Rule #2: Persistence. Perseverance. Some might call it ‘stubbornness.’
Writing is a commitment. It takes time to craft a story into a final draft. Because several agents rejected it doesn’t mean the story itself lacks or that your story needs to meet the burn barrel.
Great things take time and patience. Patience for readers offering you feedback, agents, and yourself.
Beta readers are both a blessing and a headache. They start with enthusiasm, and in my experience, fizzle out about halfway through. Either the read didn’t thrill them, which is a hint in itself, or they lost the time. That happens, as well. I had a beta who found a new job halfway through my manuscript, and I lost her. I understand; life.
But, when receiving feedback, remember to be patience with the readers. They’re not professionals. They are people will free time that enjoy reading. They won’t always use tact or an objective view. They will ignore plot holes, complain about wording or character names, and give overall and useless advice like “this part was boring.” It feels almost like they are mad when the unpublished manuscript doesn’t read like a polished work.
I’ve had the rare beta reader who gave good, insightful feedback. She provided reasons for what she liked/disliked. Don’t get mad at “poor” beta readers or their seemingly useless advice. Read between the lines. Why did they stop in the middle? Did the story not hold their attention? What was it about that character/scene/word that turned them off? Those are great questions to probe your betas with, if you can.
Sometimes, it feels like literary agents have no time for the unknown writer. We are throwing our babies at them hoping to snatch one. Agents are busy people; they don’t set around and read all day. They have meetings about books they’ve hooked, with authors, with publishers, with editors, with staff, with all the people involved in the industry; they’ve a business to run. Think of all the work you put into your novel. Agents put a lot of work into each novel they decide to represent. They have to be behind each novel 110%.
Finding a novel “interesting” isn’t enough. They need to be wrapped in it, obsessed with it. They are hammered with queries daily; sometimes hundreds of them, sometimes even more. Agents reject manuscripts for many reasons, many of which are the same reason that readers skim over books on a bookstore’s shelve. It didn’t catch their eye. It felt too similar to something they’d already read. They aren’t into the ‘bad boy turns good’ plotline.
Above all, be patient with yourself. If you’re not behind your novel 110% no one else will be. Great stories don’t appear over night; they take time to craft, to hammer out, to knick-pick into perfection. It takes time to learn the craft, to better your skills, and to accept that you’re not the greatest. Like many other subjects, there will always be more to learn in the realm of writing. It takes time to learn, time to understand, and time to practice.
I had times where I wanted to give up. I wanted to throw my computer and never see a blank word document again. I knew that I’d never amount to anything. I was a wannabe, a nobody, a worthless indie writer whining about the publishing industry. (I still am.) I wanted to take my manuscript and burn it.
But, I didn’t. I held on. I wanted to be a writer and I was going to be a writer. I’m going to be a great writer.
If a great book was produced each time someone wanted to write a book, we’d be drowning in books. It’s a huge step to finish a rough draft, and another step to finish the first draft. It’s a leap to find a beta reader, to put yourself out there and welcome feedback. It’s a flying leap to accept the feedback, good and bad, and to fix the problems in your draft. The entire process can take years; from the first spark of inspiration of Devil’s Blood to putting it for sale took about ten years. I didn’t set out to write a novel; which is why it took so long.
Persistence. Keep writing. Keep trying. Never give up. Don’t listen to that nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough and you never will be. Smack that voice. Tell it to shut up. You can be good enough, but you have to put forth the effort to learn, to better yourself, and to gain the skills and knowledge to write and write well.