A comment in yesterday's post made me want to follow up on it today. Mridu Khullar noted that you should certainly keep writing, if only because every time you write, you improve. And I wanted to emphasize the truth in this statement - something I've said before on this blog, but since it's a new year and I have some new readers, I know that it's worth mentioning again.
Here's why: someone recently wrote in with the question (which I haven't yet posted) of whether or not my debut, The Department of Lost and Found, was the first manuscript I'd ever written. (Apologies to long-time readers of this blog if you've heard this story before.) In fact, it was not. I'd written another manuscript before The Department - said manuscript landed me an agent and was what I believed to be GENIUS. Before I even signed with an agent, I had envisioned the movie, seen my name on the bestseller list, was convinced that this book was going to be a BIG BOOK.
Weeeeeeeeeeell, not quite. The book got some nibbles from editors but ultimately, didn't get an offer. My agent and I parted ways soon after that when she told me that The Department, which I'd written in the meantime, would (and I quote), "Do more harm than good for my career."
In retrospect, that first manuscript was HORRIBLE. WRETCHED. SO GOD-AWFUL that I literally could never bring myself to reread it in the years since. I mean, it just stunk. But I didn't know that at the time. I knew that - in hindsight - by writing a better book. After I'd written The Dept, and thought I might return to that original manuscript and see if I could revisit/resell it. No way, no how. It wasn't even worth providing CPR to.
So how did I write this better book? Well, with some help from that agent, who took the time to point out where I was telling not showing, as well as noted when I killed the reader with exposition. But I also did it by reading, reading, reading writers whom I admired. I did it by being IMPARTIAL to my writing - cutting, deleting, recognizing that however beautiful a sentence might be, if it's not necessary to the book, it got axed. I did it by taking my ego out of it - that first manuscript was, in fact, so far from genius that I needed to step back and realize that I had a lot to learn. I never used a critique group because by the time I found my new agent, The Dept manuscript was already in good shape - but certainly, I would have. And when I wrote my next book, Time of My Life, I realized that I'd improved even more (some people disagree - hee, that's fine too)- there's an endless learning curve when you're a fiction writer. And though writing The One That I Want was a huge struggle for me, there is NO DOUBT that I never could have written that book without having written the ones before it. They're like dominos stacking on top of each other - only with skill sets instead of tile pieces.
So my point here is that even if you're not published: keep writing. I wasn't and I did. And that's how I got here today.