How to Stay Positive on Your Path to Getting a Book Published

How to Stay Positive on Your Path to Getting a Book Published

Flashback to me, four years ago: a freshly-completed novel saved in my computer, an organized spreadsheet of agents to query, a vision of multiple offers, of my name on a book cover, of tours and sequels and foreign rights, and yes, even a movie deal.

Skip to the present, and my writing career is nowhere close to that highly successful point I thought I would reach.

Since my first bumbling attempts at querying agents, I’ve completed three more manuscripts. I queried two of them. And, you guessed it, I received emails upon emails of rejections.

I’m too scared to count how many, but it’s safe to say they number somewhere in the hundreds.

But last month, I typed the opening chapter of yet another novel manuscript. Sure, there are days when I curl up on the sofa, bingewatch some Netflix and nurse my bruised ego back to health. But most days I write.

So how do I keep going? What do I do to pick myself back up after agent number five jillion says thanks, but no thanks?

Here are few ways I’ve learned to cope with the growing folder of rejections.

1. Change your definition of success

You can probably see from the opening paragraph where it all went wrong, huh?

I thought agents were going to be battling for my “genius work”, and I’d be an instant bestselling author.

Instead of aiming for that nearly-impossible shot, you can adjust your target.

Let your success become completing a manuscript, editing a scene or putting words on the page. Any time spent writing and honing your craft counts as a victory.

If you re-frame your definition, any step toward your larger goal of publication is a step in the right direction. Yes, even that latest form rejection counts. You’re putting your work out there.


2. Write every day…sort of

Some espouse the benefits of writing each day, no matter what. Others have said that every writer’s way of working is different, and you should do what works for you.

If you’re like me and you work in spurts, then measuring your progress based on a daily word count increase tends to make you feel unproductive.

So even though you might not be writing seven days a week, other activities which aid your writing can count as daily writing time.

Reading a book on craft, research for your next story, brainstorming ideas, and reading all count as writing time in my book.

3. Stay connected with writer friends

I can safely say that I wouldn’t have made it this long in the writing game without the support of other writers.

They get it.

They deeply understand how devastating it can be when the agent of your dreams doesn’t even answer your query email. They know the agony of re-working the structure of an entire novel. They have an empathy that non-writers just can’t, because they’ve traversed those same query trenches.

You can find your own circle of writer friends through Twitter, Facebook writing groups and online writing contests.

Sometimes you need to shoot off a quick message, to vent your frustrations with outlining or to bounce an idea around, and those awesome writers are right there with you.

4. Get out of a fiction rut

Sometimes that story just isn’t working. Sometimes that character just won’t do what you need them to do, or the logic that worked in an outline suddenly seems full of holes while you’re drafting, and you just can’t see a way out of it.

Sometimes you don’t even have a story to fill that glaring white page.

That’s when you can change things up.

Go back and read passages you wrote that you really love. Or read a few pieces of short fiction and let those inspire your own brief experiments that no one else sees. Anything to get your brain gearing up in a different direction, to shake those clogs loose and get things running again.

Try something new. Step, or even leap, out of your comfort zone. You might surprise yourself.

5. Step away from the computer

And if you still find yourself blocked, that’s when you know you need a break.

Your creative mind can only output so much before it requires more input. So let your starving mind have a meal. Exercise. Go for a run. Or go to a museum. Hang out with family or friends. Meditate.

My favorite place to go is an isolated trail along the river, and I let myself not think about writing.

Do whatever you need to do to allow your brain some rest. Your body needs sleep to grow. So do your ideas. I used to feel like a failure if I wasn’t spending every minute writing. But personal care is just as important as productivity.

And usually, once I’ve had some time away, I can’t wait to get back to writing.

Filed Under: Get Published, Craft


  • Mary says:

    A lovely, empathetic post! Thank you. And good luck with your writing, past, present, and future.

  • Francesca says:

    Great tips! All of them. I personally love talking to my other writerly friends. Not only do they get it but they also are great to bounce ideas off of. If I’m ever feeling stuck they are more than willing to let me throw ideas at them. A lot of the time I walk away from conversations with more motivation and drive to write.

  • You had me at “adjust your target.” I have found this to be so true as I work toward finishing my first novel. I just have to focus on the next step, and I can’t measure success by anything outside of my control. Great piece. Thanks for sharing!

  • John Benson says:

    I just posted about this topic on on my blog.

  • I love these tips! Even though I now do more editing and copywriting than novel writing, I well remember the days when I wrote my two (unpublished) novels. I believe I probably have another novel or two left in me, so these tips, along with my own experience, should help me when the time comes to put on my novelist hat again.

    For myself, I am a believer in writing REGULARLY, even if not always DAILY. (Every writer is different, but there are many for whom regular writing is helpful.) If I’ve been away from writing for a while, it helps get my juices flowing to write short timed sketches every day for a few weeks or longer. I sometimes recommend such sketch writing to my editing clients, to sharpen their skills between projects.

    I think I will also start recommending some form of Adrienne’s Tip #3, for those clients who may find themselves isolated from other writers unless they make an intentional effort to be in some kind of writer’s group. One option that I am in the best position to recommend, one that combines Tips 2 and 3, is the daily writing accountability group that will be starting soon on a new online learning site,

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a founding instructor on the site (which is just getting going), and the “instructor” for the accountability groups that will start once a month, as well as for the introductory course for new members. But I wouldn’t have created and recommended it if I didn’t think it genuinely helpful for many writers.

    Overall, great article, Adrienne! I wish you success with all your novels by whatever standard is meaningful to you.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services and Writer’s Resources

  • Great tips! You can also self-publish that manuscript. It’s not an easy road, either, but it can help you start building a fan base. And you can learn so much about the publishing world along the way.

  • Brenda Hill says:

    These are excellent tips. I am sending them to my 3 writers groups in Florida, California and as of today Mexico.
    I am a coach and find your ideas most helpful to new and seasoned writers.
    Byredefining our idea of success, our expectations can become realistic.
    Success, for me, is doing what I love.

    • Adrienne Proctor says:

      I’m glad you found these helpful enough to pass along. And I agree with your definition of success. Thanks, Brenda!

  • These are super helpful tips, thank you. I find that stepping away from the computer often works for me. Showering is especially great – I end up getting tons more ideas while washing myself!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • Adrienne Proctor says:

      Thanks! Another writer friend of mine suggested bath crayons so you don’t have to rush out of the shower still soapy.

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