WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Persevering at perseverance

A few posts are on tap looking at perseverance, yes or no.

I remember having talks with myself all through the first ten years of this century about perseverance and how if I gave up in my pursuit of writing and publishing novels it was in no uncertain terms over. Giving up – as tempting as it was many many times along the way – would slam the door shut and I’d have to become an ex-writer. I’d have to channel whatever creative impulses I felt into something that would be distinctly a hobby, a diversion, whereas my writing had always been a force coming from inside me.

So I kept at it, and had these talks with myself, in which I’d say that I’d know when it was time to hang it up and it’d feel right. In the meantime all I could do was continue to write, continue to query agents, continue to pick myself up after the defeats and, like the song says, “start all over again.”

But you begin to ask, how many defeats do I have in me before it’s destructive, before my psyche gets PTSD and I deteriorate as a person? I never wanted to be one of those who are pretty cruelly described as a “failed writer.” Why do they always label writers that way? You never hear about failed musicians or failed sculptors. There must be something about the process of writing, the investment of self in it, that makes the failure that much more agonizing.

That meant I had to be careful, and there were probably a few times when I crossed some kind of line as a human, feeling way too sorry for myself. One was probably when an agent I’d been trying to land, and who invited a revision, double-teamed me with a former Viking editor on a conference call, and they tore the book to shreds. Even though I was probably burning a bridge, I told them both it felt like I’d been set up. It felt like they wanted me to pay the editor a shitload of money to help me whip the book into salable shape, something that had happened to me before. It feels like a racket, I told them, and the agent said I’m sorry you feel that way, Kevin, but best of luck with your writing – you have talent.

I signed with a different agent after that, but she wasn’t able to sell the book, and she wasn’t able to sell Yesterday Road either, though she did try. I sent her Town Father but she passed, now convinced that nothing I wrote would get picked up.

And she was the last agent I worked with, though I tried to land another each time I had a new book to shop around. I think 2010 was the last year I was under contract. Then came my self-publishing experiment in 2013.

I’ve learned since then that the indie market isn’t evolving in a way that welcomes literary fiction. A litany of reasons why. Doesn’t matter what they are. But it became clear a while ago that I need to go back to pursuing agents if I still believe in my writing – and I do. So the querying has recommenced.

This means I won’t be self-publishing anything new for quite a while. I need to give the querying process time, and this year I’m prepared to hit up to a hundred agents per title (I have two I’d like to place right now). I have one nibble in my first ten so far. That’s about the right percentage, I’m afraid. In other words, out of my hundred queries, I might hear back from ten agents who want to see all or part of the book.

Perseverance requires that I not think about that too much.

[Photo by Isakarakus at Pixabay.]

17 comments on “Persevering at perseverance

  1. pinklightsabre
    June 28, 2017

    Selfishly love this post, sorry to admit. For a variety of reasons you can imagine. Good for you. Hard for me to say don’t give up because I don’t entirely understand, but can imagine. Bill

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 28, 2017

      I thought you’d like the theme, Bill. It’s odd to get to a point where I can see that letting go would be good and smart, but it’s still up ahead and I’ve got some sole left on my shoes.

      • pinklightsabre
        June 28, 2017

        Totes. Sad and inspiring too.

  2. John W. Howell
    June 28, 2017

    Best wishes. Thought you were in self-pub for the long haul. Understand your desire and hope you become fulfilled.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 28, 2017

      Self-pub isn’t proving to be viable for me, I’m afraid. Fascination sold fewer than 40 copies. I can’t find successful ways to promote. Dems de breaks, I guess. But I’ll be back if the agent stuff doesn’t pan out, since I have a couple more tomes on the drawing board. Thanks for your support, as always, J-man!

  3. Carrie Rubin
    June 28, 2017

    The patience and perseverance required is enormous. We have to be patient for a lot of things in life, but normally we don’t get rejections flung at us on a regular basis like we do seeking a traditional publishing path. And now with there being so many books out there, the odds are very small we’ll get an agent. But good on you for trying it and I wish you the best of luck. Your writing certainly deserves a taker.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 28, 2017

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Carrie! There is a bright side to rejection these days. At least now you don’t have to send queries by mail with an SASE inside. 😉

  4. Phillip McCollum
    June 28, 2017

    As always, I wish you the best, Kevin. I know it probably feels like you haven’t hit on success, but I look up to you through my eyes. You’re a published author through multiple venues, you’ve been willing to experiment in so many different ways, and you’re still hammering on. I’m looking forward to more of your posts on this topic.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 28, 2017

      Thanks a lot, Phillip. Much appreciated. Believe me, I’ve changed my definition of “success” a bunch of times over the years!

  5. Audrey Driscoll
    June 28, 2017

    I agree with most of the other comments. I’ve always admired your professional attitude, so will be interested to see how the agent hunt turns out. I have to admit I’ve thought about getting back into submitting (argh! that word!) my literary novel that languishes unpublished, but it would take a lot of psyching up to re-enter that mode. You’re right about not having to shlep mss. by mail, and no more SASEs, though.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 29, 2017

      Thanks, Audrey. I’m sure you know how it is. You start the agent search with loads of optimism and belief in your work, but after six months and 90 rejections, you start to lose your mojo. At least one of my first ten has shown some interest!

  6. Woebegone but Hopeful
    June 29, 2017

    No practical advice here on how to get published, I’m useless at that.
    My words are more to do with Writing itself, being anarchic, bloody-minded and suchwhich, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a Failed Writer; just one who hasn’t made the right connection yet.
    I’ve been at this kick since 1990, and have fallen over more times than I care to think about (including being ripped off). Sometimes it comes down to shutting the door on the ‘comments world’ and keeping on working your own way,
    Hard road, hard times.
    To paraphrase Edison, ‘I am not a failed writer. I have simply found 100 editors/agents who don’t understand my work’
    Best wishes from the UK.
    Roger

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 29, 2017

      Words of wisdom, Roger. It’s all about finding the path that keeps us moving forward, eh?

      • Woebegone but Hopeful
        June 29, 2017

        Yep!
        It’s there somewhere!
        All the best Kevin. Never give up.

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2017 by in Writing and tagged .
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