Tuesday, February 04, 2020

How to Persevere When the Mountain Seems Unconquerable

By Jodi Turchin, @jlturchin

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: Being an author is a rough job, particularly if you haven't quite made the last step between writer and author. Jodi Turchin shares tips on hanging in there when the writing times get tough.

Jodi Turchin is a Young Adult novelist represented by Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary. She’s also a photographer, a high school English teacher, a former actress and director, an Independent Scentsy Consultant, and a Younique presenter.

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Take it away Jodi…

The writer’s journey varies from writer to writer. Some seem to be born under a lucky star, getting a manuscript represented and sold in what feels like a heartbeat. Others can write book after book, query agent after agent, and spend what feels like forever going what seems like nowhere.

Part of the quagmire is that when we read social media posts by our fellow writers, to us, it looks like some of them just have it SO EASY. All good things are happening to them ALL. THE. TIME.

But the truth is, most people only share the highlights of their lives via social media, not the lowlights. So when your social media friend Writer X is crowing excitedly about their book going to auction, you didn’t see the days she felt like giving up because she was on revision 4,456,691 and felt like she was never going to get published.

So today, I’m going to share with you some tips to keep going when all you feel like doing is sitting on a rock and giving up ever climbing the rest of that mountain.

1. Remember, everyone’s journey is different. 

I have a couple of different author friends who I use to remind myself of this. First is my friend Marjetta Geerling, whose YA novel Fancy White Trash was published in 2008. Marjetta is a FABULOUS writer, and since we shared a critique group for a number of years, I was privy to other books she wrote and her agent shopped to editors.  And she had a publishing dry spell of . . . wait for it . . .


 Yes, faithful writing readers, Marjetta’s second published novel launches this month, an adult romance under the name Mara Wells. TWELVE YEARS. But she never quit; she always kept writing, even when it was hard.

My second author friend that I use as inspiration is Steven Dos Santos. He got an agent based on an amazing YA novel called Dagger. The main character was a gay superspy, and even though his agent LOVED the book, they couldn’t get it through the editorial gatekeepers.

Frustrated, Steven wrote a new book – a dystopian masterpiece called The Culling – which DID get a publishing deal and was the first in a three-book series. (Side note – Dagger did get published after the Torch Keeper series, and he’s working on sequels now. Never give up on the books of your heart!)

If your first foray into the publishing world fails, don’t despair. You’re not alone. I queried four different books to a bazillion different agents before the fourth found representation. Keep going.

(Here's more on Writers, Don't Get Discouraged: Have Stepping Stones, Not Setbacks)

2. Take a break. 

Seems like oxymoronic advice, right? But I don’t necessarily mean take a break from writing entirely. Step away from the manuscript you’re working on and try another. Maybe experiment with a different genre or age level.

When I’m having trouble finding my YA voice in a certain book, I take a stab at adult romance. So far, I’ve hated every first draft of my adult romances, but writing them means I’m still exercising my writing brain and reaching out to my creative muses.

Change it up. Then when you’re ready to go back to the manuscript you were working on, your eyes will be fresh, and perhaps the detour will have sparked a new idea for the book’s direction. You never know!

(Here's more on Just Say No to Writing (When You Need to).)

3. Read some books. 

Jodi Turchin
Whether you choose to indulge in fiction or books on craft, taking a writing break to read can help give you extra oomph to push back up your personal mountainside. I like reading in my genre – I read a lot of YA – but I also delve into detective novels or romance when I need a writing time out.

If my writing struggles are craft-related – maybe I don’t feel I’m pacing my novel correctly or something might be off – then I’ll look to “how to” books to see if I can’t get back on my path through them. Plus reading is one of my favorite “guilty pleasures.” I love making time to curl up on my couch with a good book (or a book on kindle!) in my hands.

There’s something about knowing that someday, if I continue to persevere, someone will be holding MY book in their hands, curled up in their favorite place to read. That helps me plant the seed to, like Dory in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming.”

(Here's more on Why Writers Should Read)

4. Turn off your social media. 

At least temporarily. Just as we’re happy when our friends succeed, sometimes reading all those posts about the success others are having can make us feel depressed that it’s not us, and lead to “why isn’t it MY turn yet?” thinking. I know, I’ve been there. It can be hard no matter where you are on the journey.

For me, it was easier when I was still writing, revising, and querying. But when I got my agent (who I LOVE), I had the rose-colored glasses belief that within a year, I’d have MY book deal and know when my book would be published. I’m two and a half years into my relationship with my agent. I have yet ANOTHER revision set to send to her this month for my second round of submissions to publishing houses, based on feedback from editors in the FIRST round.

But reading Twitter and Facebook is REALLY HARD when it feels like everyone is successful but YOU. Turn it off – it’s not true. 

Like I said in the intro to this article, people post their highlight reels on social media. Don’t compare your life to anyone else’s highlights; and if it’s bringing you down, TURN IT OFF.

(Here's more on Three Tips on Handling Writing Pressures)

It’s okay to hate the struggle. But we have to remember that making it in the world of publishing, for most of us, is a marathon and not a sprint. So we have to pause along the way sometimes to rebuild our stamina and keep climbing toward the zenith of our personal journey. The only way to fail is to quit. So don’t! 

What do you do when the writing journey gets rocky?

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! Perseverance is important, but sometimes we need those breaks to fill our creativity wells and rediscover our strengths.