By PJ Parrish
Last week was a good one.
I finished a chapter of the novella, nudging it up past 17,000 words. I got a nice little royalty check that will keep my dogs in kibbles for three months. I turned in my edits for the next Louis Kincaid novel on time –- and the copy editor wrote this note on the last page: Great story! I’m so glad I was able to read it early. I truly enjoyed all the twist and turns. I haven’t read Louis Kincaid stories yet—but now I’m going to go back and do so!
This week…not so good.
Got some bad news about an upcoming project. Lost a foreign publisher. Can’t get any traction on the concept for the next book. The formatting on our Kindle eBook keeps screwing up the paragraphing. And some anonymous weasel-boy trashed us on Amazon.
You’d think after more than a decade at this writing biz, I’d be immune to the ups and downs. But I’m not. I still get discouraged and swing from ecstasy to agony. And like the cliché goes, I still go to bed some nights convinced I’ve used up all my good ideas and that the fraud police will cart me away in the morning.
I know I’m not alone. I know all writers are like crabs without shells, that the slightest kick, the smallest snub, sends us into spasms of self-doubt. I know this so well that it is part of every writing workshop I teach. Get out now, I tell those who wish to be published, if you can’t take criticism and rejection at every turn. Your queries will be ignored by agents. Your manuscripts will be turned down by editors. Your book will be snubbed by reviewers. Barnes and Noble won’t carry you. You won’t get a paperback reprint. You’ll be remaindered.
Jim Hall put it in perspective for me once. His newest book had just come out to glowing reviews. One day, riding high, he was in B&N and saw a woman reading the first pages of his book. He couldn’t resist and went over to her and said, “I wrote that.”
She said, “So?”
Rejection and dejection. How do you cope?
How do you keep your head above the waves as you tread water? How do you keep putting one word in front of the other every day until you’ve finished that lonely journey of eighty-thousand words? I don’t have the answer but I have learned this much:
You find support
I’m lucky; I have my sister and co-author. When one of us is on the ledge the other talks her off. If you’re alone, then you need to find others who understand what you’re going through. You need someone who knows that when you’re staring off into space yes, you really are writing. You need someone who will slap you upside the head when you’re whining, tell you the truth when you’ve lost control of your plot, and buy you two really strong martinis when you get dumped by your publisher. This someone is usually not your mom or spouse. They love you too much, poor dears.
You focus in not out
It is easy to get eaten up with envy in our business over who got the big contract, who got the award, who got the prime Saturday panel at Bourcheron when you got the 9 a.m. Sunday slot. You have to tune out all this noise. When I was just starting out, one of the best pieces of advice I got was from Jan Burke. “Keep your head down and just write your books,” she said.
You have faith
You have faith that you love the process and that you would probably do it even if no one paid you another dime and had to stand out on the Kindle corner and give it away. You have faith that some agent out there will read your proposal and take you on. That some editor will feel the same way about life that you do and buy your manuscript. You have faith that, despite all the bad things going on in publishing right now, that readers still need good stories. You have faith that you can still write them.
And if that doesn’t work? I will personally buy you that martini. And remember: There’s always the wise words of that great eastern philosopher Chumba Wamba: