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TWELVE STEPS FOR STICKING WITH WRITING
BY PENNY ZELLER
I contemplated quitting early in my writing career. My reason? A rejection letter.
When I first began writing for publication over a decade ago, I started with articles in national and regional publications. One day, I received a request to see a bicycling article I had spent weeks perfecting. Excitedly, I sent the article and numerous photographs to the editor. Not a week later, I received the manuscript back in the mail with a note rejecting it. I was devastated. My heart and soul had been poured into those three pages of text. I am ashamed to say that I cried for days and thought seriously about giving up my newfound career.
I wondered if I really was cut out to be a writer. Sure, I’d had rejections before, but never had I worked so hard on an article as I had on this one.
If you get stuck in a rut, as I did, here is some advice that has helped me along the way:
- Pray. In late 2000, I committed my writing to the Lord. Pray that you will use the gift of the written word that He has given you to glorify Him. Ask that He direct your path and give you wisdom and guidance.
- Seek out family and friends. My husband was ultimately the one who told me not to let this one editor be the one to make me quit the career I had dreamed of since I was seven. I am grateful that he sat me down and gave me the “you listen here” speech, and I am grateful I listened!
- Join a writing group. Years ago when I walked into my first writing group meeting with my four-month-old daughter on my hip, I never realized just how valuable a local writing group would be. I have gained insights, confidence, and lasting friendships from this group of people with whom I share the same goal. Similarly, an online writing group can be just as beneficial. A few years ago, I joined the ACFW and have discovered wonderful friendships and helpful camaraderie from those who share the same passion for words.
- Attend a writer’s conference. The classes offered, the presentations of the speakers, the networking with agents, editors, and other writers all add to the immense value of attending a writer’s conference. While some conferences can be pricey, many offer scholarships. One of my friends wrote an essay that won her a scholarship. (For more information on how to prepare for a writer’s conference, please see http://pennyzeller.wordpress.com/sticking-with-writing/)
- Find an editor. Every writer has an inborn antennae to “catch” things others may miss. When I heard that my new neighbor was a retired English teacher, my antennae went on full alert. Now was the time to find out if I should be writing as a profession. With several manuscripts in hand, I walked over to her house and asked if she would be willing to edit my work. She was honored. Since that time, I have learned even more extensively about grammar and punctuation from this woman whom I am proud to call my editor. She gives me honest, constructive criticism – and that’s what a good editor does.
- Discover your niche(s). So maybe writing about bicycling wasn’t my niche. What about other topics? I believe there are as many topics as there are writers to write about them. So, I found my niches, not only in articles, but also books. I have written historical romance (my favorite), children’s fiction, and children and adult nonfiction books and have written on a wide variety of article topics.
- Develop a “happy file.” I have never kept my rejections (there is a reason why my outdoor garbage can is next to my mailbox!) But, I DO keep sweet notes from readers who enjoyed my books, thank-you notes from people I have interviewed, congratulatory notes, newspaper write-ups about me, and “atta girl” letters from editors. I place all these in a file to revert to whenever I need that extra motivation.
- Examine your motives. There is a reason why a person wants to be a writer. For me, it was my dream before I could use a computer. It has become my ministry and I seek to glorify God in all I write. In addition, the idea of dreaming up new things to write about and then proceeding with the written project is exciting and challenging to me. Examine why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Write down the three main reasons. File it away in your “happy file” and read it whenever you feel like giving up.
- Keep an “idea file.” Ideas always come to me while I am taking a shower or suffering from insomnia. I quickly write these ideas down and file them in my “idea file.” This is a highly motivational tool. If you don’t write those books and articles, who will?
- Realize opinions are subjective. I realized that everyone has his own opinion and what may not look good to one editor may look wonderful to another. Keep this in mind when you receive a rejection letter. That was one editor. There are a million more and they all have different opinions. The chances are good that one of them could easily like the manuscript or article you are proposing.
- Look back to the past. Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I look back at old query letters I wrote at the beginning of my career. I am amazed at how far I have come. Keep copies of the queries you send – this is a great way to track your progress in the future.
- DO NOT GIVE UP. I am a firm believer in perseverance. Pray often about your writing and seek God’s will for it each day. Then, stick with your dream, and someday your dream will be realized.
Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. She is also the author of the humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” (pennyzeller.wordpress.com). She is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a women’s prayer group. Penny devotes her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom. Hailee is the final book in the series, which began with McKenzie and Kaydie in Montana Skies, her first series with Whitaker House. She is also the author of 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, Hollyhocks, and The Decision. When she’s not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. Penny loves to hear from her readers at her website, www.pennyzeller.com, at her blog at www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com, and on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pennyzellerbooks.