Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Writers, Rejection and Inspiration.

Last week I had the good luck to see my friend and writer, Jenny Milchman speak at a bookstore along with her friend and writer, Carla Buckley.

The format was loose and lovely. The readings left us wanting more. And the discussion, as it so often does in writer circles focused on the question that is becoming THE question of this century.

Indie vs. traditional.

Maybe it's a backlash to one-touch uploads that allow anyone with writing ambitions to have their books on Amazon in a matter of days, but I've seen (on social media) and heard (at book events) more and more authors who counsel patience.

Jenny wrote 11 novels prior to getting her first book published. Carla wrote multiple books as well. They both spoke of that time, in the pre-publication slog, as the dark days.

And yet, perseverance brought them both, finally, to book deals with Random House. Their other common factor was how deeply they believed those earlier books represented their best work, and yet, how happy they were those earlier books weren't published. Rejection made them dig deeper. Work harder. Push through to their best writing.

There's a lesson to be learned there. And, in our fast food, instagram, tweet-it-now society, it's not a popular one.

Maybe, the message in rejection isn't that you should go the self-publishing route. Nor do I believe the message is you should give up on your writer dreams, that you lack talent, skill or the ability to tell a story.

Maybe, it's just that you need to refine your skill. Aim higher. Not because you're trying to jump through publishing hoops, but because you really can do better.

That's a message I'm taking to heart.

Last year's book, The Virtual Life of Maisy Parker, is still out on submission. Last year, I was certain that book represented the best of my writing. This year, I'm certain the best of my writing can be found in my current project.

I know and have enjoyed lots of amazing work available in the Indie world, but right now, I'm holding out for a traditional path, if for no other reason than I think it will force me to do my best work.

Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying the stories told in Ruin Falls and The Deepest Secret and holding on to the inspiration provided by their amazing authors.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Patience - that's something many people seem to lack these days.
Good to hear from you, Johanna!

Barbara Watson said...

Love how you expressed your deepest heart here, Johanna. There's so much that's hard about writing...

A Beer for the Shower said...

We're currently going Indie because we've found a platform that works for us and we've found success with it. We didn't just get a slew of rejections and one day think, "Well, we'll just publish ourselves if no one else will." This was our choice, and we went Indie because we retain all of the royalties, we have a following, and we can sell books without a publisher's help.

However, that doesn't mean we're anti-traditional, and we're currently working with a traditional publisher on turning our blog into a full color book.

Both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately it's just about finding the one that's right for you. And if you do go Indie, don't do it because no one else will publish you, do it because that's the route you really want to take.

JoLynne Lyon said...

I try to think of it as a business. Some great stories may still be risky to publish because they don't have a guaranteed audience. Today, the author can choose to take that risk if a publisher doesn't. But that's no excuse to put out a substandard product.

Alison DeLuca said...

How lovely to see Jenny! She's such an inspiration, every day. As are you - your writing blows me away. It's only a matter of time, Johanna!

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

That's a great message, Johanna. I really appreciate that you're not pushing for one route vs the other. It's about creating the best darn book(s) we can create.


Johanna Garth said...

Hi Alex...it's good to be missed in the blogosphere. :)

Thanks so much Barbara, I know you have similar hopes for your writing!

ABFTS, There's not one perfect path, but I do think self-publishing offers an instant gratification that many find irresistible. On the flip side, there are also many Indie writers whose work reflects both their talent and dedication to their craft.

JoLynne, true. I do think traditional publishers are gun shy and try to stick with what they know will make money...as would I if I was running their business. But the essential tension between art and business is past performance isn't necessarily predictive of what will do will in the future.

Oh Alison...thank you so much!! :)

Hi Robyn, absolutely and using whatever you need to get you there.

Shell Flower said...

Good point. I have been stuck on getting a novel published forever and have even received positive rejections on full requests, but it's because my subject matter is too edgy. Not sure if I can rein myself in this time, but it seems like I need to really find my next project. It will be my best, just like yours is :) 11 books before publication is inspiring for sure.

Mark Koopmans said...


Long time no hear JoGar, (but apparently I have lots of time to come up with new nicknames :)

Anyhoo... I loved this, 'cos it's exactly what I *needed* to hear... my first ms has been rejected so many times it has severe withdrawal symptoms every time I remove it from the filing cabinet...

But, you're right, I could do better - and I will :)

Cheers, and happy writing :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Even if you do decide to publish independently, patience is the key. There is no rush to get your book out there. YOU are the only one who wants it out there NOW.

Readers would rather you keep working on it, revise it several times, get lots of competent feedback on it, hire professional editing, and put a book out that is the best it can be.

I cringe whenever a blogger says: Just finished my book, and I've sent it off to my (single?) beta reader and set myself a deadline (why?) of publishing it in two weeks! They might think that sounds professional ... it doesn't. It sounds hobbyish.

Beylit said...

Patience is one of those virtues that becomes harder to possess as our society gears itself more toward instant gratification. I personally think that waiting often yields the best results.

ilima said...

I look back at my first novel now and cringe. I thought it was brilliant, but I've learned and grown so much since then. I think this writing thing will always be that way, always growing and learning and improving. I may revisit that story again someday though, and do it justice. :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Joanna,

Glad you're back...

I agree and that's the route I'm taking. I worked three years on my second novel and now it's ready. It's gone through TONS and I mean TONS of transformations and I feel I have a quality work.

IF I had self published it the first year it would not be anywhere near as good as my finished project.

Is this THE ONE... who knows, but at least I feel I gave my best. And THAT is enough for me.

WE all get better as we continue on our journey. I learning is so much a part of it. As long as we are open we can always do our best...

Great to see you !

debi o'neille said...

I think the waiting and patience required should be true for self or traditionally published works. I've read some good self-pubbed novels that would have been so much better had the author honed his or her craft just a little more before publishing. But, I've also read some self-pubbed work by previously traditionally published authors who just wanted more control in their own futures. I haven't had to make the decision yet, but my day is ahead.
I'm currently your newest follower, and it's nice to 'meet' you.
Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

Emily R. King said...

So many good tidbits in this post! You're right that our instant gratification society isn't keen on waiting for success. But if it's earned, isn't it always worth the wait?

Nicki Elson said...

I was JUST talking about this with a writer friend at lunch today! I like all the opportunities authors have these days BUT there is a definite benefit to all the hoop jumping, waiting, rejection, and heartache. I'm very grateful for my early rejections. Each new story we write should be the best we've yet written, yeah?