Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Writers: The Write Race

I am so very happy to welcome Sally Hepworth to Happy Writers Society today! Since I am incredibly sick, I'm even more grateful that she has offered up this lovely post for us today. It's back to bed for me now. Make sure to keep the clubhouse clean, okay?

The Write Race
For most writers, the highs - finishing a manuscript, getting an agent, signing with a publisher, being told that someone loves your book – is the reason that we do it. So how ‘bout this for a crazy suggestion? I think the lows (rejection, writer’s block, crappy feedback – sound familiar?) are even better.

*needle scratches off old-fashioned record and men pause mid-puff on their pipes*

All right, calm down people! If you’ll just re-take your seats I’ll be happy to explain.

Picture yourself crouching at the starting line of a race track. To your right and left are eager writing enthusiasts all of whom have ‘a book in them’ (Don’t you hate that expression? Who doesn’t have a book in them? It’s getting it out that’s the hard part! But I digress.)

The gun fires and about half the people start running (writing). The other half wander off and do something else. Bonus! You’ve halved your competition and you’ve only just started.

Of those of you who did start, about half have their heads down and are running as fast as they can toward the first hurdle. The other half amble along, stopping for a cold drink or a chat with their mates. You’re among the runners.

After what seems like an eternity, you make it to the first hurdle. You’re probably not the first one there, (there’s always some smart -arse who is faster.) But you’ve got a polished manuscript, so who cares? It’s time to jump the query hurdle.

This one’s a toughie. You’re pretty intimidated, but you’re determined to get over this hurdle. If you’re smart you’ll watch your opponents tackle it and try and learn from them. You may need to go back to the beginning and start the race over, but you stick with it. You glean everything you can from your opponents and listen to advice from the sidelines.

It takes longer than you expect, but (eventually) you get over the hurdle (land an agent). And when you get to the other side, you see that three quarters of your opponents have dropped out. Woot! Woot!

The crowd is really cheering now, and you might throw them a bashful smile before turning back to the race. Then you continue on, feeling tired, but elated. You’ve past a tricky hurdle, you’ve obviously got what it takes! But as the next hurdle looms before you, you realize it’s even bigger and more precarious than the last one. The dreaded publication hurdle.

This hurdle usually takes several attempts to master. Like with the query hurdle, you may need to start the race again before you can successfully take the leap. But don’t dismay - look around! There’s only a handful of you left. All of those who simply ‘had a book in them’ are at the pub, swilling their pints and talking about how they ‘have a film in them.’ You’re still in the race.

It may take a long time to get over that publication hurdle (I’m still trying). When you do, I’m told there are more hurdles on the other side. In fact, there is no finish line to this particular race (it is a circular track). But if you’re keen to continue, you’ll face more cheers (highs) and more hurdles (lows).

The thing we writers tend to forget is that we are not the only ones facing lows. The other thing we forget is that, if there were no lows, everyone would be doing it (instead of just talking about it), and we’d be lost in the stampede. So, every time I come up against a new hurdle in my writing life, I celebrate it.

It reminds me that I’m one of the few still in the race.


  1. Great post! Thanks for putting rejection in perspective. Happy Friday!

  2. "In fact, there is no finish line to this particular race (it is a circular track)."

    Lol crud, you're so right.

    Great post! It's a really positive spin on our reality.

  3. I'm feeling very much like the tortoise presently as I struggle with the manuscript for my second book. I know that the finish line is ahead...somewhere but the gard slog is just that right now - Hard.

    Writer's block? Frustration with the story? Who knows. But the way forward is out there.

    Your words are very encouraging Sally. Thank you for this contribution.

  4. What an awesome post!! You're right. It takes the lows to feel & appreciate the highs. I'm still on my first hurdle: querying. This is my mulligan after a false start, but I learned a lot after tripping over that hurdle the first time around. No matter the outcome, I'll never give up the race.

  5. How nice to see an optimistic take on the things that we worry about so much :)

  6. Great analogy. I've hopped over the query hurdle several times, and right now I'm putting a plaster/band-aide on my blisters. Then I'll fiddle with my shoelaces. Then I will...but I will get to the finish line, somehow, sometime.

  7. You know, I hadn't really thought of rejection weeding out my competition. I guess this race is really about endurance (persistence) and not speed. Thanks!

    (Nat, hope you feel better soon. I'd send a hug, but when in Japan do as the Japanese do. *bows* :) )

  8. Who knew to be a writer you had to have a competitive streak? Thanks for your thoughts. You've given me a lot to think about.

  9. The analogy works for me. And the race is the exciting part--why run if you don't like running, after all?--so I'm glad the track is circular. I don't want it to end with one novel...

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  11. Late to this, but you are so right. It's a steep learning curve. The the thing to do is use every bit of positive criticism - and when you hit the lows, remember the highs. Someone loved your work enough to comment. If it's an agent or publisher, kudos to them. They must have thought it was worth their time reading. :)

  12. Thanks Sally. I've hit my share of bumps and hurdles lately and you make me oddly grateful. I am definitely still in the race!