Okay, maybe there is a formula to this after all. My personal equation for it…
P = ET, where…
P = Persistence
E = Effort
T = Time
In other words, persistence is how hard you’re willing to work for something times how long you’re willing to work for it.
Success—even so-called overnight success—almost always comes from regular, incremental steps forward over time. Without getting discouraged to the point of permanently quitting. My take on it is that “failure” is simply what “success” looks like from the middle of the process.
Accept that there are going to be more strikeouts than homeruns by a large margin… that’s the nature of the game. The answer is to keep working, keep improving, and keep swinging.
This applies to every step along the pathway… You will likely have to query multiple times to get a partial request. Perhaps several partials to get a full. Probably more than one full to get an offer of representation. Then your agent may not land a deal with the very first editor she submits to… and maybe not with her first sublist. And maybe not with that particular manuscript at all.
You have to be okay with that. It’s not always fun (tell me about it) but the challenge is to reject rejection of a manuscript as rejection of you—or of your writing in general—and get back in the ring.
You are selling into a buyer’s market. Always have been, always will be. This doesn’t mean you won’t eventually sell. This just means the buyers will be picky… you need to find the right buyer at the right time who’s in the market for what you’re currently selling. But keep your head up, because new books are being acquired every day. And a fair number of them from debut authors.
Persistence also comes into play during the writing itself. Yes, you need to keep writing if you want to make it to the end, but I’m talking about after you’ve finished drafting it. We’ve already touched on revision, so I’ll just say that this is what often separates the women from the girls: the ability to roll up your sleeves (after celebrating completing your first draft!) and do the less glamorous work of making your story so strong (compelling, engaging, unique, emotional, entertaining, resonant…) that someone can’t say no to it. Not everyone will be unable to resist it, of course, but it only takes one. Our job is to keep it in the market until it finds that kindred person.
In other words, be persistent enough that you eventually get lucky.
“…the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence—an overwhelming determination to succeed.”
~ Sophy Burnham
This is where I write about things that are of interest to me and which I think may be of interest to you. I’m assuming most of you are here due to an interest in reading, writing, editing, publishing, etc., so that’s the primary focus.