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Perseverance: An Author’s Best Friend
If all the advice an author receives ever has to be boiled down to one word, that word has to be perseverance. In my view, there are three major areas where a writer must work through obstacles. Only by keeping at it will he or she succeed.
The first place that takes perseverance is looking for a publisher. You must believe that you can do this writing thing. It’s tempting to give up when the rejections keep coming in. You tell yourself you tried, but you just aren’t good enough.
That might be absolutely true, but it can just as easily be false. You might be sending your work to the wrong people (and it’s not necessarily your fault. Maybe they just published a book very like yours. Maybe they have twenty in the pipeline and don’t have room for you. Maybe the editor who would have loved your work is on vacation this week. You just don’t know.) You might be making a mistake somewhere in the process that leads to rejection. Say you sent your file in .rtf but they only read .doc. Some assistant somewhere deletes it, so your work is never seen by an agent or an editor. If no one’s read it, how do you know you’re not good enough?
So to be successful, you persevere, learning how to submit, how to phrase your queries, how to adapt to the specifics of each agency or publishing house you contact. Keep getting better at it, and someday, someone will actually read your submission. Then and only then, the question becomes: Is it good enough?
“Good enough” means being the best writer you can be. I’m always amazed by the number of people in my workshops who honestly thought (until I get on my soapbox) that their first draft is good enough, because “If they like it, they’ll fix it up.” Do NOT tell me you sent some agent a poorly edited, jotted-down-off-the-top-of-your-head story. The idea that a writer’s inborn talent just flows onto the paper or screen is ridiculous. Writing is work, and to get good at a task, one must practice, practice, practice, and keep practicing even after he’s hired for the job, lest he lose his edge. Ask any teacher, and she’ll tell you that many apparently gifted writers never develop their talent and so go nowhere. Those who are willing to work at getting better—those are the ones we want to read.
Finally, publishing is a crowded world. A writer has to become a performer, delicately balancing her promotional efforts, which should fall somewhere between blatant “buy my book” emails that irritate readers and the obscurity that results from not enough promotion. Despite what you might think, nobody does much of this other than the author (unless he has money to hire it done), so again, he must persevere. Authors learn how to promote what they write. They find ways to make their names familiar to readers. They keep the books coming so readers don’t forget them, but keep the quality high so readers don’t desert them. A writer never knows when something she did last year or last month will pay off, but she can bet that doing nothing will get her exactly that: nothing.
So there it is: perseverance. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. If it sounds different from all those stories you’ve heard of the writer who self-published and got a six-figure contract…well, for everyone but that guy, it is. And if it sounds like it isn’t what you had in mind, maybe you really don’t have what it takes to be a writer.
Love your sage advice! Thanks so much for sharing this. I wholeheartedly agree and thank you for your pep talk to authors. Perseverance is truly vital to "making it" as an author.
I have always been a mystery reader first and foremost, so it’s no surprise that I write mysteries. I like the challenge of solving a crime along with the protagonist, and I like the justice that usually results in the end. I also enjoy historical novels, both mystery and non-mystery, because I like learning about other times and places. Some writers I particularly like are Laura Lippman, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James R. Benn, and Craig Johnson.
I love reading mysteries as well. My favorite genre to read. If your book was made into a movie, which actors do you see portraying your characters?
In Shakespeare's Blood we have an American tourist, Mercedes, who could be played by Ellen Page. The two Scots, Colm and Jared, might be played by Gerard Butler and James McAvoy. And for David, one of my favorites, no one but Sean Connery will do. Lonnie should be a young comic actor like Michael Cera.
Where is the most exotic place you've ever traveled to?
Our daughter lived for some time in the Middle East, so I’ve been to Bahrain and Dubai, both of which were wonderful. The Arab people were welcoming, although my mother and I thought it was funny that we each had to list our fathers’ names on our visas, even though both were dead. All women must belong to some man somewhere, I suppose.
The scenery was wonderful, and for a girl from Michigan, where deer crossing signs abound on the highways, it was a hoot to see the same sort of signs, only for camels. I learned the logic of loose clothing that covers the body while protecting it from the sun. I learned that although I’d never want to live outside the States, other cultures have their advantages, too.
While touring Britain, Mercedes Maxwell finds a handwritten notebook that claims William Shakespeare had a brother named John who was an agent for James I of England. Captured by outlaws, John died rather than reveal the location of a trove of Spanish gold. When someone is willing to kill for the notebook, Mercedes realizes that the story might be true.
In a reign of terror, those who know about the notebook are murdered and left posed as characters from Shakespearean tragedy. Solving the book’s clues is the only way to stop the killing, but although Mercedes can call on several people for help, she fears that none of them can be trusted where treasure is concerned.
The unraveling of the clues becomes even more critical as the killer turns his sights on Mercedes. The message from the man who called himself John Shakespeare leads her across Britain in a terrifying race to find the treasure, to stay alive, and to learn the secrets of Shakespeare’s blood.
That sounds like a very intriguing book. Definitely going on my TBR pile.
Where can readers find your book?
Purchase Link for Shakespeare's Blood
Peg, I'm so glad you stopped by today. Thanks for sharing your great advice to authors and for chatting with all of us.
Hope you all can stay and visit for a while. If you'd like to enter for a chance to win a copy of Peg's eBook, Shakespeare's Blood, please comment and don't forget to leave your email in the contact form.
To read an excerpt, click on the "Read More" link.
1596 A.D. - Scotland Kirkfort Willie Reid followed his henchman down the stone stairs, watching his step carefully lest he slip on the slimy surface or tread on something disgusting. Circling the moss-encrusted well, they turned down a passage barely high enough to navigate at a crouch, where he was wary of his head as well as his step.
Finally they came to a rough wall constructed across the passage end, forming a tiny cell. A horizontal slit somewhere above let in a narrow ray of light, and in it sat a man, hunched and still. As footsteps sounded outside his prison, he looked up briefly, his ruined face catching the light. Willie’s man took a key from a hook ten feet back, tantalizingly visible but out of the prisoner’s reach. He moved to unlock the door, but Reid gestured a curt negative. The stench was bad enough from outside the cell.
The prisoner had a high forehead and a pale face that formed a perfect oval. The nose, once long and slender, was misshapen now, and breath wheezed through it laboriously. His bones stood out sharply, the cheeks hollow, the once muscular frame shrunken. Eyes that had sparked with fire at first were now dim, like lamps about to sputter and go dark. He did not rise to meet his visitors, apparently having no hope of mercy.
“Have ye considered, Johnny?” Reid called through the grated door. “Ye dinna look well. A bit o’ venison or an apple’d serve better than bread and water, would it nae?”
There was no answer from the prisoner, who studied something much more important to him than the outlaw Scot who held his life in his hands. Willie had seen the focus of his prisoner’s interest, had in fact inspected it carefully. It was a small wooden box, about six by eight by three inches, containing a sheaf of papers which John studied intently whenever the light permitted. After he had scanned them himself, Willie had ordered a minute examination by his clerk, but neither he nor the learned fool could explain why they were so important to John.
The outlaw, dressed warmly in breeks and wrapped in a heavy woolen cloak, shivered in the dank that the prisoner seemed not to notice. “Come nae, Johnny. A bit o’ help from ye and I am a happy man. I will set ye free and gie ye food, real food. Cook’s roastin’ one o’ th’ new turkeybirds for dinner, a fine meal. T’would be sae easy t’ hae yer freedom.” The mere mention of the meal made Willie’s mouth water, and he rubbed his ample stomach.
The man answered without looking up. It took some effort, loosened and missing teeth making it difficult to enunciate clearly. “You do not intend me to leave this place, Reid, as we both know well. It makes not a whit of difference if I tell you what you want to know or I do not.”
It was true. They had beaten and starved him. He was skeletally gaunt and his left shoulder was broken, the arm held painfully against his side. But they had met with no success. Reid noted that the captive no longer denied that he knew what they wanted him to tell. He simply had decided to die rather than do it.
“I know ye spoke wi’ Robert Maxwell,” Willie tried. “Th’ auld rogue went missing right after. Ye got what ye wanted fro’ him, and I’ll get it fro’ you as well!”
“I doubt that.” John spoke mildly, but his tone was certain.
The burly outlaw’s jaw clenched, and for a moment he considered ordering another beating to force what he sought from the prisoner. Further torture was not wise, however, for the prisoner was fragile, and when he died his secret would die with him. Best to let him think on it a day more. Reid turned to go, throwing casually over his shoulder, “Well, then, Johnny, no bread. See how ye fare on water alone.”
“Might I have pen and ink?” The voice conveyed no dismay at the further reduction.
Reid glared at him through the opening, finally giving the door an angry thump with a beefy fist. “Have it and be damned,” he replied. “Mayhap with your last words, ye’ll write the location I seek.” The stomp of his frustrated departure echoed off the stone walls and died away.
The prisoner looked at the papers in his lap, considering. He smiled, although he was very, very tired. “Mayhap I will.”