Let me tell you, sometimes there is drama in the world of publishing. This week, that drama was not only jaw-dropping, but it proved this powerful truth for all of us struggling writers: if you keep reading and keep writing, there is hope for you as a writer. Read on for more.
Fair warning: I am about to let you in on how absolutely bizarre the world of publishing can be.
I always knew that if you didn’t give up, if you kept reading and kept writing, you could make it.
Every single one of my favorite authors tell stories of being horrible writers in their youth, of penning tales they would rather burn than see made public, of learning through blood, sweat, and tears to tell a decent tale.
But all my favorite authors are a bit older than I am. This is the first time I’ve actually seen the transformation from struggling writer to successful author in real life.
Drama in Three Parts
One: The NYT Bestseller Drama
You may have heard about the YA book that was pulled from the NYT bestseller’s list last week. Here’s how that happened: a whole bunch of people got together and placed so many orders for a book that wasn’t even released that it spiked to the top of the bestseller lists, artificially inflating numbers when no readers had actually seen it at all.
That’s known as “cheating,” FYI.
Happily, it was discovered, and the New York Times re-released its list with that book removed, though a weirder storm of underhanded deals and near-forgotten entertainers from the 90s has ne’er been dreamed. (What did I tell you? Drama! Which you can read more about here and here and here and here.)
This had an interesting side effect which I’ll get to in a moment. Allow me to veer into a seemingly unrelated subject: a Harry Potter fanfiction called My Immortal.
Two: The Fanfiction Drama
My Immortal is infamous. It has its own Wikipedia page. It’s the most glorious mess of badly written, strangely stereotyped, and improbably characterized behaviors the world has ever seen. (Buzzfeed even did an article on it, though fair warning: the language is Not Safe For Work.)
Anything containing a line like this was bound to inspire a few giggles:
“I MAY BE A HOGWARTS STUDENT….” Hargirid paused angrily. “BUT I AM ALSO A SATANIST!”
This fanfiction has been the subject of jokes for more than ten years, and it’s often waved like a flag of warning at potential struggling writers, as if to say you, too, could be made mockery of if you are not careful. For obvious reasons, the author stayed in the shadows, anonymous.
Three: The Big Reveal
After the NYT pulled that book, rumors flew that the author of My Immortal wrote it. As a matter of fact, that book is written so very badly that the author of My Immortal came out of the shadows to declare she most definitely was not the author.
Why am I telling you all this? Because that reveal is when this insane tale actually became beautiful.
Rose Christo is the author of My Immortal. And do you know what happened? She kept writing. She kept reading. AND SHE’S GOOD.
She made it. She’s represented by Natanya Wheeler at Nancy Yost Literary Agency, one of the best in the business. On top of that, her work is relatable, powerful, and very well-written. Here’s an expert from one of her many books, Gives Light:
My father always told me, If I’m gone for three days, call the police.
He liked to drink with his friends every night. Sometimes he’d be gone for the whole next day and I wouldn’t catch a glimpse of him until the following afternoon, bleary-eyed, popping aspirin on the sagging sofa.
He was never gone for three days.
He had been gone for five days when I realized he wasn’t coming back, and I had better do something about it. But I definitely wasn’t going to call the police.
That’s a long way from “Hargirid” screaming about being a Satanist.
Yes, You Can
I told you this bizarre tale because I need you to see what we’re preaching here is not crazy.
There’s hope for you as a writer if you don’t give up. EVERYONE starts out with a learning curve (though not all of us are “lucky” enough for our first efforts to become an internet-wide joke).
There’s hope for you as a writer if you don’t give up. There was hope for Rose Christo (boy, was there), hope for me, and hope for you. If you keep writing, if you don’t give up, you can make it.
There’s hope for you as a writer if you don’t give up.
Even if people make fun of what you’ve written.
Even if others snicker at your first efforts.
Even if what you wrote today will embarrass you tomorrow.
Even if what you wrote yesterday makes you want to cry today.
Even if your work somehow becomes an internet joke, you can still become a writer.
There’s hope for you, struggling writers
How? Stephen King nailed it:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
So did Ray Bradbury:
“You fail only if you stop writing.”
I believe I’m proving this every day that I choose not to quit. I believe you’re proving it, too. You can do this. There’s hope for you as a writer, if only you don’t give up.
And now you know how drama-filled the publishing world can be, so if you don’t quit, be sure you’re in for quite a ride.
Who are your favorite authors? Do you know how they were struggling writers when starting out? Share in the comments.
I told you there’s hope for you as a writer if you don’t give up. Today, we’re going to see some of that hope in action. I want you to take as passage from your worst piece of writing. Something you’re embarrassed about, something you wouldn’t show for any reason. Then take fifteen minutes and work on it.
It can be just a few lines or paragraphs. Ideally, it will be a year or more old. Take it, work on it, and then post both the original AND improved results in the comments.
I know this may be hard, but we’re all going to do it—and in fact, I’m going to do it, too, so we’re all on even ground.
Be sure to encourage one another by leaving feedback on others’ stories! This is your chance to spread hope: if we don’t give up, there is hope for us all.