Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

Best writing advice: DON’T GIVE UP

on August 28, 2012

This is a post for anyone who needs it. You may not be a writer, but you certainly have dreams. You certainly have something you want to achieve that it sometimes feels is impossible.

For me, it was getting published. I don’t know if I ever shared my story here, but it is a long one. It is one filled with humbling realizations and tater-tots and beer and chocolate salves.

I received my MFA in 2002. While I was there my professor’s agent read and liked my work, brought it back to New York with him! I was young, naive, I figured this is it! I will have an agent and then I’ll be published. Well that agent liked my work, but not enough to sign me and so it began.

(Truthfully he went crazy and left the business but I will never believe it was my MS that did it)

I worked for two years on honing and finishing that manuscript. I know that seems like a long time, but I was also working full-time and well, learning to write a novel. It’s not something that you just know how to do. When I felt it was complete I went a-querying, I also called in ALL MY FAVORS and sent to agents my writing friends and professors knew and I waited. Rejections rolled in and I sent out more queries and on and on this went for a year and a half. I was at the point of giving up.

But then…

I had an agent respond that she was interested, that if I did a revision she would consider representing me. I did the revision and we signed a contract. I figured this is it! I have an agent. NOW I will be published!

It didn’t work out that way, I got a lot of AMAZING editor rejections and if you’ve gotten rejections like this you know what I mean, ones that called me a “writer to watch” said they “would want to read anything else from me” said I was “talented, a strong, special voice”. BUT they all said no. Not this book, maybe the next book. My agent at the time told me to write the next book.

I took a year and a half writing the next book. I kept in touch with my agent all this time. Telling her my progress, what the book was about, etc. Then it was ready. I sent her the first 15 pages per her request. She said once she read that she was sure she would request the rest.

She didn’t request the rest. She passed.

As in I don’t like this or you anymore pass.

My lifeline to being published was shut-down. I knew what this meant. I needed a new agent. It took a year and a half to find the last one. I wasn’t sure if I could go through it again.

At least not right away.

So I semi-gave up.

I took a break. I got married. I nursed my seriously f’d up ego. I kept writing, but I got off the submission train for a while. This could have been the time where I really gave up. I could have said, “I got an agent, had my chance in front of publishers and it didn’t happen.” Seeing where I am today, published with another book on the way I am sooooo glad I didn’t.

But I could have, easily.

Could I have known 3 years ago that this is where I would be now? No certainly not. But I did know it was where I wanted to be, so I tried again. I picked up that MS the first agent liked so much (the one way back in my MFA days) and went to work rewriting it. COMPLETELY rewriting it.  It took 8 months. A long time, but what I learned in all my times around was that it needed to be perfect, as perfect as I could make it. You have one shot with an agent or publisher and it needs to be your best shot.

I started querying again, this time it didn’t take a year and a half. It took two months. Two months and some edits with new and (current) agent and I was back on submission. I was rejected, rejected, rejected. We had been on submission for 3 months with NO GOOD NEWS.

I wondered if it was ever going to happen? If all those years of trying and failing would be more failing.

But then…

An editor came back and said she liked it. Liked it enough that she wanted to see a revision of it. So I rewrote it AGAIN, adding 2 additional characters. We waited. WAITED. WAITED. It was only six weeks and compared to the years I put in, well that was nothing, but it seemed like a lot.

Fast forward to now. That book PRETTY AMY is out in BOOK STORES!!! and has a sister book on the way this March. The only reason for this is that I didn’t give up.

This post is a reminder that YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER!

You might say, but I haven’t gotten my “but then…” yet. I haven’t even gotten ONE “but then…”. To that I say if you give up you never will.

Take breaks, drink wine, scream and cry in a dark room, but don’t give up.

I am proof even YEARS later it can happen.

Add PRETTY AMY on Goodreads

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Read the first chapter here


6 responses to “Best writing advice: DON’T GIVE UP

  1. This is exactly the boost I need right now. Thank you, Lisa! Spectacular post!

  2. Kristen L-M says:

    Congrats to you for having a gut made of steel. And for persevering despite it all. This hits home for me. Big time. I’m at that 3 month mark (on sub) you mention above.


    The waiting, the hoping. It KILLS you.

    Thanks for this. I hope I get to write a similar post someday. It really does make a difference.

  3. Tonya Kuper says:

    This. I needed this. As does every other aspiring writer out there.

    Book #2 (which you generously critiqued the 1st pgs), is still out with a few peeps. I thought I was about to be offerred rep just two weeks ago. Nope. The roller coaster of emotions is almost too much to bear, but I’m addicting to writing. I’m also not willing to give up on my dream of being published. Of maybe making a difference in one person’s life.

    I’m working hard on book #3, keeping in mind what I’ve learned along this bumpy journey and dreaming of what could be.

    Thank you for your post. : )

  4. Amanda Ryan says:

    Thank you…this translates across lines. I, too, have gotten almost a years worth of positive rejection letters and I’m still hot on the trail of getting were I want to be. It will come, I want it and I will find it.

    Great post, Lisa!

  5. Great post – thanks for sharing!

  6. I am in the submission process as well. It is agonizing! But your story makes me realize how far I still might have to go and how much I still have to prove. I’m so glad you never gave up. Keep being a light for the rest of us!

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