Friday, May 17, 2013

Fourth Time's the Charm

I read a really interesting blog post yesterday about why it's so important to write multiple novels, even if the first two or three (or four, or five, or whatever) don't get published.

Personally, I couldn't agree more.  But my reasons for believing this are a bit different.

In my case, I wrote three novels before the one that sold, Survival Colony Nine.

Now, granted, the first was written when I was sixteen, the second when I was twenty-two, and the third, after an unbelievably long hiatus during which I pursued other writing projects, when I was forty-five.  If you're interested in the full story behind that, check out my post "The Things That Take a While."

But my point is this: sometimes, maybe most of the time, the first novel doesn't take.

When that happens, you're left with three options.

1. Keep working on that same novel, revising it, sending out queries, and (in all likelihood) getting rejections, until the day you die.

2. Decide that you're a pathetic hack because your first novel didn't get published, give up, and sell car insurance until the day you die.

3. Write another novel.  And another.  And another.  Until the day you... get published!

Look, there are no guarantees.  Novel #27 might not be any more publishable than Novel #1.  I've written two novels after Survival Colony Nine (one a sequel, one something entirely different), and I have no assurance that either or both will be published.

But that's not stopping me from beginning the next novel.

To me, in the end, it's less about "honing one's craft" than it is about being who I am.  The craft-honing is important, of course; it's quite likely that the reason Novel #4 is being published when Novels #1-#3 weren't is that my writing got better through practice and experience.

But if you think about writing only in terms of craft-honing, I think you're still missing the point, still focusing on the unknown future (publication) and not the moment (the act of writing, the fact of being a writer).  If you're really desperate to get published, anyone can do it through a variety of self- or vanity-publishing options, so that can't be the point either.

The point is that even if Survival Colony Nine hadn't sold, I would have kept writing.  Even if it ends up being the only novel of mine that sells, I'll keep writing.  Because that's what being a writer is all about.


Until the day you die.


  1. I couldn't imagine spending an entire life working on one or even two novels. There are so many stories out there, screaming to get out. And they don't care if they're going to get published or not. :)
    (Plus, practice makes perfect, right?)

  2. That's right--the stories want to be told, not to be published. And it's our job to make sure they get told!