As the New Voices entrants find out who made the Top Twenty today, there is very likely to be a great deal of disappointment for the majority who did not advance to the next round. I’ve already seen some comments about quitting, which quite frankly shock me. I’ve said it on the NV Facebook page more than once: you can’t let one contest define your career as a writer.
But if you do, if you wave the white flag and say, “This is not for me, I quit,” then thank you for leaving the field of battle to someone else who will, one day, find victory. Harsh? Maybe, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. If you quit, you’re making it easier for those who remain because you will not be there to compete. More chances for the others if you give up.
You might think it’s fine for me to sit here and be all snarky and superior when I’m a published author because, really, what do I know about it? I have an editor, contracts, books in the pipeline, books in stores, and books translated into other languages for people the world over to read. Lucky me, right? Oh yes, lucky me.
But you know why I have those things? Because I ultimately did not quit. Oh, but I did quit for a while — eight years to be exact. That’s right, eight years.
One day, many years ago, I decided I wanted to write a romance novel. I loved historicals, so that’s what I decided to write. I researched for a year. Wrote for another year. And then I submitted it. I had a little bit of interest — requests for fulls from agents and editors, contest wins — but in the end, the book was rejected. I couldn’t get an agent, and I couldn’t sell the book.
I was upset, of course. Because everyone (critique group & husband) told me it was a great book (it really wasn’t, but I believed it at the time). I was destined to be a writer, so why couldn’t I sell this book?! If only they would really read it. If only they would wait until I explained everything and the story got seriously interesting on page 100.
But they didn’t, so I started another book. I never submitted that book. I started a third book, which I never finished and never submitted. See, I’d begun to believe it just wasn’t worth the effort. If I couldn’t sell that first brilliant (snort) book, what chance did I have of selling anything?
So I quit. It hurt too much to keep flinging myself at the gates of publishing. I decided to go back to school, finish that pesky college degree, and then go on and get a Master’s degree. I moved to Europe with my husband and got busy traveling and going to school. It was fun! Who needed writing?
I did, because in truth I never quite stopped. I kept writing shorter stories, and of course I wrote a ton of college papers. But I just knew I’d never get published. It wasn’t for me. I wasn’t good enough to get past those gates.
But then one day I got an idea for a contemporary romance and I started to write. I just wrote the darned thing for fun! And I never did submit it. By then, the bug hit again, and I started to get involved with my work. And this time, I decided I wasn’t quitting for anything.
So I did come back, and I did keep trying — and I won a contest and sold a book. If I’d quit for good, I wouldn’t be a multi-published, bestselling author today. Don’t you think I ask myself what would have happened if I hadn’t quit? Would I have sold sooner? Would I be farther along in my career today? I’ll never know that, will I?
If you’ve suffered defeat today, hugs. You have two choices facing you right now.
1) Hang up the keyboard and the pain that comes with it. Live your life and have fun and think about writing every once in a while. Sigh wistfully when you remember that story you never finished. Think fondly of your writing pals and be amazed at how successful some of them have become. But you’re happy because the pain is over and you never would have gotten published anyway, right?
2) Don’t stop. Get mad, get sad, wail and rage and cry. Eat some chocolate, drink some wine, or run ten miles and collapse. Watch your favorite shows, indulge yourself for a few days, and then perch yourself at the computer and type onward. Finish the story you started, or start another if you can see it’s too flawed. Though, really, it’s ONE chapter — how flawed can it be? Rip it apart and start again if need be. Just keep writing. Never give up. And one day, you might be a bestselling, multi-published author too. That’s the only way to get there. Never give up.
So which choice is it going to be? It’s up to you, though I hope you’ll go with option 2. 🙂