On Writing: When to Give Up

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Know When Your Rejection Bladder is Busted

What happens when you want to give up?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you're trying to decide how badly you want to be traditionally published.

1. Do you want this?

2. Do you really, really want this? So badly that it obsesses you?

3. If you quit, would you miss it? Would you hate yourself? Would you worry that you had given up just before you finally made that breakthrough?

4. How far are you willing to go? Will you take a class? Find a critique partner or group? Go to a conference? Pay a professional editor? Buy some books on writing? Read some blogs? Spend more time reading?

5. Have you taken a really good look at why your query or story isn't working? Have you requested and received criticism? Have you applied it? Are you still making the same mistakes?

6. If you're querying, have you exhausted the entire pool of agents? Have you submitted your work to small and large presses that accept unagented work? Did any agents offer to look again after a requested revision? Are there any other contacts or avenues you can try, like signing up for pitch sessions at a conference?

7. If you have answered yes to every question, have you started writing your next book?

The bald truth is that getting published is hard as hell. It takes work. You have to write millions of words. You have to read thousands of books. You have to take classes and read books on craft and plot and do internet research. You have to open yourself up to criticism, knowing that the criticism is going to hurt your ego. You have to constantly strive to perfect your writing and know that wherever you are in your journey, there's always something new to learn.

You will see people succeed all around you. You will walk into bookstores and instead of thinking, "Yay, books!", you will think, "These guys are lucky bastards." Even if those lucky bastards spent ten years getting their first book on shelves and ten more years getting noticed, you will see only their success, never their struggle.

You will feel inadequate.


When you're in the depths of despair, there's always hope. I found my hope by sending out queries. Each time I received a rejection, I sent another query out into the world. Another little packet of hope. Hope might be different for you-- a short story bought, a kind word from a critique group, a good story idea that keeps you busy. That little spark of hope is what keeps you going.

So here's what you need to decide: Will you ever forgive yourself if you give up now?

If the answer is no, keep going.