If you are struggling with your writing career – whether you have imposter syndrome, or are getting tons of rejections, or have the feeling that you’ll never write anything as good as the last book you read – you are surely fighting fears. I know these fears so well.
In the “before times”, our local SCBWI chapter hosted Dan Gemeinhart as a speaker. At the time he had four books for young readers out and another on the way. He’s a sweet guy, a former teacher and librarian in a small school, and gave a series of short lectures on his process. But what I remember most clearly was his publishing journey.
Dan confessed that he had been writing for years and submitting to agents (in his website he says that this journey was 10 years long), and received 99 (yes! 99!) rejections before he landed his agent and then a publishing deal. That’s a lot of rejection, a lot of fear-facing, a huge heap of persistence.
Now, Dan writes wonderful books, popular, with starred reviews and well-received, but his most recent – just out – has hit the lists in a big way. It’s number one on the New York Times Bestseller List in Children’s. When I read his Tweet I thought back to that 100th submission over 10 years.
What if he’d caved into his fears and stopped submitting?
Keep Calm and Carry On
How do we fight those fears and keep writing and submitting when it feels hopeless? Here are my strategies for carrying on:
- Analyze the rejection. If an agent or publisher says “it’s not right for me”, don’t take that as good feedback on your work. That’s a personal (or really impersonal) response. But if an agent or publisher has actual feedback, listen. It might not be spot on, but it may be flagging something that isn’t working, something that you can fix.
- Be patient. The post-Covid publishing world is in turmoil. Between supply chain issues, remote work, publishing house consolidations, and many folks leaving the industry, response times are longer than ever.
- Target your submission. Be sure you know what the agent or house is looking for by following QueryTracker or checking in with Children’s Writers Market guides.
- Attend conferences and book critiques at those conferences. I met both of my agents at SCBWI conferences, and landed my first one after receiving a critique with her at a conference. I have always found inspiration and made friends at conferences. A connection with another writer may springboard you to success.
- Write from your heart. The best stories are those that mean the most to you. Always write from deep in your heart. Write from a place of love.
Face Your Fears With Joy
In the past few weeks I was on a demanding journey, a hiking tour of Scotland. I walked way more than I thought I could, averaging 5 to 7 miles a day. But the biggest moment for me was ascending a high peak, and standing as close as I could to the edge because I have crippling vertigo. It was a moment of triumph – a moment of joy.
Don’t cave into your fears, but face them. Keep going. Dan says this on his website: “I don’t believe in giving up and don’t think that you should, either.”
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This giveaway ends on Halloween at midnight!