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This Writing Life: Perseverance and Making Your Own Luck

1 February, 2011

I’ve been thinking this morning about how much of life is about perseverance. There are very few things worth having that don’t require persistence and hard work to achieve or possess. Writing is just one of these things: you’re never going to sell your work if you don’t keep writing, keeping improving, keep submitting. Perseverance is only one part of selling fiction though – luck also comes into it. Having the right editor read the right piece of your work on the right day, when the stars are aligned and with a good wind behind you… Well, something like that anyway.

Luck is not something the writer has a lot of control over. You can’t guarantee that the editor you’ve submitted to isn’t going to read your manuscript on a day when she’s got flu and her cat’s just been sick in her favourite shoes – right before she puts her foot in them – or that said editor isn’t just going to throw out everything she looks at that day because she’s in a really bad mood because of the cat and the shoes and the flu.

This sounds pretty grim, for the budding writer. When so much is down to luck, there’s every chance that you’ll never get published. Right? Well, not entirely. This where the perseverance comes in, because perseverance is how you make your own luck. By continuing to work hard, and improve your writing, and keep submitting, you’re drastically improving your chances of getting published. Eventually, you might get to the point where your story is the one that snaps that editor out of her bad day, which makes her sit up with a grin and say, “I have to buy this!”

Perseverance is not an easy thing to cultivate, but like I said before, all good things in life take hard work. It’s the best way to improve your luck in the publishing industry, and certainly the only way to keep that luck consistent (plying an editor with drink might persuade them to buy one story, but if your writing isn’t up to scratch, they’ll never buy another).

This is the point, of course, where I have to make sure I’m taking my own advice. Am I really, truly persevering? There are certainly stories that I’ve given up on too quickly, both in terms of finishing them and continuing to submit them. Overall though, I think I’ve been doing pretty well with the persistence thing, which is why I’m hoping 2011 will be the year my luck changes for the better.

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