• JULY 28-31, 2022

    NEW YORK CITY


Learning to Love the Downside

I think writers need to talk about failure more often. Wait! This is going to be inspirational.

I’ve thought my career was over at least 10 times. The first publisher that took a chance on one of my novels went out of business before the copy edit was finished. When my first novel published, that publisher ghosted me and I wound up getting part of my advance in the form of copies of my own book. I’ve had those sad meetings with your agent where they inform you of devastatingly disappointing book sales, I’ve lost big freelance clients without warning, I’ve had short story sales killed after acceptance, and I’ve seen more than my share of film options wither away to nothing.

The fact is, writing is like any other profession or pursuit—there are downsides. From bad reviews and negative feedback, impostor syndrome and failed novels, low sales and bad experiences with publishers, every writer has a few bad days in their career. The trick is to love those downsides as much as the stuff that's easy to love—from the way negative criticism improves a story to the way you learn more about the business side of things when a publishing relationship goes sour, loving the writer life means working hard for those silver linings.

This would be a walk through moments in my career when everything went wrong, but then discussing what I learned and how failure and frustration have actually improved my work (and my understanding of the business). This would cover a range of “failures” that ultimately helped me improve in some way—with the ultimate point being that none of these “failures” actually ended my career or marked me as a bad writer:

• Creative failures, like the time a film agent pitched me a novel idea and then hated what I did with it, or the time I wrote a sequel novel and my publisher flat-out rejected it and told me to start over – times that made me question my talent and vision

• Business failures, like when I was scammed by a freelance client for free work one time, or the aforementioned client loss that was a serious setback to my income

• Market failures, like bad reviews, poor sales, and breakups with editors 

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