Friday, February 28, 2014

Reader Friday: Overcoming Adversity

Today's topic is inspired by a question we received from a TKZ reader:

"When you were at your lowest point and about to give up writing fiction, what pulled you through?"

28 comments:

  1. My critique group has been there for the highs and lows of my career. At various points, all of us have been ready to give up. We've cheered each other on, and sure enough, eventually the tide turned. It's so important to have author friends who relate to the biz. That's why I encourage all writers to join their professional writing organizations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The accounts of several successful authors --- from Dan Brown to James Lee Burke --- who endured multiple rejections and low sales before finding their audiences.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love writing. I want to do it more than anything. That's what's always kept me from not giving up.

    I hit my lowest point after I'd gotten comments from an agent and realized I had major problems in my novel. They were problems that had plagued me through every novel, and all I could ever pin down was that I couldn't get subplots into the story. I looked at every how-to book and every website on the topic, and utterly nothing helped. Everyone's fine, as long as the problem is normal. Weird? I was getting sarcastic remarks from writers as if I was too stupid to see the obvious. I started to ask myself if maybe I just couldn't write novels and should just go to short stories. I couldn't quite bring myself to do that because I wanted to write novels, too, so I looked one more time. This time I found Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel course and the description made me decide to try it. It couldn't be any worse.

    The course itself actually didn't help me any of the problems I would later uncover. Holly is an outliner, and I'm a pantser (I CAN'T outline), and the course clashed with my process. I needed things in a different order; other things I didn't need at all (tried to fix things that weren't broken for me); and still didn't fix what was broken. But it was the first step in seeing one of the problems, which was that most how-advice assumes you're outling. It doesn't seem like it should make a difference, and yet, I can identify standard and highly recommended techniques that, when I followed them, would wreck my story.

    Most writers would have given up and said, "I can't write." It was a lot of hard, and at times painful and frustrating work. But I always had that satisfaction when something hit what I was trying to do, even if it didn't get published. Right now, I'm working through yet another problem -- and it's another unusual one -- but the work is starting to show. I'm still getting rejections, but I've been getting shortlisted and the rejections coming back with personal comments.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Boy this is a good question for me. I am currently between contracts and agents. But that is a positive thing in the long view for me because it gives me the breathing room I need to assess where I am and design a new course forward. I am not sure you can do that with clarity when you smack in the middle of something. I truly believe in turning what appears to be a negative into a positive and that growth comes not from success as challenge and adversity. The worst thing you can do, when in a trough, is isolate yourself and stew about it.

    I agree with Nancy in that a GOOD critique group can be invaluable in this. A bad group can be just a pity party, which is exactly what you don't need. And as valuable as friends and family can be, they don't always understand what odd animals writers are and their special funks.

    Re isolation: I am up in Orlando at SleuthFest today and just the immersion in the community buoys my spirits and expectations. And teaching my workshop yesterday was like a balm...there is nothing like a grateful students (as any of you teachers out there know!).

    Odd that this particular question should come up as tomorrow I am on a panel about getting out slumps (either with career or book). Maybe tomorrow I will have very wise things to say :) Right now, it is only 7 a.m. and I need coffee!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm jealous that you're at Sleuthfest. Maybe next year! :)

      Delete
  5. The only thing that keeps me going some days is the fact that I'm out of the closet. I wrote for years without telling a soul, not submitting, not doing anything but writing and taking courses.

    Then I took a course called Break into Print and due to positive feedback from my mentor started submitting. Received acceptances. Had stories on line. Told folks about them. Since then, it was a constant barrage of "Still writing?" "When's the book coming out?" "Making any money at it?"

    Expectations. That's partly what is driving me at the moment. That, and Mabel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Getting "better" rejections kept me going. Weird, I know. A rejection is a rejection, but when an editor or agent gives real feedback, rather than a form letter, it is encouraging (even if the answer is still NO). This kind of encouragement requires putting your work out there. It's a risk, but you won't know if you're any good until you take that risk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree Jordan :)

      Among the pile of standard rejection slips I received were handwritten gems that told me I was a good writer. Those agents and editors didn't have to do that but they chose to.

      Delete
  7. The fear of death. Not in some concrete, gun-to-my-head way, but just the realization that my days on this earth are limited and nobody else would write these stories after I'm gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would sure fire the daily word count goal, Sechin. Ha!

      Delete
  8. I have some great supportive friends and family who encourage me and help me pull through the 'slumps'. I also tend to be pretty stubborn and determined - so my pig-headedness keeps me going!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I decided to quit, and posted notice on my blog. A dear friend and wonderful writer commented why this was a bad idea, and made suggestions on how to keep myself from reaching that state again. He also recruited several of his writer friends to post comments encouraging me, and giving their reasons and, at times, suggestions. I stuck with it and have since had a book published, gotten an agent (yes, in that order) and have hopes for the rest of the series begun after that episode.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been there, Dana. Thank goodness for supportive friends and family who help us pull through the dark days!

      Delete
  10. I had a lull in my writing following a couple of bouts with illness. The "lull" became a drought, and at one point I wasn't writing at all. I kept in touch with my writing communities during all that time, however, (critique group, social media, and most importantly, our community here at TKZ). Keeping those contacts going meant that I never lost sight of the goal of returning to writing. Finally, last fall, something changed. I hired a writing coach to organize a game plan, and started writing again. It was like a switch had been turned back on. I'm now making progress on my WIP, and plan to have it completed within the year. I'm so grateful to have had my TKZ community during all this time. You all truly inspired me to pull myself out of a major rut. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is not my story, but I was just over at Writer Unboxed and read this on today's post. Amazingly, this author didn't give up.

    • “My first book was supposed to be a big hit, and was bought for six figures when I was 25, It was, if not deemed a total failure in terms of its sales (it sold somewhere around 14,000 copies), then at least a DISAPPOINTMENT bordering on FAILURE.”
    • “My second book,only sold about 2000 copies, and because it was linked to my first book in a two book deal, there was a lot of money riding on it. Its terrible sales record made it, in the eyes of the publishing world, a FAILURE.”
    • “I tried to pitch another book to my first publishing house, but they said no way.”
    • “Next I tried to sell the first book I’d ever written, but no one would take it.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What was the turning point for that author, Eric? Talk about adversity!

      Delete
    2. Her third book had received a lot of rejections, but with comments. At the urging of her agent, the author revised the book based on the comments. One editor fell in love with the revised version and bought it. Then the book took off.

      Delete
  12. I'm at SleuthFest where luncheon speaker Ace Atkins address perseverance. He said you if you have the passion, you'll never give up.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had a real rough time last year. A killer hail storm took the roof of my warehouse, where I was also living and I tore up a rotator cuff in the ensuing mayhem. I was also in an emergency response job and my town was in tatters.

    When it came time to enter the Claymore Award, I had the exact 50 pages needed to enter and not a word more.

    I didn't write a word while I worked through everything. I turned my insurance settlement into a house and had to move. I left the high pressure job and landing in a dead-end one with less stress but other problems.

    What kept me going was hanging out with other writers and seeing them racking up word count. Blogs, friends, a conference. It was as much pride as anything else. Pretty soon, the words started coming back.

    Terri

    ReplyDelete
  14. People with actual careers as writers are better qualified to talk on today's topic, but I will have my say. After having commercially published a reasonably successful first novel, a thriller, everything I wrote after that struck out. I had agents who liked my work well enough to represent me, but neither of them got me deals. It was like someone struggling for a long time to reach the border, only to find it walled off. But when I posed the question to myself whether I was ready to do the rational thing and call it quits, I had a modest epiphany. I had been writing so long, thinking of myself as a writer for so many years that the idea of quitting made no sense. I had an identity other than that of writer, but my sense of self required that I go on being and thinking of myself as a writer.
    Added to this is the lifeline thrown to me very late in the game by the indie publishing phenomenon. That, too, has helped to keep me going.

    ReplyDelete
  15. My first short story acceptance after a number of rejections kept me going. I've received 4 rejections from a magazine editor that has written valuable feedback to me on his rejections. Discouraged, yes, but I tried again. I just sent him a fifth manuscript after he said he read the 4th submittal through twice but rejected it because the ending was week. My goal this year is an acceptance from this editor. Never give up! Frances

    ReplyDelete
  16. Basically, the voices won't go away. I think about quitting once or twice a week, then I think up a good plot twist or see something that gives me an idea. The characters I have developed are like family and are always talking to me. Yes, I am nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The Shadow-Monsters have tried to encroach on my territory a few times, but I just grab my magic kazoo and hummbuzz rainbows at them. Shadow-Monsters can't stand Kazoo Rainbows.

    ReplyDelete
  18. My characters.I'm so in love with all of these bastards even the villains!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Im there now....im just going to keep going, even when I feel I cant.

    ReplyDelete