Thursday, July 22, 2010

Failure is not an option

Do you sometimes feel discouraged or worried that some of your stories aren't that good and were a waste of your time?

Look at the bigger picture. Remind yourself that you are not the first one on this journey. Did you know that 18 publishers turned down Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970? By 1975 it had sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone. And, Dubliners, a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce was rejected by 22 publishers. Let’s not forget famous American poet Emily Dickinson who despite her prolific writing, fewer than a dozen of her poems were published during her lifetime. These are only a few examples of many authors who didn’t give up so, why should you?

How many stories do you produce per week? In my case, one to three when time permits. So if you start five stories and complete a rough draft of one, consider yourself successful. For every five completed rough drafts, one will be a finished product; the one that you deem ready to be sent out to contests or literary magazines. For every five stories you send out, you’re lucky if one of them is accepted for publication.

You're probably asking yourself how I know this. Well, I’m speaking from experience. I keep a log of all my stories including the ones I’ve entered multiple times in different contests with no positive results. However, for every rejected story, I get the chance to revise it again and make it better every time. And yes, the result of such grueling task has paid off.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to see these weaker stories as the foundations for something bigger. Instead of considering such stories failures, think of them as experiments that were not entirely successful. Delve into the basic elements such as the POV, the tone, the dialogue, diction, or characterization. Sometimes it could be as simple as a particular scene.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” Inspiring words to those who think their writing is a failure. Keep your chin up and your pen moving!


  1. I suggest fellow discouraged reader to have a look at It's a brutally honest account of an editorial assistant of a New York agent's life. Shows the challenges...and the lack of objectivity of most assistants. Sometimes the stories are too weak, but sometimes the agent or the publisher is not the right fit, that's all.

    The Rejectionist is always a light and uplifting read.

  2. Hi Ben,
    Thank you for your comment and for sharing than link. I'll check it out. Cheers!

  3. I am reading the new William Golding biography and I had no idea "Lord of the Flies" was rejected so many times.
    Never give up!

  4. Hi Kendall,
    WOW! I didn't know that either. Thank you for stopping by and sharing that piece of information. Enjoy your book!