Let's say a woman named Bethany wants to become a writer. Those who know her call her Bethy.
Bethy writes a short story for a writing class. She receives a tart response from the professor. "Far too much detail. I could hardly read it. C-minus."
Undeterred, she writes another short story and shows it to her sister. "Not my kind of story," the sister says. "I couldn't finish. It was boring."
Still unshaken, Bethy writes another short story and this time shows it to a friend who also writes. The friend laughs at her, and offers a bitter critique. "You need to take a writing class," the friend says, which makes Bethy think of the tart professor.
This troubles Bethy, and she quits writing forever, and secretly blames these people for discouraging her.
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After Bethy's friend tells her to take a writing class, Bethy goes on a weekend binge with her good buddy Jack Daniel's. Jack tells her to MAN UP, and informs her this phrase is not at all sexist, that even women should man up from time to time, just as a man should find his feminine side.
So she tells Jack she will suck it up, not man it up, and stops showing her early work to everyone.
She writes ten short stories, alone, and edits each one. As she writes, she reads a few books on editing, and polishes her grammar, which, to her surprise, is not spelled grammer, nor is Kindergarten spelled Kindergarden. She learns to differentiate its and it's, and how to weed out weasel words and cliche phrases such as weed out, and so on.
She reads great authors, and analyzes their style. She tries to be like those authors, and writes a novel.
The novel is horrible, and is completely un-editable.
So she burns it, and from the ashes raises another novel. This is not so bad, and she edits a little, and then writes another novel.
The third novel is starting to look presentable, and so she queries it. Bethy stacks up rejections from dozens of agents, and cannot get a response from any publishers large or small.
She shows it to her writer friend, who is still unpublished herself, and the friend laughs at her Kinko-printed manuscript. "Not bad," the friend says. "But I still wouldn't buy it. It's too boring in the middle part."
Bethy realizes her friend actually read the book, which constitutes a huge victory! She understands that a truly, truly horrible book will die unread after a few pages.
Bethy writes a fourth and fifth book without querying, still studying the craft of the novel, and polishing her editing skills. She has a great idea for another novel, but shelves it to write a sixth novel.
This sixth one is published by a small press. She earns $80 in royalties. She was put through the editing gauntlet, and now understands a bit about the publishing and marketing process, and what it really takes to write a salable novel.
She gives her friend, who is still unpublished, an autographed copy of the novel. The friend no longer laughs.
Her seventh novel she titles A Day in the Life of Someone More Interesting. She hires her small-press editor to edit the book for her. Then, her fourth query to an agent results in a full request, which later turns into a contract with a large publishing and distribution house.
She receives a $25,000 advance, and a three-book deal. She immediately begins work on her next novel, which she decides to research thoroughly, such that it is better than the one before.
And so on.
All this spans ten years. Bethy did not do it all overnight, but she did it night-over-night. She took rejection as a sign to improve, rather than quit and whine, and strove always to grow in her craft.
Bethy possesses Zen in the Face of Rejection.
Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications
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