The dips in the road on the writer’s journey.

I had all sorts of great plans for the rest of the A-Z Challenge. But April vacation finally arrived – even though it still feels like February. And with that, the winds are blowing me to Nashville to visit my sister for a few days.

Without having the time to visit your blogs because I’ll be building play-doh sculptures with my niece and watching my nephew ride his bike, I’m going to take the rest of this week off.

But I’ll leave you with a story that will hopefully leave you encouraged in that you aren’t alone in this crazy journey.

It was my first manuscript. I think I’d been working on it for like two years. #iwasaslowlearner  I should’ve moved on it with way earlier than I did instead of trying to incorporate all I was learning.

I joined an online critique site where I critiqued other writers’ work and they critiqued mine. About halfway through my story, one critiquer left me a pretty harsh crit. With out mincing words, he said that basically my story’s plotline was a disaster.

I was devastated. For about two weeks I couldn’t work on my story. Yes. I eventually overcame it, got my confidence back and kept writing. Looking back, I’m not sure if he was right or wrong, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t go about it the right way.

So, I’ve been there. If you’re writing your first story and get harsh feedback, consider it like breaking in those molar teeth. Rejection is part of it. And we need to learn from it and try and glean from it. Even if we don’t look at that crit for a few months, when we’re ready.

Maybe you’ve been getting rejections on fulls. Still be thankful that you got the requests. That means you had a great idea, wrote a good query, and had decent opening pages! That’s awesome.

Maybe you haven’t been able to get any requests off your query. That can be extremely discouraging. Relook at your query letter. Get feedback. If need be, relook at your story idea and your voice. This might not be the story that gets published but keep learning and know that it is possible.

Or maybe you have had an agent for a while but haven’t been able to land a book deal. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But obviously your writing has lots of potential. So keep trying! We’re behind you.

So try and celebrate the small victories, the small advances. And realize discouragement is a part of the writer’s journey. Except it as that and know it won’t last.

Feel free to share your most discouraging writing moment. Or share the small victories you’ve celebrated along the way.

43 Responses to The dips in the road on the writer’s journey.

  1. Kris April 25, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    There are so many highs and lows in this journey. And every step of the way has more in store! My favorite thing about my own journey has been finding a fabulous critique group (which includes our own Ms. Laura Pauling). They share my joys and disappointments, and help pick me up when I hit a wall.



  2. Kris April 25, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Oh and have fun on your vacation! 🙂

  3. Stina Lindenblatt April 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    I see each novel I’ve worked on as a learning experience, and I love to challenge myself to do better each time I work on my WIP. It feels wonderful seeing the story come to life in a way my novels never had before. #IloveyouDonaldMaass.

    I celebrate all the little things when it comes to writing. Finishing the preplanning. Finishing the first draft. Finishing each subsequential draft. When my CPs give me awesome feedback (which helps my WIP become stronger). When I land requests. When the partial requests become full requests. When a rejection has some useful feedback. 😀

  4. christine danek April 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Have fun. I have had a lot of highs and lows and I know more are coming. I have to keep in mind to keep going and why I started doing this in the first place.
    Because I love it.

    • Laura April 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      We have to celebrate all those little milestones. Even if it’s finishing a first draft. Because when you think about it – that’s a huge accomplishment!

  5. Anna April 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    I had an agent give me some really harsh feedback on my manuscript and I totally cried. But the next day, I sat down and really looked at her comments and started revising. Thanks to that revision, I wound up getting an agent. So yes, harsh critiques can actually be a blessing in disguise.

    Have a nice trip!

  6. Samantha Vérant April 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Ahhh…the journey. It is a rollercoaster ride. I prefer the ups over the downs…

  7. Kelly Polark April 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    I submitted -I admit not my best- pb manuscript to a small publishing company and received the harshest crit ever. She totally ripped it to shreds including the names I picked for my character! I was seriously laughing when I finished because it seemed like this is what she loved to do: cut down others! She did have a few good points, but some were just out of line.
    Have a wonderful trip visiting your sister and family!

  8. Laura Josephsen April 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Thanks for the encouraging words!

    Have fun on your trip! Half my family is in Nashville (I used to live there, too). Lovely place–and you’re visiting before the thirteen year cicadas swarm! Bonus! 😉

  9. Joanne Brothwell April 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Gosh, I’ve had those critiques as well. The first one was a manuscript evaluation I paid for. OUCH! I remember one of the things this person wrote, which was “this SCREAMS amateur!”

    That was two years ago. Now, my critique partners are usually much more supportive, and I have definitely developed a thick skin, but I still cringe when certain things are said.

    • Laura April 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

      Even if writing is in the beginner stage that is no reason to make comments like “this screams amateur”. There is definitely a way to word constructive criticism that might be hard to hear and might be discouraging but can also offer hope and words of encouragement.

  10. Jenny Lundquist April 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    One of my hardest days was going to a writing conference and sitting through all the sessions knowing that at the end of the day I’d receive the written critique of my novel I’d paid an editor for. I really kept thinking that she’d love it, that I’d hear my name called over the loudspeaker b/c she’d want to sign me for a book deal (or I hoped, anyway!).

    But, no. She didn’t hate my ms, she was just unmoved about it and thought some of my characters were cliche. It hurt, alot. I’d been working on the book for almost two years and I didn’t know where to go from there. But, I put the book away, and started another. That first book helped me learn what I needed to learn. And when I submitted that second novel to an editor, things went differently. Really glad I didn’t give up.

  11. Susan Kaye Quinn April 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    The devastating critique – I wish there was a way to eliminate those. They cause a lot of unnecessary pain in the world. I’ve had a few (thankfully not many). The same lessons can be learned in other ways, which is what I try to do with my crits (although I’m sure I’m not always successful).

    Enjoy the play-doh! A break is just what you need sometimes. 🙂

  12. Jenny Lundquist April 25, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    FYI- Laura, I forgot to say Happy Vacation! Have a great week!

  13. Lisa Green April 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    Lovely post, Laura! Yes, we all have those great ups and downs along the way. It’s those that stick to it that seem to get anywhere. It’s okay to feel those downs as long as you recognize them for what they are – a necessary part of the process, totally natural, and a learning opportunity. If you can look at it like that, I think you’ve got it made!

    And have a wonderful vacation/visit!! I’ll miss you and your virtual coffee!

    • Laura April 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      Sometimes, especially at the beginning, we just have to move on from our beloved manuscript – you know what I”m talking about – the one we were sure would get us an agent and a deal. And then reality hits. 🙂 At some point, we’ve all been there.

  14. Patti Mallett April 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Have a wonderful get-away! It sounds like a great time!

    A high point for me is when the words come together, no matter what I’m working on.

  15. Sherrie Petersen April 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Sometimes even a harsh critique can be helpful. I’ve lived through a few myself.

    Enjoy the play-doh!

  16. Angela Felsted April 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    On one hand I feel like all those harsh critiques have helped me see things in my writing I wouldn’t have spotted otherwise. On the other, they have a way of really beating down my confidence.

  17. Leigh Moore April 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    ooo, Laura! This is such an encouraging, inspiring and sweet post. I’m so sorry you got a harsh critique. Those hurt so much. But all of your wisdom here is right. Be thankful for the small wins, work on what you can, and for goodness sakes, keep swimming! 😀

    And have fun w/your sister & niece in Nashville! <3

  18. Jonathon Arntson April 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    What an uplifting post. I’d say my greatest low as a writer comes from my inability to finish a novel. But, I know that once I do, I’ll have plenty of other letdowns to celebrate. And I mean that, I will celebrate every rejection because it will mean I am narrowing the list and getting closer and closer to a “yes”. And yes, for the record, I have received rejections otherwise this would all sound so naive.

    • Laura April 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Without rejections, we would never succeed! That’s the truth. So in a way rejections are to be celebrated because it means we’re putting ourselves out there, we’re trying. Though a harsh critique worded well can be a blessing and over time encouraging!

  19. Shelli April 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Have a nice vacation!

  20. Jessica R. Patch April 25, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Well, I poured over my proposal making sure it was perfect and hit the send button. A few days later I took another glance at it and realized I spelled MY OWN FIRST NAME wrong on the coverletter.I’ve yet to hear back. I laughed hysterically. It was that or fall in the floor and weep, but I’d already done a ton of that prior to sending it. Yes, that was definitely and down moment! Have fun in Nashville.

  21. LynNerd April 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I enjoy reading everyone’s comments. Laura, your post is something we can all relate to. What’s tough is that creative people are usually extra-sensitive, so we take those harsh critiques pretty hard. A little bit of tact does go a long way, though, and there’s no point in bashing people when you can convey the same message without being mean spirited.

    I wish blogging and access to all the online sites was available to me when I first started out. It would have saved me years of grief. Finding a critique group was the best thing that ever happened in my writing journey. (Well, getting published was pretty cool, too.) I learn so much from my critique group, and the support is amazing. We also compare notes on our writing journeys, and we have some pretty funny stories. Like the one Jessica shared about spelling her name wrong! Yes, it’s best to have a good laugh over it because those things happen.

    One of my friends told me that she sent out a query, and after she sent it, she realized that she spelled query wrong – queery! We had a good laugh over that one.

    As far as the A-Z challenge, you guys are all amazing. I’m seriously in awe that so many of you have taken on such an enormous challenge. Just thiking about starting a blog and trying to decide what to write about is quite intimidating. See, there’s always something new we writers have to learn! One thing at a time.

    You know, one mistake I made when I first started writing was attempting to write a novel. Starting out with short stories is much more reasonable for new writers, Either way, it’s all part of the learning process even if those first works never get published.

    Laura, have a wonderful vacation. Taking time out for life gives us moreto write about, so have a blast.

    Lynn Kelley

  22. angela ackerman April 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    GREAT POST. Have a great time playing with your niece, Laura!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  23. Eileen Astels Watson April 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    Laura, I hope you have a wonderful time away!!

    My most discouraging moment was when a fairly new critique partner told me I had no writer’s voice. Man did that send me into a tailspin! 🙁

  24. Donna Weaver April 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    Enjoy your time with your family, Laura.

    • Laura April 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks everyone! And thanks for sharing your small victories and tough moments too! We all have them! But without the lows I guess we wouldn’t appreciate the victories quite as much. Right? 🙂

  25. Michelle Dennis Evans April 25, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    I find rejection from professionals much easier to take than a slagging critique from a peer.
    I’m still looking for the right crit partner/group for me.

  26. Karen Lange April 26, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    Hope you have a great time with your sister! 🙂

  27. Patti April 26, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    I had a harsh critique once. It didn’t mince words and although it was hard to hear and even though they could have said it in a much kinder way, she was right.

    Have fun in Nashville visiting family.

  28. Ghenet April 26, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Thanks for the inspiring post! I’m in the middle of writing my first book and I’m going to be really scared once it’s time to send it out. In the meantime, I am celebrating the small victories, like making my weekly word count goal!

    Enjoy the rest of your week. 🙂

  29. anna April 26, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    This is such sound advice and it must be the experience of just about every writer! It’s so important to strengthen our motivation and inspiration so that it survives these little setbacks and prepares us for the bigger challenges we will also have to face.

  30. Creepy Query Girl April 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    I think I’m most proud of the fact that I’m still here. Requests for a full feel AWESOME. Rejections on a full feel TERRIBLE. But looking back and knowing that you’re getting better, you’re getting closer and you’re STILL here, doing it all, make me feel victorious. Well, a little bit anyway;)lol

  31. Joy April 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Great encouragement. I think we’ve all had days like these, but it’s important to keep trying, knowing that one day we will achieve our goals.

  32. Elle Strauss April 27, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Have a great time in Nashville!

  33. Jackee April 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    OH, man, that’s harsh. I’ve had the same thing kind of happen to me on my first book. But you’re right–that’s how we cut our teeth. And honestly, I don’t know if I would change a thing. It was wonderfully amazing to just write for a couple of years without worrying if it was good enough to be published.

    Have a great break! We’ll be here when you get back. :o)

  34. Theresa Milstein April 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Enjoy your trip to Nashville. Ann has been doing an A to Z challenge all on Nashville. Have you seen it?

    Harsh feedback can be so discouraging. We all have to start somewhere. Why crush people’s spirit?

  35. Julie Musil April 27, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Like I tell my sons, there’s a right way and a wrong way to say something. Critiques should also point out what you did right, and in words that aren’t crushing. I queried novel #1 for several months with barely any bites. Then I wrote book #2, and learned. Then I wrote book #3, and learned. I’m glad we are all going through this together, and I’m so thankful for what I learn from you and all the other writers out there.

  36. India Drummond April 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I got 42 rejections on the book I just launched with a small press earlier this month. I was about to give up when it got accepted.

    It pays to be persistent!

  37. Traci Kenworth May 1, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    I have gone through critiques that have made me want to curl up in a ball and never come out again, but I’ve found a great group of ladies at YAFF who I trust and can bounce things off of, and who leave me free to go about my creativity without breaking me. That’s not to say they’re all sunshine and roses when it comes to my work, but they help lift me out of the pit of despair and to try again so that in itself is precious. I recommend critique groups to everyone and if they’re not finding one they fit into, to try and create one on their own. We in the writer community need each other. It’s not about who’s better, it’s about how can we help each other through this journey. Rejection, unfortunately, is a large part of that. We have to find a way to buffer ourselves against the pain, for me, that’s talking with other writers, the knowledge that I’m not alone. I wish all of you much, much success. Great topic!!

  38. terri tiffany May 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    I don’t think this little box is big enough to list all the rejections I’ve gotten with the writing of 5 books and now to number 6. But have I stopped? LOL Probably should have but keep hoping maybe this is the one!

Leave a Reply