Keeping On, Keeping On

“Keeping On, Keeping On,” said Alan Bennett. But I’m wondering whether that is always the right thing to do? Should there come a point when it’s best to draw a line in the sand, say, “I tried my best”, and then move onto something else?

I’m going through a dry patch in my writing. You may remember me telling you that I had a second book on submission with my agent and was keeping my fingers crossed. As with the earlier novel, this one also failed to find a home with one of the big publishers. I suggested trying both books with the smaller, digital first publishers. My agent felt unable to add much to this process and therefore we agreed that I would proceed down this route un-agented. I have submitted to several places but, as of this moment, nothing has come of it.
I’ve put a lot of work into getting so near, but yet so far. People tell me that I did well to get taken on by one of the best agents in the country. I understand that and I learned a lot from the process. But it’s still very difficult to get re-enthused about starting all over again on another novel that might also never see the light of day.
I’ve considered returning to short stories and have managed to write two. One’s gone off to a competition and the other one is waiting for a final edit before I try it with The People’s Friend. However, the short story market has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, so I’m not feeling optimistic.
And, at the moment, the article pitches seem to be landing on deaf ears after a good run of successes.

On a more positive note, I am two weeks into a free Zoom novel-writing course run by Jacci Turner. She’s running the course in the US at 10 am, which is a convenient 6 pm BST but there is an Australian in the cohort joining from a darkened house at 2:30 am! I’m hoping this course might re-ignite my passion and enthusiasm.

But in the meantime I’d love to hear your opinion/advice:
Should I continue ‘keeping on, keeping on’ as a writer or call it a day and find something else? How do you cope with dry patches like this?

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  1. #1 by Gail Aldwin on June 17, 2022 - 3:22 pm

    That is rotten, Sally. So much about getting published is to do with luck and timing. I’m sure you will be able to find a home for your work with a small publisher but does selling a few hundred copies seem worthwhile? (Although you might do much better.) So long as you enjoy novel writing, keep at it.

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on June 18, 2022 - 8:39 am

      Thanks, Gail. I think you’re right – it all comes down to the enjoyment. Perhaps a short break will do me good & I’ll feel something pulling me back to my desk.

  2. #3 by Madeleine Purslow on June 18, 2022 - 9:46 am

    I am in a very similar situation and so I will be looking forward to reading the comments on this one.

  3. #5 by Emma Myatt on June 18, 2022 - 11:29 am

    I’m in a deep blue writing funk. Loads of ppl seem to be……..

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on June 18, 2022 - 2:35 pm

      Too many writers, too few publishers, too many readers paying only 99p for e-books?
      All the best, Emma.

  4. #7 by Arnie Witkin on June 18, 2022 - 1:35 pm

    Dear Sally

    I am so very sorry that your book failed to find a publisher, even with an ace agent. It must be so disheartening. You wonder if it’s all worth it and what’s it all about.

    I can give no advice, but I am reminded that J K Rowling was rejected 12 times. The other side of that coin is the song, The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers. You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

    Of course we can never know that, because, either way, there is always the chance that you will be wrong. But my question is, What else would you do? There’s no such thing as no decision. Your action is your decision. It’s a question of making a positive, thoughtful decision and plan and then executing the plan. It doesn’t take away the pain you are now feeling, but making a conscious decision, even to affirm the status quo, is one way of moving forward. I’m a great believer in writing down the options and the facts, thoughts and feelings surrounding them. The answer tends to spring up from the page.

    For what it’s worth, you helped me enormously, more than you could know.

    Sending you very best wishes


    Arnie Witkin

    Life coach and mentor

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on June 18, 2022 - 2:42 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment, Arnie.
      I think you hit the nail on the head with ‘What else would you do?’ Writing has been an important part of my life for a long time and I don’t know what I could replace it with.
      Glad that I was able to help you and hoping that all is going well.

  5. #9 by Cath Barton on June 18, 2022 - 6:25 pm

    It’s tough. I’ve been lucky with 2 books. And unlucky with 2 others. If you feel you have a story to tell, write it. The rest, I’m afraid, is very much a matter of luck. Don’t despair. Enjoy what you can. Easy to say, I know!

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on June 19, 2022 - 10:20 am

      Thanks, Cath. Unfortunately there does seem to be an amount of luck involved in getting the right book in front of the right person at the right time. Am coming to the conclusion that we have to write for our own enjoyment and if anything more comes from it, that’s wonderful and if not, it doesn’t matter.

  6. #11 by juliathorley on June 19, 2022 - 12:38 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this, Sally. Does it help to know you’re not alone? Probably not. I’ve touted a book around, but with no joy. I’m going to use Amazon to self-publish, which feels like a bit of a cop-out (and I try not to buy from Amazon, so it seems like I’m letting my principcles slide), but I’ve written the damn thing now so I might as well do something with it.

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on June 19, 2022 - 6:14 pm

      Thanks, Julia. I agree with ‘I’ve written the damn thing so I might as well do something with it’ – and there is nothing to lose unless you spend a lot of money on cover design etc. I’ll probably do the same, eventually. All the best with it.

  7. #13 by Sharon boothroyd on June 19, 2022 - 12:47 pm

    I’m not a novelist Sally but I know how disheartening and dispiriting it must be to receive rejects from a big volume of works that you’ve spent around a year apiece on.
    But if your agent deemed those novels good enough to sub to major publishers, then they should be of high enough standard to find a home with a smaller digital publisher.
    If they were truly awful, she wouldn’t have sent them out, surely? The very best of luck and don’t even think about giving up!

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on June 19, 2022 - 6:16 pm

      That’s what I’m hanging onto, Sharon – if they were really bad she wouldn’t have put her name to them.
      Hopefully this is just a ‘down’ patch and I won’t give up completely. All the best to you.

  8. #15 by Lacy Muircastle on June 20, 2022 - 10:26 am

    Hi Sally

    What about Self Publishing? There are some really successful self published authors out there like LJ Ross for example. Don’t give up just find another route.

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on June 21, 2022 - 6:46 am

      Thanks, Lacy. I have self-published previously and found the marketing extremely difficult. However, there is a high probability that I will go down that route again, eventually.
      All the best to you.

  9. #17 by jacciturner on July 21, 2022 - 7:11 pm

    Thank you for the mention! I get discouraged waiting for agents and publishers which is why I often end up Indie Publishing. You are a very strong writer and the world will benefit from your voice so get your work out there one way or another!

    • #18 by Sally Jenkins on July 22, 2022 - 8:07 am

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jacci. I will do my best to make things happen!

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