Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

What If You Never Get Published? August 1, 2014

On this blog I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of interviews. Some with literary agents, and even more with writers. When I interview writers, I always try to mix up their questions. Include things that make each interview personal. While the questions may vary, there are always two I include. I ask about their time in the query trenches and if they ever thought about giving up on their writing dream.


One interview I did recently with Ava Jae stands out clearly in my mind. I asked her about getting discouraged, and giving up, and her powerful response has stayed with me ever since. Here it is:


“The thought had occurred to me that I may never get published, and that was something I had to come to terms with. It wasn’t easy, but once I accepted that it was a real possibility, and I was actually okay with it, I was so much happier going forward.”


When I first read her reply, I was stunned. I’d never thought about the possibility of not being published. Now, let me step back. I have been published (short stories, flash fiction etc.), but I’ve not been lucky enough to have a full length novel published (yet), and for me that is the total dream.


Over the past months, I’ve had time to think about why Ava Jae’s reply stayed with me. And it comes down to this: Would I be okay with spending hours toiling over a manuscript with the knowledge that it may never see the light of day?


To be honest, for weeks after I published the interview this question haunted me. Here’s why: I love creating new worlds and breathing life into characters. When I write, I see each scene vividly in my  head, and I do my best to bring that to the page. Like most writers I’d guess, when I’m in the throes of a fresh new story, I eat, drink, and breathe these characters and hope I’m doing them justice. I’m not a fast-drafter. I have to really think through each scene and then go back and edit before moving forward. This means it takes me a long time to actually finish the story.


My most recent novel took five months to research and another eight months to write, even before edits. I’m not going to lie, this manuscript has completely drained me – but in a good way. I’ve put my heart and soul into the story and feel like these characters need to be put into the capable hands of readers. But the question still remains, what if that never happens? Am I okay with shelving this manuscript and starting something new? If you had asked me this when I first published Ava Jae’s interview, I would have said, “no.” But in recent weeks, I’ve come to this realization: as a writer, I don’t see I have another choice. The plot bunnies continue to pop into my head, and I write them down in a notebook, hoping I’ll get to them one day. While I don’t know what my emotional state will be if, in fact, this current manuscript doesn’t find a home, I do know one thing for certain, I’ll keep writing. I may need to take some time away to lick my wounds, but I’ll always end up back at the keyboard, because that’s what I do – create.


What about you? Do you continue to write even though it’s a possibility your manuscript may never be published? Is the creativity within you enough to fuel your work and keep you satisfied? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.




25 Responses to “What If You Never Get Published?”

  1. I want to share my writing with the world, but I went into this process knowing I might have to do that in a non-traditional way. I’d love to see my name on a book cover, to hold that book in my hands, to see it on a shelf in Barnes and Nobles or some little local corner bookshop. But let’s face it. For every author who gets that dream, there are at least a hundred others who don’t. The great thing about the industry today is that the advances of the indie and e-publishing world have opened avenues not available to us previously. I’m still shooting for the stars (well, the traditional book deal), but I’m also realistic. If this book still isn’t published a few years from now, no way will I be satisfied with shelving it. At some point, I’d self-publish, just so my characters could live in other people’s heads, too. They’re pretty great people. They certainly deserve it.

  2. Kai Jordan Says:

    Being published is external validation that I am improving as a writer, but there is nothing else I’d rather do than write. If I had to choose between never writing again and never being published, it would be an easy decision.

  3. I keep writing because it’s the only way my characters live, even if they only live in me.

  4. This fear doesn’t ago once you’re published. It’s stick with you, hanging over each new story. Despite having had three books published and a fourth due out next year, whenever I start a new project, I always fret over whether or not this will get published or if I’m wasting my time. Having already been published, this weight somehow feels heavier, that if I were to write a dud now, I’d be letting down not only myself but my agent and readers as well. It’s not an easy thing to deal with, but I do know that I’ll never stop writing.

  5. I worked (on and off) for twelve years on my first book, and despite the fact that I put in all that work, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may never be published. I love those characters and that world dearly, but I also promised myself a long time ago that even if it was never published, I’d write it as well as I could…for me. Because I deserved a well-written story that I loved, and could read over and over again without it growing old.

    Just at this moment I can’t really stomach it, but I think that’s more to do with the fact that the tone is so at odds with my current WiP 🙂

  6. Tim Says:

    If I didn’t continue to write despite rejections from agents, I’d never write another word. But I do. Write that is.

  7. I had to come to the same realization. But the one saving grace for me is that I have become friends with the owner of a local used bookstore. She lets me hand out copies of my stories to kids for free.

    They are typed and bound in a three ring binder. I include a one page list of questions for the kids, asking them what they think of the ms. They get to keep the book even if they don’t return the questions. But the kids love the idea of helping out an author. From their feedback, I’ve changed character names, refocused characters, etc. The great part is, the kids don’t know me and I don’t know them, so they are honest with it.

    And the kids really love the stories. I’ve had several ask for more or the next in the series. Some even ask me to sign their books if I’m in the store at the time. I love seeing their faces when they run into me and they can’t wait to tell me who their favorite character was! It’s fun! I even handed copies out to a class and they asked me to do a school visit after they read it. They were so excited!

    I’d still like to get published with a traditional publisher, but even if that never happens, I’m enjoying handing out my books for free to the kids. It cost me a bit for the notebooks, paper, and ink to print them, but as long as I can afford it, I’ll do it. I have four books that I do this for. And I’m so lucky that the bookstore owner is happy to have them available for the kids. I guess it helps that her own daughter read two of the books and really liked them.

    So that’s how I manage all the rejections from agents. The kids balance it out when I get those questions back and they say they loved my story.

  8. I doubt I would be ‘traditionally’ published – the novel is too long, has more romance than your typical Scifi piece, not enough sex/angst/violence to catch the editorial hot buttons. But that does not preclude publishing. Indie gives you the opportunity to find the audience which the publishing houses may not have on their radar. And when the day I get the thing through the edit process, cover art done & on Amazon, I’ll feel I will have completed an effort I knew I had in me and which I could not face the rest of my life not doing. (Apologies for the double negative…)

  9. Maybe I’ll never be published. There. I said it.

    But at this point, I’m working under the assumption that maybe it’s just that my first or second or third novel won’t be published. Maybe I’ll get a deal for the next novel down the line, and then I’ll use my increased writing skills to circle back and revive one of the earlier, beloved manuscripts. Basically, I’m just trying not to pin all my hopes on one specific ms, no matter how much I love it.

    If someday I decide to give up on the publishing dream, I think I’d still want to write, but I wouldn’t bother with perfecting every plot point and every last phrase. It would be like a lifetime of first drafts. Could be freeing, in a way. But disappointing knowing others would never love my characters and my stories like I do.

    I think the key would be in *knowing* you’ll never be published. As long as you have hope and keep querying, you don’t know that. So knowing you’ll never be published is in your own hands. Does that make sense?

    • Hi Laura: I love this idea of continuing to write. It’s true that your first or second ms may not be “the one,” but you’ll never achieve your dream if you don’t keep writing.

  10. megansmit Says:

    I have to write. Somewhere between my spleen and my heart is an unknown organ, bound to burst if discouragement won and I decided to stop writing. Writers write because the stories within won’t stay quietly inside. Readership is always desired, but not a necessity.

    On the other hand, I refuse to fully embrace the concept of “what if I am never published”. I believe in perseverance. If I continue to write and query and seek publication from now until I’m one hundred and ten years old, well then, the odds are bound to turn in my favor at some point. Never stop writing, never stop striving.

  11. I have to say I came to this realization, of being okay with never being published, quite recently. Yes, as you said, “what choice do I have?” But it’s deeper than that.
    1. If you go into writing for the money, there’s the problem.
    2. If you go into writing because you need to and want people to read it and like it, that is something else.
    I have achieved number two and hope to continue on that path, and who knows where it will lead?

  12. rustyville Says:

    I had that same dilemma. Originally I thought I could stick my finished novel in the draw and move on. I tried. I sent it to 106 Literary Agents and 10 publishers. You have a unique voice, or I like the story but I don’t love it… I even received several requests including full manuscripts. But at the end of the day no one said yes. And I had this friend who kept saying, why not take the leap and self-publish my novel. I thought, No I want to see my book in the airport… But after receiving the 87th rejection letter (no response is a no) I said scr@w this and took the leap. The numbers are a killer just like the death of silence while waiting for a response was. I know I want to be a hybrid author. And I have more than 50 ideas just waiting to come alive. Soon…

    P.S. It can be dangerous to one’s muse when you receive either too much feedback – whether it’s positive or negative or no feedback at all. With so many naysayers out there it can make you doubt yourself and your readers. Now that my book is out there and people say they really like it, I do a double-take because I still have the unrelenting recording of others who have said I like your story but you can’t write. Don’t let that be you too. Thankfully I’m stubborn enough, it’s my vision and I wrote the novel with a certain reader in mind. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I do have a unique voice and not everyone will like it, some will hate it but I know others will love it and I love it. And that is enough for me.

  13. susherevans Says:

    This is exactly why I went self-published.

    What is “being published” anyway? For me, it’s holding my words in my hand. I have 20 copies of my words in my car. It’s selling those words and making money – enough to support myself. I’m a long way off from that, but I have a plan.

    When you put the power of your happiness in other people’s hands, you will never be happy. When you put your flag into traditional publishing (and don’t consider other options), you give up the ability to control what happens. You can’t control if an agent likes your query, you can’t control if a publisher wants to pick you up. All these things need to align if you’re going to get “published.” And then you worry about if your book will sell…

    I am not knocking traditional publication, though, just stating facts.

    I went self pubbed without even considering traditional publication for my book. I didn’t want to wait around and go through the process when I could make the process happen for myself. And I did, and it was awesome. I’m having more fun being a one woman show than waiting for rejection letters. Would I like an agent and an editor? Sure, it would make things a little easier. Do I need them to be published?


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