Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Friday, December 19, 2008

Persistence or Lack Thereof

Isaac Asimov is quoted as saying: "You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." Easy for him to say. Right?

I mean, Asimov was not only one of the greatest writers of the past hundred years or so, but he also wrote during a time when not just anybody could whip out a manuscript and send it out to a hundred potential buyers via email. (I've also heard he never edited, but that may be an urban legend - and it's a moot point anyway.) He also wrote when people genuinely wanted to read.

But that's not the point of today's post.

I read that quote again yesterday and was struck by the idea of it. Persistence. You have to have it in order to succeed in anything. (And yes, I am aware of the rare instances where success falls into someone's lap, but those are the exceptions to prove the rule.) The problem is, I'm just not that persistent. Not only that, but I do have a manuscript just eating it's head off in a metaphorical drawer. (Several, if you look at the lack of success for my other books.) I never really submitted Blink. I sent off five queries, to which I only got one reply. I sent out those queries and got distracted by RTL.

But was distraction really a good enough reason to let Blink lounge? Looking back now, the answer is: not really. I could've easily been querying while I was concentrating on writing. They're two completely different skills, after all. Instead of pushing to see Blink get its day in the sun, I shoved it into the shadowy recesses of my hard drive. A severe injustice if there ever was one, let me tell you.

The funny thing is, I still love Blink. And maybe that's part of the problem. I love it so much, I'm terrified of sending it out. I'm so afraid of people saying mean things about it, I'm unable to run the risk she'll be hated and rejected - which, of course, means I'll never know if she might actually be liked and published. (And yes, I have started thinking of that particular book in terms of 'she'.)

But let's forget about Blink for a second. When I really think about it, I haven't been all that persistent with my other books either. I send each one through the gambit of agents and then shove each one into its folder - never to be heard from again. I still think about them. Sometimes I lay in bed at night reminiscing over a particularly well-written scene or wondering how a book would've sounded from a different perspective. I never act on these thoughts, though. Oh sure, every once in a while, I'll get a wild hair and send Spectacle or Caldera out, but it's more a matter of desperation than of persistence.

You see, I still believe in every one of my books*. Not a single one of them can be classified as a 'practice book'. I don't think any of them should be left to rot in a trunk or under my bed or at the back of the closet. Each of them deserves to see the inside of a bookstore. (Yes, I am biased, but just because I am doesn't mean I'm wrong.)

So, if they are as publishable as I think they are, the problem then comes down to a lack of persistence. They aren't published because I haven't really tried hard enough. Instead I've allowed them to eat their heads off in a drawer while I play at writing another one to sell - which will most likely end up joining them because I'm not persistent enough.

Starting after the second week in January - because now is the beginning of the holiday season and the first two weeks of the year are catch-up time for most people - I'll start sending out manuscripts again. I'll beat the bushes looking for an agent. I'll revamp all my query materials in order to write the letters that will get my books noticed. I'll go directly to the publishers if I have to. I will be persistent.

I'm not a resolution maker, but that seems like the best one I could make for the coming year.

I know it's early yet, but have you given any thought to your plans and goals for 2009? Any resolutions you'd like to share?

1 comment:

Kristen Painter said...

This is a good decision. Each of my books has had 15 - 30 rejections, and I (my agent really) still get them out there when an opportunity arises. Even before I had an agent, I was diligent about it.

My resolution is to be more disciplined in daily writing.