We live in a society – or most of us do, since I’m sure there are a few readers who hail from distant shores that aren’t the US of A – which fosters the idea that everyone will win. Whatever the game is. From reading contests at school (I was perma-banned from them in high school, since I would always win, and it didn’t hurt my feelings a bit) to getting a job, everyone wants to come out on top. Reality, as the adults among us know, is a rather different beast.
Writers will not always win. If you’re submitting a story, over and over, and it’s being rejected over and over, it’s hard to hear ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ but in reality, that’s what it is. Your story might not have been what was needed right at that moment, so it didn’t make the cut. Not that it’s a bad story, but there was bad timing. Now, I am predicating this prep talk on you having done your due diligence. Finding a beta reader or six that has given you objective feedback (feel free to trade stories in the comments) and knowing the story you are sending out is the best it can be. That brave little story all dressed up in it’s Sunday finest may still come home with head hanging and a lovely shiner that Billy-Sue gave him.
‘Cause you don’t always win, and Billy-Sue has learned to fight like h*ll because of that name his parents saddled him with. And sometimes that’s what it takes. Learning how to fight for your victories. Look, life isn’t handing anything to you on a silver platter, unless there is polish and a buffing cloth in the other hand and you aren’t to leave a speck o’tarnish on that, y’hear? Someone is going to sell their story, and someone isn’t. Until recently. Because now, you have options. You don’t have to play the rigged game. You can become truly independent. You have victory in your grasp…!
Until you don’t. The story all togged up in a super-duper cover that doesn’t make it look like it’s wearing a burlap sack to Sunday School, it’s not selling. You don’t know why. It’s gotten decent reviews, but then, it just petered out. Once more, you aren’t a winner. There’s only one thing to do when this happens. Write more.
I was, once upon a time (no comments from the peanut gallery), a runner. I was never terribly fast, but wind me up and let me go and I wouldn’t quit. I’d just keep chugging along until I was told to stop. You aren’t going to win the race on your first try. It takes practice, and it takes work. I think I mentioned that already… and that’s the four-letter word that no-one wants to hear. Words do not fall like pearls from your fingertips onto the page. Rather, they are accumulated like a pearl growing around a grain of sand, until the itch that started that story, that process, is assuaged and you can finish it off with a final swipe of that buffing cloth (belay the silver polish). It’s a painful process, and the modern author, looking through the golden haze at yesteryear, is tempted to believe the stories that are told of huge advances, superb editors, and *coff* ethical agents. Today, when you finish up your pearl, you will still need to market it in a shiny box, put it well-formatted into just the right setting, and then flag down interested connoisseurs to talk about your wares.
We’ve talked about many of those steps on this blog. If you look up at the top of the page, to the ‘Navigating…’ link, you’ll find resources on problems you need to solve. But today, I’m here to tell you about how everyone can be a winner.