April 13, 2009 – Risky Business

Last week I received a rejection for a book proposal. It was a small book, a “first chapter book,” the kind of book a kid first reads that has more than one chapter. The whole book would have been less than 10,000 words. Drafting the proposal and waiting to hear from the editor I had put a couple of months of thought, research, organizing, and writing into the little book. I had aimed it all at one specific market and felt I had a good chance of acceptance, but the editor felt the market for this particular book was too narrow.

Today I have the job of gathering my pieces, jotting down my last ideas, and filing it away.  I will likely never finish the book, but my well-developed ideas don’t hit my circular file. Instead they are neatly organized into a trash file–both on computer and in the file cabinet. God only knows if they may some day resurrect and take on new life.

When Two Sides to Everything was published I began to develop a sequel. My editor wasn’t interested in the sequel. She liked the idea but thought it would work better as a separate story in a different setting for a different age group. I loved my New Zealand characters and couldn’t imagine the story taking place anywhere else with anyone else. I filed the story in the trash file for a year or so. Then one day I could imagine a different story. My New Zealand characters took on an American accent and lived in Montana. In 2006 the book, no longer a sequel, was published as Moose.

Being a freelance writer is risky business. You can put your heart and soul into a piece. If it’s a book you may put years of time into it. You may work hard to revise it and market it. Your very best efforts may still end in rejection.  What then?

You may resolve never to write for publication again. Or perhaps you decide to write only pieces with the very highest chance of being accepted for publication. That works for a while. But if you don’t takes risks you don’t grow much as a writer. Freelance writing is never a sure deal.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States,  said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much, nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Some of you will merely note that this is a very long sentence of 45 words. True writers will realize that our 26th president had the heart of a writer.

Are you facing rejection today? Maybe you’re afraid to even start to write for publication when you realize you are not guaranteed success. Perhaps we just need to realize that every success will be “checkered by failure.” Failures are a necessary part of the process. Sometimes we can learn through failure. Sometimes the very best works just don’t find a market. But if we are not willing to fail we will never find success.

Harlan Ellison says, “Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you–as if you haven’t been told a million times already–that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.

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