What does it take to be a traditionally published author? Twenty years ago, I would have said talent and connections. Today, on the occasion of the cover reveal for my literary debut, only one word comes to mind—grit. If your field is as cutthroat as publishing, here are four ways that helped me develop mental toughness, which could be the very thing you need.
Writing talent and skills are essential and connections always help, but without grit, an enduring writing career, or any career worth dreaming of, is impossible. I attribute the upcoming publication (on Nov. 1) of my historical novel, MY MACARTHUR, to the following reasons.
#1 Persistence: It took me a decade to research, write, and rewrite MY MACARTHUR. It took another three years before the Sand Hill Review Press acquired it in April. I was represented by a literary agent who tried to sell it to the Big Five. When she removed me from her client list in November 2017, I was devastated. What are the chances of selling my novel without an agent? After three months of full-blown self-doubt, I forced myself to pick up the pieces and pitched my novel at the San Francisco Writers Conference. I met my publisher there, and as they say, the rest is history.
#2 Willingness to Adapt to Change: I’ve always dreamed of being represented by a literary agent and getting published by a traditional publisher. Most writers want those things too. When my agent gave up on my work, I needed to adapt. And fast. At the San Francisco Writers Conference, I became my own agent and advocate overnight.
#3 Insatiable Hunger: Have you tried fasting for 24 hours or longer? I’ve done it. I was so starved I could have eaten my big pile of unpublished manuscripts. In the past two decades of writing fiction, I’ve succeeded in getting short stories and two romance novels published traditionally, but there were many painful rejections and failures between acceptances. Experiencing setbacks is like fasting—it keeps me hungry for publication success.
#4 Choosing Action Over Talk: The world is full of people who want to write, plan to write, and talk about writing. They hardly ever write. Many fizzle out in the face of criticisms and rejections. In the end, nobody ever gets published without doing the hard work of actually finishing a manuscript and rising above every obstacle along the way. It’s as simple as that. Just remember that simple doesn’t mean easy.
Cover reveal artwork by Nina Fazzi, August 2018.