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Monday, June 11, 2012

Never, Never Give Up: Writing and Winston Churchill

Courtesy of mitchlaw
Taking a word, a thought, a picture and spinning them into a story is hard.

Refining that story into something wonderful is even harder.

Being able to share it with other people, most of whom you will never meet or know, is harder still.

Continuing up the path, no matter what setbacks occur along the way, is perhaps the hardest of all.

It's times like these that I think back to Winston Churchill. The quotes I'm about to share have nothing and everything to do with writing--with getting up one time more than you've been knocked down.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

We write because we have something to say. That something can be meant to entertain, to enlighten, to bring laughter or tears, or a myriad of other things besides. Most often, if you peel back the words to expose the meaning, you find bits and pieces of the author's heart scattered across the pages.

A story can be a deeply personal thing, while at the same time, it is something that wants to be shared. Something that needs to be shared.

So stand up and say something.

Like a coin, there is another side to standing up and speaking, and that is to sit down and listen.

It isn't easy to have your work critiqued or to receive an editorial letter that's more red than anything else. It isn't easy to look at those shards of your heart embedded within the words and realize that they're only a rough approximation of what you really meant to say.

It takes courage, humility, and patience to be willing to learn--first how to see the flaws in our writing, and then how to fix them. Over and over and over again.

And that is what we must do if we wish to be great.

Then comes the time when we learn that all that hard work to get the story as perfect as we can on our own is only the first of many steps.

Each step is another chance to be rejected. To learn that your best isn't quite good enough. Yet.

It isn't failure if you keep striving. If you keep learning. If you never give up.

It doesn't matter how many rejections you get from agents, editors, or readers. If you have something to say and the will to keep learning and honing your craft, you will succeed. You may not be a breakout success in terms of how others look at it. It may take a lot longer than you thought it would. You may have to readjust your expectations from time to time, but you will make it.

This goes twofold. Don't give in to the doubts and worries that will beset you along the way. And don't give in when it gets hard to find your audience. There have been a lot of things posted recently on the Internet about less than scrupulous behavior some authors (both trade and self-published) and other industry professionals have engaged in.

Don't do it.

No matter how much you want your book to succeed and be liked, never sacrifice your integrity to get there. It's just not worth it.

In writing, be honest to the story. Understand the message of your story--both in your mind and how it actually comes across in paper. Be deliberate and mean what you say. This is why beta readers and editors are so crucial. The story is alive and playing inside our heads. We know what we mean, but our meaning doesn't always come across as clear as we think.

That's what revisions are for.

Before you're published, it's a good idea to sit down and figure out exactly how you're going to approach reviews. There will be people who will love your work. There will also be people who hate your work. How are you going to handle them?

In general, it's a good idea to leave the reviews to the readers and move on to your next book. There have been a few authors who successfully manage to engage the reviewer by commenting on their blog or their review, but doing this well can be a difficult balancing act. Whatever you do, be kind, be courteous, and be professional. If you need to vent, do it offline with trusted friends and family. We're only human, and some things we encounter along the way will hurt. It's okay to hurt, but it's never okay to do the hurting.

And lastly, one of my favorite quotes of all:

This writing gig is hard. It's filled with ups and downs that swoop in out of nowhere, leaving us reeling--both with delight and discouragement.

Choose to look forward instead of needling yourself over past mistakes and disappointments. Your writing will improve--if you are working at it--with each book you write. Some will be easier to write. Some will be better than others. And some will be more popular while others will be less so.

Keep looking forward. Keep going. So long as you have something to say, keep saying it. And eventually--eventually--you will get there. Querying doesn't last forever. The sting of obscurity or unfavorable reviews doesn't last for always. The edits for each book eventually ends. Writer's block can be overcome.

And the story you have inside of you will one day be told.

But only if you never, never, give up.

Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (CatspellFirespellApplespell, and Frogspell), and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Awesome! I love it - and these are words that every writer needs to hear. (Winston was the master of words himself, even the spoken ones! :))

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Amazing post, Danyelle!

Cathy said...

What an inspiring post. Well written and well said.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Thank you. This is a wonderful post and jus the encouragement I needed.

Taffy said...

Thanks, Danyelle! I need to print some of those quotes and hand them where I can see them every day.

Mart Ramirez said...

Well said! Love how you said querying doesn't last forever. Awesome post!