Never. Give. Up.

I was torn for the past couple of days, trying to come up with a topic for today’s blog. I started to pick up with my last post from a couple of weeks ago about book covers and their impact on buyers. One of the covers was Florida Roadkill, by Tim Dorsey, who passed a few days after that blog posted, at age 62.

Tim wrote to make us laugh, and to share the weirdness of Florida with the rest of the country. He was an outstanding storyteller who brought a unique character to the page, and frankly, the man entertained us.

That’s the business we’re in, but no matter what blog idea came to mind for today, it didn’t work. Maybe it’s because I just turned in a manuscript and needed a break, but no, that wasn’t it. I’m 5,000 words into a new novel since December 1, editing a short story, writing newspaper columns, and generally rolling just fine.

So what to discuss. Y’all get volumes of advice from this blog and the esteemed writers who support it. We’ve examined writing from a number of angles and perspectives, and listed hundreds of tips, which will only help if someone is truly wanting to get published. I say that because untold numbers of would-be authors are out there, attending Christmas parties and talking about how they’ll write some day when they get time.

I guess that’s the point of today’s post. 2024 is just around the corner. Some see the beginning of the new year as a fresh start, and it can be, but gyms around the country can testify how that burst of enthusiasm tends to wane a few weeks in. Oh, we set goals all right, and the spirit is willing for a short period of time, but then we slip back into our usual routines.

Here’s what I suggest, but it isn’t predicated on the new year. Just write, and do it now.

That’s it. Of course you have to show up for work, which means put your rear in a seat for at least a little while and type words. The words, then sentences, don’t have to be perfect at first. That was a problem I had in the beginning. I wanted everything to read smooth and absorbing like Stephen King wrote it.

It don’t work that way.

Get the words in your head down first and follow them to the next paragraph, the next chapter, and eventually to The End. There. You have a rough draft. Then you read it and gasp.

Holy crap! This is awful. Look at all the time I’ve wasted these past months. I’m done. I’m gonna buy some traps and go eliminate the gopher population around the house, at least that’s something productive.

Nope. Re-read and edit. Put that project down and start another manuscript and come back to it in a few weeks. Wait, it sounds a little better. That’s because you’re in a routine and your words are flowing better, and you eye sees that.

Work on it some more and get that old polish rag out. Y’all remember how we used to shine up our old cars. Mine was a 1969 Ford Galaxie with a 390-engine fed by a four-barrel Holley that sucked gas like Niagra Falls. It took a long time to wash the car, apply the wax, and then rub for hours until all that white glaze was gone, but it shone like a diamond when I was finished.

Don’t do what a friend did, though. Back in 1972, he and his girlfriend applied an entire can of paste wax on her dad’s Buick Wildcat and let it bake in the Texas sun for an hour or two. Oh, that’s not the worst part. They were hot and drove the swirl-glazed car to the Dairy Queen in it for ice cream. The combination of July heat, engine heat from below, and old Sol above turned the wax into concrete. Her dad was due back home at six that evening, and even with the liberal use of elbow grease, and finally an electric buffer, that football-field size hood was never the same.

But you just saw that car in your mind, if you’re familiar with those old boats, felt the heat, and the dread that washed over a couple of kids that hot summer day. That’s what writing does. It puts us in that place. The more you write, the better you’ll get at bringing those words to life.

Now that you have the manuscript finished, it probably won’t read like old Steve wrote it, but don’t give up. Apply some more wax and polish away. When you have it ready, find yourself an agent. That’ll take a while, but don’t give up.

Own those rejection notices. Hell, put ‘em on you wall and keep trying, but work on that next project.

You can do it.  There’s no reason to wait for a magical date that means nothing. It doesn’t take a new year, it takes determination. Get started now. One page a day. Half that if it’s too much, but write, then read someone else, then write some more.




Submit…until someone says yes.

Never. Give Up. That’s your present from me this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.




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About Reavis Wortham

Two time Spur Award winning author Reavis Z. Wortham pens the Texas Red River historical mystery series, and the high-octane Sonny Hawke contemporary western thrillers. His new Tucker Snow series begins in 2022. The Red River books are set in rural Northeast Texas in the 1960s. Kirkus Reviews listed his first novel in a Starred Review, The Rock Hole, as one of the “Top 12 Mysteries of 2011.” His Sonny Hawke series from Kensington Publishing features Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke and debuted in 2018 with Hawke’s Prey. Hawke’s War, the second in this series won the Spur Award from the Western Writers Association of America as the Best Mass Market Paperback of 2019. He also garnered a second Spur for Hawke’s Target in 2020. A frequent speaker at literary events across the country. Reavis also teaches seminars on mystery and thriller writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to writing conventions, to the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, SC. He frequently speaks to smaller groups, encouraging future authors, and offers dozens of tips for them to avoid the writing pitfalls and hazards he has survived. His most popular talk is entitled, My Road to Publication, and Other Great Disasters. He has been a newspaper columnist and magazine writer since 1988, penning over 2,000 columns and articles, and has been the Humor Editor for Texas Fish and Game Magazine for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Shana, live in Northeast Texas. All his works are available at your favorite online bookstore or outlet, in all formats. Check out his website at “Burrows, Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “The cinematic characters have substance and a pulse. They walk off the page and talk Texas.” —The Dallas Morning News On his most recent Red River novel, Laying Bones: “Captivating. Wortham adroitly balances richly nuanced human drama with two-fisted action, and displays a knack for the striking phrase (‘R.B. was the best drunk driver in the county, and I don’t believe he run off in here on his own’). This entry is sure to win the author new fans.” —Publishers Weekly “Well-drawn characters and clever blending of light and dark kept this reader thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” —Mystery Scene Magazine

16 thoughts on “Never. Give. Up.

  1. I can hear people protesting: That sounds too simple. It can’t possibly work. There’s more to writing than that, much more.

    Rev, you’re right. It IS that simple and it does work. Yeah, there’s more to writing than just writing but that’s the basis, the cornerstone, the real nitty gritty. Writers gotta write.

    Your title is the best advice of all!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

    • Thank you so much. I know we keep ponding this drum, but we need to shout it to the heavens at every opportunity, becaus it is truly the way. There’s no exact formula to get published, just dedication to the craft.

  2. Thank you. I need to read this today. When you talked about waxing the car, it immediately took me back to my childhood in the 60’s. My dad had a sky blue Pontiac LeMans with a white, convertible top. I have fond memories of washing and waxing that car so we could take it to the drive-in theater with the top down. I can still smell the wax.

    • Ha! You nailed it! How many times did we polish the car for a night at the drive in, clean the bugs off the windshield, and slap mosquitoes? Remember the coils we burned on the dash? They’ll probably find our lungs themselves will repel those little blood suckers after breathing those chemicals mixed with cigarette smoke from the cars next to us.

      Of course, there was a lot going on inside that shiny car, too.

  3. That’s it in a nutshell. And I would add, let’s be thankful we have the gift of creativity and exercise it.

  4. I’m in a holiday show right now so I”ve been polishing lines and songs for the past month instead of writing. Turns out I miss it. The show closes Monday. Today I’m writing again. It feels good.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank you for the gift. ❤️

  5. I’ve been in the trenches polishing a manuscript via Donald Maas’s Emotional Craft of Fiction. I have a loooong way to go, but I’m starting to see the sparkle and I’m excited. This book has certain parts that need to tear your heart out, but more than that, it has to have that slow emotional build to the heart-rending. Your advice to never give up is very encouraging!

  6. This is exactly it, Rev. Write. Read. Write. Yes, there’s craft to study, and feedback to get, but it starts by putting in the time in the chair and words on the page. Then working to look at what you’ve written with fresh eyes, as though you hadn’t written it.

    But it starts with writing, and then continuing to write.

    One of my favorite lines of all time comes from the movie Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender.” Indeed, never give up!

    BTW, the assistant foreman at the job I had as a senior in high school, the job where I met my future wife, owned a ’69 Ford Galaxy with a fantastic sparkly deep purple pain job, and looked like it had just rolled new out of the showroom nine years after it was produced.

    Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  7. I gave up on the submitting part in the first months of this century, after five years.

    But I don’t quit unless they carry me out in a box on the writing part – I just think the Heat Death of the Universe is faster than my writing. 23 years, 2/3 of a half million words (est.) complete story already published, and I WILL finish and publish the rest, if I have ANY say in the matter.

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