Message From The Author

Author's Message

I come from a family of storytellers.

We talk about funny things from our childhood, or that weird encounter we had in with the recently released prisoner, or how we met Marvin Gaye's mother on the train to Baltimore in September 1978. (She gave me chocolate-covered raisins.)

In other words, we talk a lot.

So when I sat down to write my first story, I wrote about stuff. Not very well, alas, but I didn't realize it at the time. And that's a good thing, because in those early stages, we carry on through in sheer ignorance. Of course our stories are stunning works of art, guaranteed to win awards and sell millions. The first rejection might sting, but we recover fairly quickly. At some point, we figure out that we aren't the next award winner, but our despair is intermittent.

Eventually we realize we aren't geniuses. We write more, we get better, but maybe we still don't break through to the next stage. Most normal people would give up and get on with their lives. Writers? We keep whacking our heads against that stone wall.

My friend Jay Lake calls this psychotic persistence.

He's absolutely right. I wrote my first novel twenty-five years ago. It was terrible. Sure, my first rejection letter was encouraging, but I could see there were major flaws. Then I went on a ten-year break from writing. I changed jobs, remarried, had a kid. But eventually I returned to writing, and eventually I found some good advice to help me past okay to publishable. More important, I learned what kind of stories I wanted to write, and I started to learn how to write them. But if I had given up, after that first rejection, or after the tenth or twentieth one, I would have lost a story I still believed worth telling to other people.

I can't offer any sure-fire advice, but I can offer a couple suggestions from a fellow-traveler.

Rediscover the joy. Start your next project for yourself. Remember those early days when you wrote for the delight in creating new worlds and characters, for playing with words, for whatever reason that lured you into writing.

So breathe. Be kind to yourself. And write.

- Beth Bernobich


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