Friday, May 20, 2011

The Four D's: Post 1 - Determination

When I was unpublished, my very brilliant critique partner kept reminding me of the 4 D's: Desire, Dedication, Determination, Discipline (and you can add a P too - persistence). Michelle (Styles) is great in that she walks the talk. And she demonstrated it this week by having her latest book accepted.
So today I'm going to talk about Determination. It kind of goes hand in hand with persistence. It also brings to mind a slogan from Beachbody, the company behind P90X (my current workout program) - Decide. Commit. Succeed.

I've talked about rejection before, but rejection is only one sort of setback that you might - and probably will - suffer as a writer. Michelle very wisely also says it's what you do AFTER the rejection that counts. She's right. You can throw in the towel or you can keep going. You can see it as a roadblock or you can see it as an opportunity. Because people - when things get tough, when things don't go your way, you have a choice to make. You can stop or you can move forward. And moving forward can be really, really difficult.

What else can mess with a writer's head/productivity/success? How about burnout? Not taking time to fill your well is a big mistake. Taking on too many deadlines and then finding the book isn't going well or that you have massive revisions or rewrites, throwing everything off schedule. That's hugely stressful, and it shows in your writing, too, I think. And then how about rewrites and revisions? They are not always easy. They can mess with your confidence, and you can get TIRED.

Writers also go through phases where they might simply struggle. In summer of 09, I had five rejections in a row. Not all on fulls, but one was indeed my option book and I was gutted. I went on to write another and thankfully my editor loved it, but was my trouble over? Oh no. The next book was a nightmare. I'd been working extremely hard - I took two rejected mss and completely reworked them and sold them elsewhere and wrote 2 full books for the Romance line between September and March. I had another book due the end of May. And the March book came back needing a complete rewrite - from scratch - and then 3 sets of revisions. My May book ended up being handed in on July 2, and by that time I was absolutely drained.

On July 2 I started my summer break. And to be honest, I wasn't sure I ever wanted to write again. But breaks do wonderful things (like fill the well). I had made it through the tough patch, and thankfully the last book of that contract didn't have heavy revisions. Actually - I think it's my favourite that I've written so far. What happened? Well, I think when writers hit a patch where their thinking and their editor's vision don't match it can be a case of writers stretching and growing. And there are growing pains. And you come out the other side bigger and better. At least I hope I did. By September I was raring to go on new projects.

When things like rejections, heavy revisions, and any other crows of doubt stuff happen, it's your determination that will see you through. You have to dig deep. You have to be willing to put in the hours, take the criticism on the chin, do what it takes to get that next book through. It sucks, it really does. Critique partners are wonderful for venting. You have to adopt an attitude that says "I'll show you I CAN do it, and I'll do it bigger and better than you expected."

You have to be willing to eat a little humble pie. You have to be willing to say, "I'm going to knock this out of the park if it kills me."

Steely determination is a good quality to have, because this industry can be fickle. There's a saying that says The Only Thing You Can Control is the Writing. But there is something else you can control. Your attitude.

Your Determination.


  1. Excellent post, Donna. So true. Was there myself last year (and I think I'm still a bit in the sticky patch - hopefully with a light at the end of the tunnel). Thank you for such wise words.

  2. Great post, Donna. I heard a couple of weeks ago that my MS was rejected after two sets of revisions. So close, so close! The senior editor just didnt' think it met that exceptional standard. So gutted, I hadn't realised how much it had come to mean to me. You are totally right though, have to dust yourself off. The editor who dealt with my revisions has asked me for 3 storyline ideas - she will pick the strongest and then she says she'll work with me so I can have a second bash. The thing now is not to dwell on the knockback and give it my all again. Look forward to your next post.

  3. I'm in the happy position of having a revision request from SYTYCW. But I wouldn't have it if - in the wake of a massive rejection - I hadn't taken the chance to sub it in the first place. Donna, you were one of the lovely people who directed me away from the ledge that'd begun to look like it might be a good place to hang out. Thanks, and things are looking up. :-)

  4. Donna, such a timely post for me because I just got a rejection today. I really had my hopes pinned on this one. I'd resubmitted it after an encouraging R&R, and I really thought I'd nailed it this time ... but no go. I'm taking a few days to process it all.

    I appreciate your honesty. Five rejections must have been tough. I'm going to use your example and revise my rejected mss and submit it elsewhere.

    Thanks for sharing