You hear a lot on the writing journey that it’s filled with highs and lows—probably more so in publishing because it’s rapidly changing and I personally wouldn’t consider any part of the industry stable or predictable.
The problem is the valley is hard. What exactly do you do? Do you give up writing? How do you readjust to keep your writing career moving forward when seemingly no one wants the words you’re putting on the page?
My writing valley (really—the deep dark hole of despair) started after my first trilogy was published. I worked really hard marketing those books, had great reviews, and two out of three of the books were each nominated for multiple awards. I was even told by my publisher that I was (at one point) their second-bestselling fiction author.
I thought there was no way my next proposal wouldn’t be picked up—by somebody. Well, it wasn’t and to be honest it put me in a psychological funk. I was pretty convinced that my envisioned bestselling author status dreams were rapidly crumbling in front of my eyes.
I’ve come through my first major valley (I’m sure one of many to come) and I thought I’d share what I did to survive it without throwing my writing career in the trash and lighting it on fire.
- Grieve. It’s okay to be sad about it. The writing life is unpredictable—even that’s a pretty generous understatement. Your writing life didn’t go as planned and it’s hard to readjust dreams sometime—but do readjust.
- Help other authors. Help them promote their books. Read books for endorsement. Review novels. Keep your name in the reader’s mind by having your name on their books.
- Stay active on social media. Even if you’re not publishing, keep engaging with your readers and other authors.
- Keep writing and learning the writing craft. Above all else—don’t stop writing. Journal. Blog. Write a new book proposal. Use this time to brush up on the areas of your writing that aren’t strong. Read those numerous writing craft books that have been piling up beside your bed (come on, I know you have them!) Learn those pesky computer things you’ve been putting off. Scrivner. Newsletter distribution sites. Take an on-line writing course. Even James Patterson has one now that’s very reasonably priced.
- Write outside your genre. During my valley, an editor from Guideposts reached out to me and asked me to audition for a cozy mystery series they were putting together. Hmm. Cozy mystery? I write thrillers. Straight up thrillers. I honestly didn’t think I could write gentle enough for a cozy mystery, but what else was I really doing? So I tried it. My first submission, well, you could probably predict the feedback I received. Too dark. The heroine’s not cheery enough. By the way, this surprised no one that knew me. But I resubmitted—and they loved it! And then the series didn’t move forward. I auditioned for a different Guideposts series and washed out again. Maybe cozy mystery wasn’t for me, but it did prove I could write something other than thrillers and I built bridges to editors at Guideposts even if they didn’t take me on for those projects.
- Listen to God’s nudgings. Looking back with perfect vision, I felt that God used the Guideposts experience to get me to write outside my comfort zone. During this process, I started thinking about a contest called Blurb to Book that Love Inspired was hosting. Never did I imagine I would write for them. I didn’t think I was a good fit, but I found myself obsessing about this contest to the point where I couldn’t sleep. So I entered, and I ended up winning a contract for Fractured Memory, my novel releasing this month from Love Inspired Suspense. Suddenly, I was clawing my way out of that dark writing well.
- Go indie. In this writing age, there is literally no reason to not have content out for readers. Don’t quit your day job and scrap and save every penny you can to hire a good editor, proofreader, and book cover designer. I do say this with some caution—be sure you put out a good book! Don’t sabotage yourself into another pit.
Overall, take the valley as a place that can provide rest, rejuvenation, and growth. Perhaps you will need to go back to a paying job or postpone the plans that you had of quitting or reducing your hours. Just know that the valley is survivable and it doesn’t have to mean the demise of your writing career.
Tell me, how have you survived low points in your writing career?
7 Replies to “Surviving the Valley”
This is spot-on, Jordyn! I’ve walked these same steps in my writing journey. I really like #2 and I’ve found that helping other writers is one of the best parts of being a writer myself. Until I became a published author, I didn’t realize how vital book reviews were for growing an audience, and now when I’m in a valley, I feel like it’s something productive I can do for colleagues. Likewise, helping other authors to promote is such a small and easy thing to do in this age of social media, so I try to pitch in with that when I can, too. And as for trying different genres, well, that’s one of my favorite things now. Last count, I’ve had books published in four genres; I’m learning to never say never to trying something new in the writing world.
Wow, four different genres! That’s awesome.
Jordyn, good advice. I believe the only writers who don’t go through this same valley are the ones fighting a different fight–to get that first contract. They may not realize that initial publication doesn’t mean contracts with a publisher in perpetuity. It wasn’t the case for either of us.
But, as you and I have learned, if God wants our work to be published, it will be. Congratulations on your release today. May there be more coming.
Thank you, Richard. And congratulations to you on your new contract and Carol Award nomination! So happy for you.
Whoops, strike the last paragraph from my comment. Embarrassing lapse.
Thank you for reaching out to me in my own valley. At the time, I didn’t know you were going though your own. Your advice helped move me toward some major changes in my writing. I didn’t get a publishing contract, but I did win an editor’s choice award which includes mentoring and editing, and another publisher requested my full manuscript. We’ll see what happens from here, but I’m thankful for the progress, and grateful for your role in it. Congrats on your latest novel! So happy for you.
Thanks, Jenna. What good news for you! Keep pressing on.
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