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Survivors

When I started writing, I read lots of advice about it. Mostly, like a lot of authors starting out, I was looking for that piece of advice wherein the secret back door was opened and instant publication and riches would be mine.

Of course, none of them said that. What most said were, read books, keep submitting, don't take rejections personally, and get a day job. They also said one thing that, really, it has taken a while for me to fully appreciate, and that is that perseverance is what wins out in the end. I got to thinking about that this morning, mostly because my mind has just been turning over that subject for the last few days. But what I realised was that a lot of authors who began around the time I did have, for good or bad, disappeared. It could be that they're writing under different names, aren't the current flavour of the month, whatever, but a lot have disappeared into obscurity and have been forgotten. I've known friends who give it up, too. They give it up because it is too much time, because they have a family, because the money of, oh, anything, really, is better. They give it up, really, because they don't get the instant publication and riches, and realise that they may never.

Which is why, I guess, authors do say that perseverance is rewarded. The author Brendan Connell has spent a long time pushing his fiction, which hasn't always gathered mass appeal. Yet, he is still there, producing fine books like Metrophilias and with a collection of Dr Black short stories (if I remember rightly) coming out from PS Publishing at the end of this year. He's a fine writer, and its not an easy road that he travels for his work to reach people, but he does, and the work is released, and if you're one of the people who digs his work, you're grateful for the work he puts in, and his dedication to it.

Yet, as I was thinking about this topic, the author I came back to the most, the one who to me sucked up the bad times and pushed through them, and the one who should stand as an example for new authors, was Tansy Rayner Roberts. Roberts, if you don't know her, started publication by winning the first George Turner Award for best unpublished manuscript in 1998. The book was published by Bantam, a mainstream publisher, and she got a chunk of cash. Roberts' book was Splashdance Silver, a humourist fantasy that had the unfortunate fate of being packaged entirely like Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, therefor ensuring that it looked like a cheap knock off. It was a pretty roughly written book, too, and its follow up didn't generate much buzz and the joy of being in mainstream press and all that comes with it (for good or worse) ended. If I remember right, Roberts herself mentioned some of the hard times that followed included being told that she no longer had an agent by someone other than her agent. For a good bit of time after that, Roberts was pretty unheard of, and if you ask any author, they will tell you that it's hard after such event to get back into the mainstream publishers and continue selling, though it is something that Roberts has done with her Creature Court trilogy, the first book which was released through Harpercollins last year. In addition to that, she's built herself up a respectable reputation as a literate feminist author in the independent press here, as well as a reviewer for the Last Short Story crew.

It's twelve years between Splashdance Silver and Power and Majesty for Roberts, and that's a lot of time spent working to rebuild, working on craft, working on the direction she wants to take, a lot of time spent working with the ups and downs, of basically persevering and surviving the publication roller coaster. Even if what she writes isn't to your taste, you can't ignore the fact that she's still here, when many others would have packed it in, and if you're just starting out, there's a lesson in there for you, really.

Comments

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cassiphone
Feb. 2nd, 2011 12:21 pm (UTC)
For once, I'm lost for words! But I like this post, very much.
benpeek
Feb. 3rd, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
lol.

well, there was a bit of time in the wilderness, really, wasn't there? especially after the start.
cassiphone
Feb. 3rd, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
Oh, there really was.
benpeek
Feb. 5th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
ps. thoriya has a question for you in the comments :)
cassiphone
Feb. 5th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Ta! xx
(Anonymous)
Feb. 4th, 2011 12:06 pm (UTC)
Yes. This. Not only did Tansy persevere, she isn't bitter. (How do you DO that, with the not bitter???) Thanks for being a role model.

I also like very muchly the story of Paolo Bacigalupi and go remind myself of it when I never want to write again. What if he had stopped just one book too early?

And I follow M Night Shyamalan's career as avidly as any fiction story; the gap between his first film made as a uni student and his next success, the way he keeps on making stuff that he likes even though he gets bagged for it.

Stamina really is rarer than talent.

Thoraiya
benpeek
Feb. 5th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
wouldn't it be nice of shyamalan stopped making films, though? ;)

(i stopped watching them, so its of no fuss to me. but i thought the joke is funny.)

as for tansy, who knows. i'm sure she had days though--everyone has days of it, i reckon, and it doesn't matter how well or bad you are doing.
cassiphone
Feb. 5th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Heh well it was a long time ago. I just pulled my socks up and kept going. Of course I did also complete a PhD and have a couple of children while I was doing it...

I had one year in which I had nothing published and my publisher dropped me and then my agent dropped me. And that taught me a LOT. Mostly what I got out of it was that I needed to focus on what I could control. So the next year I submitted over a hundred short stories (some of them were the same one over and over), experimented with stuff I'd not tried before, and had something like ten pieces published. So that was an improvement!

In the last decade I've made lots of great friends and learned much wisdom about the industry. I'm in a much better place to turn a few successful sales into a career than I was back then. So I bided my time, ready to pounce.

POUNCE!
benpayne
Feb. 17th, 2011 09:09 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're able to look back on it so philosophically, Tansy.

Particularly after the conversation I had with your agent this afternoon! Aieee!

(What? Still too soon?)
cassiphone
Feb. 5th, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)
Also, if you learn to take the knocks early, it saves time later.
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