Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to succeed

This is not about me, this is about all of us.

I was inspired to write this entry because of Danny Stack's final posting about how to succeed in writing, which has rather less to do with talent than some people might hope, and rather more to do with keeping at it, and keep pushing despite every barrier life puts in your way (and it will).

There was a certain serendipity about it because I had just had an e-mail from my novelist friend Roger Ellory, I'd been telling him about my bits of luck and he'd been telling me about his, zooming all over the place, selling lots of books, lots of new distribution contracts and so on.

Let's face it, Roger is a success.

But he wasn't always. He told me once how it began for him I shall summarise the writing bit here, but the full story is on his website. (Though I have some information that's not there.)

In the late 80s he started writing. He wrote 22 novels in six years, mostly supernatural thrillers, he even got an agent or three. but the rejections just piled up. He kept 300 of the most interesting rejections. Can you imagine how many rejections he must have got to have kept 300 of the most interesting? I have no idea but it's a scary number.

Then he stopped, for almost 10 years. Then began again, but things were different.

He was doing a job that most people would regard as having unsocial hours, working with people who needed help. But for one hour every day when he got home (usually after 10pm), without fail, he would write. His wife made sure he had the space and the time to do it, even though at the time they were living in one room in someone else's house and had a son.

And he got his breakthrough, only 5 years ago, now he has an ongoing contract for a book every year, though as you can imagine, he could write a lot more than that. The rest is a tale of success, his popularity and readership grow, his books are tough, uncompromising and a joy to read. (But that's just a fan talking.) One day I'd like to have the honour of turning one of them into a feature film.

On the bio page of his website it says this:
Recently he read a book called 'How Not To Write A Novel' by David Armstrong. His favourite quote from this book went along the lines of 'The harder you work the luckier you get'. He agrees with this principle, and thus has no intention of retiring from anything, ever.
Which finally brings me to what Roger wrote in his e-mail:
When I am asked at events what it takes to get published, it's just one word: persistence.
And that's how to succeed.

What's on the turntable? "Train Song" by Pentangle from "Basket of Light"


Lucy V said...

Hell yes. Thanks for that, AD.

I have 100 rejections that are actually quite interesting. Either because they offer encouraging feedback or say something crazy like:

"This tale of a single mother is so wide off the mark in terms of realism, you should ask real single Mums about their experiences."

(I was a single Mum at the time. And it was a hugely autobiographical piece, lol).

Here's to another 200!

Adaddinsane said...

Hopefully not that many :-)