was published by Random House, the largest publisher in America. To date, 8 million copies have been sold.