Hi all! I just want to apologize for being so neglectful this week. I feel terrible about it, but this was just one of those weeks, ya know?
Anyway, today I welcome Don Britt to My First Book. For those of you who haven't been lucky enough to bump into him on the blogosphere, he's the insane writer behind 24Novels.com. That's right... He's writing 24 novels. In. One. Year. Please go check out his blog to find out how he's doing.
In the mean time, here's his post.
A RUDE AWAKENING
I’ve been writing for more years than I care to remember. Sometimes it feels like I was born with a pen in my hand. Writing has never been a problem for me. Pitching what I’ve written, on the other hand, has been nothing less than a living nightmare. I’ve been rejected with bludgeoning repetition by more agents and publishers than I care to admit. Oh, alright, darn you. You’ve torn one statistic out of me. One summer saw me garner six hundred rejections. 600 big fat ‘R’s. In less than three months.
That summer coincided with a milestone in my life. I was 40. I stared long and hard into my coffee on my birthday. I fancied it a portal into an abyss. The abyss has a habit of staring back at you, if you can believe what Nietzsche says. It’s a cocky bastard too. It hasn’t lost a staring contest yet.
Not long after I crashed and burned in that existential stare down I sat down with a piece of paper and a pencil. I drew a line down the middle of the page, forming two columns. At the top of the first column I wrote ‘Overall Quality Of My Work’. Above the second column I wrote ‘Success In Pitching My Work’. I decided to give myself a grade, see, in each of these two essential categories for any aspiring writer.
I left the page on my desk for a time. For a few days in fact. I took the time to read through a sizeable sample of my work. A couple of novels. A few shorts. Some essays which I thought just splendid when I wrote them. I thought everything was great when I wrote it. Now, with some distance, I realized a hard truth. The stuff wasn’t as good as I thought it was. There was a lot that I liked. But there were also pointless scenes, flat dialogue, and some painfully crafted passages that, on fresh reading, were just that - painful. I put myself in the role of English teacher, and asked myself what grade I would give this work if I didn’t know the writer from Adam. I came up with a B.
I returned to my piece of paper. Under ‘Overall Quality’ I put down my B. The second column required no reflection at all. At the age of 40 I had yet to earn a single, solitary dollar from anything I had ever written. So under success rate I wrote down the only grade possible. F. I thought about what those two grades combined meant, in terms of my hopes of getting published. Then I wrote an equation on the top of the page: B + F = F
There’s an old definition of insanity, one you may well know. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result. I had a wake up call when I turned forty. I realized that even the best of my work wasn’t as good as I thought it was. An even harsher truth hit home. If I were working in an agency or publishing house, and was confronted with the material I had just finished reading, I would have responded with one of those big fat Rs too.
As an old song says, waking up is hard to do. Still I woke up that day. If Misha would be so kind as to have me back sometime I’d be happy to talk about the results of my painful awakening. For now I’ll end with this truth, and with a confession I haven’t heard often in the writing world. I earned my rejections over all those years. I kept submitting material that didn’t demand to be published, stories that didn’t rise up to a standard that simply could not be ignored.
How about you?
Thanks so much for stopping by, Don. You're more than welcome to do another guest post some time. :-D
Have a great weekend everyone!