Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Recently, a commenter who calls herself "Beleaguered Author" and blogs as "Beleaguered Squirrel" (are you sympathising already??), told us this story. Italics in square brackets are my comments. Colours are my usual flamboyance:
"I'm in what I think is an unusual situation. My first book was published by a small-but-respected publisher who subsequently ceased trading. [Gah.] My second book was - via an agent (which I didn't have for the first) - published in a foreign country, translated into their language. Said country are not into making a big fuss of "first time" authors (apparently my first book doesn't count), so it has been rather non-eventish for me. [Not sure if this is a line you've been spun  -  on the other hand, actually, most books are non-eventish and it's all somewhat in the eye of the writer]. No author publicity, no big marketing bucks, and sadly the book hasn't made much of an impact. No reviews apart from two critical Amazon reviews: a one-star and a three-star. Personally I think it was a bad translation (I happen to speak the language concerned) and was pitched at entirely the wrong market. But then I would say that. [You could be right, though. And bad luck with the Amazon reviewers, who may or may not have been drunk at 3am when they wrote those reviews.]

"Unfortunately, at around the time the foreign book was published, I lost my agent. You'll just have to believe me when I say it wasn't my fault, [I do  -  though I'd give the anonymous agent the benefit of the doubt by saying that there are often one and a half sides to the story] as it wouldn't be professional to go into details. Whether they would ever have managed to sell the book into other territories is questionable, but we'll never know now.

"So here I am, my baby is out there but unreadable in its native tongue, and no agent will touch it with a barge pole cos it has already been flogged to death by the original agent. I - egotistic author that I am - am in a massive sulk about the fact that nobody I care about can read the damn thing, and the holy grail of publication hasn't involved a single piece of ego-stroking or validation, and it feels as though it may as well not have happened. [Ugh, this is painful.]

"Indeed, I'm so depressed that I've given up writing altogether. Abandoned the third novel in first draft stage and embarked on a new career.

"Don't worry - I'm not expecting you to tell me I did the right thing by giving up. It clearly shows a lack of backbone and an excessive degree of childish sulk, the kind which would preclude a successful publishing career. [I disagree most strongly.]

"Actually I don't know what my question is. I think it was going to be something along the lines of, "Do you think sometimes a writer just has to admit they are a bit crap, and give up?" [I will answer this.] which is only the aforementioned sulkiness in a very thin disguise... or maybe, "Don't you agree that I've had a particularly raw deal? [possibly but not certainly].You feel sorry for me, right?" - which would be more of the same...

"Obviously what I need to do is either (a) keep going and make each book better than the last, or (b) stop worrying about publication - just write for the sake of it, or (c) acknowledge that I've been writing for the wrong reasons, and have a break until I can think of some better reasons to keep doing it. But stop with all the whingeing.[can you do b) ??? If you can, then you should, anyone should, but if you can't.... a) is what we should all do if we believe in ourselves. Hmmm re c)  -  HAVE you been writing for the wrong reasons? What ARE the wrong reasons? But I'm not interested in your reasons and nor are your readers  -  we only want to know if you're good enough.]

"Hmmm. Thank you. That helped. [Er, really?!]

"Oh! I thought of a question! Here it is:

"Have you come across this phenomenon before? Writers who have a book which is only ever published in one other country, translated, and with no fanfare or success? [Frankly, I haven't come across this. But it may happen. I don't think it's the central issue. The central issue is that you came close  -  more than that, you were published, but it didn't deliver success. We think that success is being published  -  it's not.] Do they get sulky about it too, or am I just outrageously ungrateful? [Oh, trust me: we are all ungrateful because we are not megastars!] So far I'm the only writer I know who has experienced this thing."
This all raises several points, as well as a few tears, and I asked BS if I could use her story to highlight a few things. She agreed.

I asked BS a few more questions but I specifically did not want to know her real name or the name of her books. Because, just for now, I don't want to read her writing  -  despite the fact that it's whether her writing is any good that's the most important question.

I asked what genre she wrote in, because whether it's lit fic or not makes a difference, or whether it's a genre that's easy to sell.
"Genre: That's part of my problem. I've tried to write to a genre, but it just doesn't seem to be something I can do without losing my own identity in what I write. "Contemporary fiction" is the laziest description. [No, it's a good description if it's the right one.] My second was described as a comic thriller, which is vaguely accurate. My first had large dollops of suspense. The second was published in an imprint devoted to "urban fiction". Both can definitely be described as quirky. My third is definitely a comic thriller. They're all for adults."
BS lives in the UK but her second novel was published by a large publisher in Germany. Also, if you'd like more details  -  and it's a moving story  -  she's written about it here.

OK, here's what I think, apart from my italicised comments above.
  • BS is serious about her writing, as she should be. The fact that she crosses genres tells me so  -  she just loves to write and is doing it from the heart; plus the fact that she's angsting so much about whether she's good enough. She's not a whinger; she doesn't sound deluded. She got published. From then on she was unlucky, on many counts. Now, her book(s) also may not have been fabulous  -  we don't know. But she got published and what happened then does not sound like her fault. (Unless she's spinning a complex tale and is in fact deluded...)
  • Stuff happens: books are published badly; some agents and publishers are rubbish (hers may not have been but some are and you won't care when you sign the contract  -  you'll only care when "stuff happens".
  • The Amazon reviews hurt. They may be right or they may be wrong. Personally, I think most Amazon reviews, even the positive ones, are suspect and I generally wouldn't trust them. But, when you get publshed you have to take them; you also have to take the fact that they can destroy you.
  • listen to this: "the holy grail of publication hasn't involved a single piece of ego-stroking or validation, and it feels as though it may as well not have happened." Publication is often not the way to eternal happiness. You are all embarking on a journey which will contain many hours of heartache. Most of which no one else will ever see. Thank God. Beleaguered Squirrel has been movingly open about it. If you knew what screws me up at night you'd be surprised  -  I am often a mess of angst and failure.
  • BS is so depressed that she gave up writing altogether. OK, that's awful but I hope it's not true. And in fact we know it's not, don't we? We know that BS will pull herself together and get back on the horse. I twice gave up writing during my 21 years of failure  -  or I said I was giving up. I was giving up outwardly. But I never really gave up. You can't. Not if you're a real writer. I don't know if she's good enough to get further than she already has  -  but gosh, I hope she is.  
Importantly, she asks: "Do you think sometimes a writer just has to admit they are a bit crap, and give up?" Yes, it would often be most helpful if that were to happen. But not if the writer is not crap. Which brings us to the important question: is BS a crap writer? I'm inclined to think that she isn't. I'm inclined to think that she hasn't written the right book yet. I'm inclined to think that she will not give up and that she will one day come up with the right book, if she carries on trying and learning and writing. I'm inclined to think that I've not got very many grounds for believing this but I do know that if I was an agent I would want to see BS's work. 

In fact, suddenly I really want to read it.

Why have I posted this? Why have I revealed the terrible heartache of the long-distance writer? Because you need to know. You need to know how good you have to be, how much you have to want it, and how even when you get it it may not be enough. In fact, if you're any good and if you want it so much, it probably won't be enough. Wanting more, being hungry, being greedy for success, being grasping and dementedly desperate are the things that will screw you up and carry you through. They will bring you heartsong and success and they will hurt you in the process.

That's the horrible paradox of writing.


Anonymous said...

Okay, here's my story. Shorter than the unfortunately-tagged 'BS', but misery loves company.

I'd published a bunch of nonfiction books, but wanted to write fiction. So I started writing novels, and nothing sold. Then nothing sold and nothing sold and I got an agent and nothing sold. Insert the passage of many years.

Then I got an offer on a novel. A big offer. A six-figure offer. The novel was published in the US, Germany, France, the UK, and Holland. The publisher pushed the book. They spent money on marketing. They did everything you dream of a publisher doing.

The novel tanked.

I got this wonderful ego-stroking validation--for a while. But at the end of the day, I was given that one amazing shot that every writer dreams of ... and readers simply didn't like my book.

BS: You've had two books published, but you haven't had the chance to break out. You seem inclined to conclude that you're crap, but if you're really crap, then the small-but-reputable house wouldn't have published you and the agent (if also reputable) wouldn't have repped you, and the Germans wouldn't have translated you.

Writers control almost nothing in the publishing process except the words on the page. Everything else is bullshit. Foreign sales are bullshit and reviews are bullshit and self-promotion is bullshit and Bookscan is bullshit and advances are bullshit. Hell, even readers are bullshit.

We're writers. We write. Sometimes we get a break. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we get a big break and still go down in flames. Nothing we can do about that. Just keep writing.


Karen Jones Gowen said...

Nicola, if I say how much I love you and your blog and your commenters and everyone's wisdom, will I appear as a gushing fool? Okay, I won't then, just in case.

I read about Beleaguered Squirrel's tale awhile back on another blog and FELT something about what it all meant but then moved on. You have outlined so thoroughly what it all means. Also, Prue's story shows the truth of the matter-- that the writer unpublished sees publication and that first contract as the happiest event imaginable. And then reality sets it. Much like marriage. But we just have to move on don't we? And keep working at it. To coin a trite phrase--nothing worth having comes easy. Sometimes we have to eat dirt.

catdownunder said...

Dear Beleagured Squirrel,
"Writing is a life sentence" (Richard Hughes). You have to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.
It is not a nice occupation. It is lonely. It is difficult. You are stuck with it.
I sometimes think it would be nice to just read books and never try to write one. It is unfair that it takes an author much longer to write one than it does for me to read one.
I will not chase you up a tree Beleagured Squirrel (Ms Morgan would ban me from her blog if I did that - and who could blame her) but I will say that the only answer is to keep hoarding your nuts and then share them out with the right squirrels when the time comes. There will be squirrels who appreciate this!

pierre l said...

Many thanks for this story, Nicola. I have followed 'BS' in her various blogs for several years and have a copy of the foreign language book (which I can't read because of the language).
I'll have to come back this evening and read the post properly, since I need to go to work.

Nicola Morgan said...

Proe - that's a tough story. Yet here you still are, still writing and proving the truth of your last paragraph. (I'd rather ignore the penultimate one - even though on the darker days it feels true. I did meet some very uncrap readers yesterday.)

Karen - all gushing fools most welcome!

Catdownunder - indeed!

Pierre - thanks for calling by - have a good day at work!

Thomas Taylor said...

You have my sympathy, BS, and my strongest encouragement. Well, as strong as it can be over the internet.

I hope you find the drive to write a fourth novel, informed by all that's happened to you (or at least to give your third a chance).

Sally Zigmond said...

I can't tell you how much BS's story chimes with me. I, like most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 'new' writers, initially set myself the goal. Mine was that I would have a novel published and piled high in bookshops by the time I was 45--amended to 50, 55--it's now 60. I'm oh so near that moment--and yet so far away. And when it happens--if it happens--I now know that that the 'big splash' I'd once imagined will be as insignificant as a grain of sugar slipped into a coffee cup. Who'll notice? And even more importantly, who will care?

Is my writing good enough to be published? Dunno. But I know it's better than some and a lot worse than others.

That's writing. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it sings. We keep writing.

Susannah Rickards said...

Well said Sally Zigmond! I feel enormous sympathy for BS and know half a dozen true variations on her theme. But I also know people in IT and distribution - to my mind dull-as-ditchwater jobs that deserve recompense who are working unpaid and have for a couple of years to try and keep the companies that 'employ' them afloat.

I think it can help to see writing in two apparently disparate but actually harmonious lights. 1) It's a job - keep doing it, like waitresses still serve at table on quiet nights or teachers still teach when they have mean munchkins in their class one year - i.e. just ride with the bad times they happen in all professions, and 2) simultaneously treat it as a hobby - something we do for love. Beats watching Come Dine With Me on a wintry night; cheaper than flyfishing or jujitsu classes. Do it for the love of it, keep on doing it after a certain project has tanked, but only if we want to. If that attitude can satisfy us, then we can keep going. If not, no shame in doing something else.

Marisa Birns said...

Haven't written a book yet, but as Nicola says, stuff happens. And stuff that is out of one's hands. The only thing that writers can control is the writing.

BS shouldn't think of this as failures, per se, it is just the journey. So two or three or however many other books don't "make" it. I can't recall the name, but a U.S. writer finally got his first book noticed, which had received a very modest & uneventful printing years after three other books became bestsellers.

So, BS, take option A. Keep going. You're a writer. And writers write. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hell, even readers are bullshit.
Aiyeeee! I hope you don't mind if I take great exception to that. Without our wonderful readers, I'd probably be standing on a corner wearing a sandwich board that says, "Will edit your book for food."

As for BS's story, it tears at the heart, doesn't it? At the end of the day, each of us has to decide what defines us. Do the stories burn in our souls and scream to get out? Some of us fight that urge by getting fit for a straight-jacket. The rest write.

Anonymous said...

I have read the post on squirrel's blog along with this and what worries me is that I get the feeling that she has taken on a job which leaves her with no time at all to write on the rebound so to speak. I am concerned that she may regret not having time to write in the future. I'm sure that writing is in her bones if she has taken it as far as she has and I hope she finds some time to get back to it in the future. Best of luck for the future Squirrel. Sorry I've had to post anonymously as my google account is playing up. Gwen

Jo Treggiari said...

Thanks so much for posting this. My first book came out through a small but award-winning publisher too, and although the initial 'buzz' and reviews were great, it basically sank without a trace. I too lost my agent (she left the business) and tried to sell a stand-alone sequel elsewhere myself before deciding reluctantly to shelve it and write something new. I now have a new agent who is shopping the book. I write because I love it and I'm not really happy unless I'm doing it, and I refuse to stop because of anything that might happen out there in the publishing world, which is probably outside my control anyway. It's a leap of faith to some extent to put your work out there, let it go, and start again at the beginning, but that's what you must do.
Perseverance is key. And a mulish stubbornness doesn't hurt either.

Anonymous said...


Well, you're a publisher, right? It's your job to think about readers. If you didn't, we'd all be screwed. That's why your cut of every book sold is larger than mine, even though I wrote the thing.

As a writer I face different hurdles. I need to summon the courage to splash myself all over the page, even though I know some people are gonna hate every word (witness the one-star Amazon review), and others won't understand a single paragraph. I need to summon the courage to keep writing even after my book tanks, or is published only in German--after my agent is hit by a bus and my publisher goes bankrupt and my spouse starts leaving the Help Wanted pages open on the kitchen table.

What's that AA prayer? 'Give me the strength to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.'

Writers can't make readers like our stuff. We try, of course, but that's ultimately not something we control. All we control is the ability to get our ass in the chair and write.

I love basketball players who work for children's charities and sign endless autographs, but those things are not the measure of the athlete: the measure of the athlete is stepping onto the field and leaving nothing behind.

Marion Gropen said...

One of the things I say too often is that publishing is high-stakes gambling.

It may not be very comforting, but the best thing I can offer, after 18 years in this business, is that you NEVER know when the next book will be the one that hits the jackpot.

And from my own experience, I can tell you that no one, not even the editors who are famous for picking winners, or the publicists who are known to have the Midas touch, NO ONE can put out winning books every time, nor can anyone break out the deserving books every time.

That's just one more of the things that make this business addictive.

BS, and the other commenters, you need to hold fast to the truth that you're writing the best books you can, and that you're doing as much to help your publishers sell them as you can.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Thank you all for being so sympathetic. In many ways I don't deserve it, because I've always known that this industry was hard. I've always known that most writers remain in obscurity, never make a living out of it. I've always known the drawbacks (bad reviews, no publicity, poorly pitched books, long wait times, lack of control and all the rest). And I've had more luck than many.

It's true that I've made it difficult for myself to write for the next two or three years. But I'll be busy, so it'll pass quickly. And I'm only 40. My grandparents are in their 90s. There's plenty of time. I'll write again. And maybe one day I'll produce something really, unarguably, compellingly... good. Because that is the holy grail, and it's one which is hard to stop pursuing.

My work so far has been immature, flawed, good in parts but not good overall. The flaws are fixable, in time and with experience. Give me another twenty years, another ten books, another x-thousand temper tantrums and handfuls of lost hair... and maybe I'll... Succeed? Finish? Arrive? Of course not. It's one of those damned journeys with no end.

I'll just have to admire the view.

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

P.S. I guess the "wrong" reasons would be money and fame. The biggest wrong reasons, I think, is money. The irony is that I was never one of those people who saw publication as route to wealth. I've never wanted to be rich anyway. But I did try and make a living out of it, and I think that killed it. For me, at any rate.

Rebecca Knight said...

Just remember, guys: God does not play dice. Sure, there is luck in publishing and timing, but eventually your determination and inner strength is what makes it happen. You just can't give up if it's something you love. It may not happen in our timing, but it will happen if we're stubborn enough and constantly strive to improve.

On a side note, this post made me realize why a lot of the great writers were alcoholics ;).

Best of luck to you, BS!

steeleweed said...

Following various blogs & forums re writing, agents, publishing, query letters, etc., it struck me how many folks seem to make publication the be-all/end-all, expecting, if not wealth/fame, at least a living from their writing.
I suspect that if you went to Borders or B&N (or the UK equivalent) and wrote down the names of 100 fiction authors found only on the shelves (as opposed to the hard-sell tables in front), then researched them, you would find a lot of them don't make a living at it (or live damn frugally).
I write because I enjoy it, including a lot of poetry - and who was the last poet you knew making a living from his/her published poetry?
I just want to make each book as good as I can make it. If I make a buck, fine. If not, that's okay, too.

Kate said...

Great post and I really wish BS all the best. The whole story sounds like it would be crushing and I can fully understand why sometone would need to take some time out.

Anyway sending general cyber good luck to you all

Kate xxx

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

steeleweed, the poet comparison is a good one. The silly thing is I never thought a living from writing was very likely, and if I hadn't been made redundant would never have been contemplating it as this stage in my writing career. But the redundancy payment provided a cushion, and there was nothing else I felt like doing with my life. I fell into it, really, but if nothing else I hope my tale shows that people should think very hard indeed before trying to make a living out of writing. If you attempt it when you're not ready, it can really batter your confidence.

JaneF said...

Breaks can be good, I think. Sometimes I just can't settle to writing, for no real reason - or so I think at the time. While I'm taking a break from it, doing other stuff, it often hits me suddenly that the scene I've been working on is all wrong, or there's some big problem with the plot. It's as if my subconscious has spotted the problem and found ways to stop me writing until my conscious catches up and sorts it out.

Maybe you're experiencing a similar thing, Squirrel. Regardless of your struggles with publishers etc., it sounds as if YOU are not happy with your work to date (although I think many writers can say the same!) - maybe a break is just what you need to reassess the direction you want to take with your writing.

Jayne said...

You have my full sympathies, Squirrel, and my full hopes that you will write again when you feel ready for it. Sometimes a break is a good thing, and the time will come around again to a point where you have another story to tell. Lots of luck.

The main reason I started writing was that I had a story I wanted to tell. Over the years this mutated into a story to save me, get me out of the mire and into the sort of life I always wanted - a place of my own, a garden, somewhere safe and nice. This was far too much pressure and my writing crumbled. I took a break, work took over. And then I started writing for the fun of it again. Magazines here, online there. And suddenly I had a story to tell once again - yet my situation hasn't changed - I still want a place of my own, a garden, somewhere safe and nice. But that is no longer the reason I write. Maybe it is the rite of passage - like teenager to adult - it takes a while to settle down and realise what is important. I like creating stories. That's all.

Anonymous said...

That's why your cut of every book sold is larger than mine, even though I wrote the thing.
Anon, you always have the choice of self publishing your book and keeping all the earnings for yourself. But what you'll find is that your personal fortune will rapidly disappear as you work to get your book into the libraries and on store shelves.

You'll have to foot the bill for print runs, editing, distribution, sending ARCs to reviewers, media kits, page layout, interior and cover design, advertising, promotion, the list goes on and on.

After all that, at the end of the day, your book will more than likely create little notice, and that's because you would be a very small voice in a very competitive industry that thrives on name recognition.

Believe me, we don't sit on our posteriors eating chocolate and margaritas. It takes a lot of money to propel an author's book, and after all that expense, our take is also quite small.

Margaret Adams said...

I think the real issue for many writers, and not just for the person who situation is dealt with in this post, is keeping on top of the businss side of the publishing process.

If you have an agent, he or she is working for you. (Agent: one who acts for another in business.) If you are working with a publisher, you are entering into a business relationship with an organisation.

Maybe this writer needs some (more) support with the business side of the process. For example, I always have my contracts checked by a third party. The Society of Authors does this very well.

I also think about what could go wrong, and do I really want to work with these people, before I sign a contract.

Getting published is part of what we all want, but making money, building a personal brand and the right sort of reputation are all important aspects of the process, too.

It's hard, but sometimes it's better to turn down a publishing deal than to go into something that doesn't feel right.

I know I've walked away from a few offers and haven't regretted it.

Sulci Collective said...

For what it's worth, you know you're a writer if, whether having sworn to give it up or not, in the wee small hours of the morning a plot idea or a narrative description comes to you and prevents you from dropping off to sleep. If you get up to start noting these intrusive thoughts down, then you are still a writer 24-7. If you roll over and sink your head beneath the pillow, then maybe, just maybe, you will be able to give it up. I have been an insomniac for 20 years now on the above model.

The only forces working against this are 1) Banging your head agaainst a brick wall (to wit, the publishing industry)does yield concussion and at some point you may reel away for a lie down
2) There is alway an existential crisis provoked everytime one gazes up from one's writing desk to see unrequited MS after unrequited MS gathering dust on the shelf above your head.

These two counter-forces periodically interdict the writing drive, but never enough to hole it beneath the plimsoll line.

I'm self-pubbing for the first time. If it leads to no rungs further up the publishing ladder, I will probably just publish my other 3 novels in full for free, on Smashwords and Bookbuzzr. And then get back to my WIP with the same intention for that when it's finished. In the end, I just want my words to be read. (The Bookbuzzr sample of self-pub'd one has had 650 hits, which is more than I've had from posting to various online writing communities). How many sales will emerge from that? Who knows. Getting paid a token for them is irrelevant. It's about getting my words to the reader, by any means necessary.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, behlerblog, I never said that publishers didn't sit around eating bonbons. I didn't say publishers don't deserve the larger cut of the gross; they do.

But they reason they do is because they 'foot the bill for print runs, editing, distribution, sending ARCs to reviewers, media kits, page layout, interior and cover design, advertising, promotion, the list goes on and on.'

That's their job. That's why they get a bigger slice. They care about reviews and readers and everything else. That's great. Someone needs to.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, behlerblog, I never said that publishers didn't sit around eating bonbons. I didn't say publishers don't deserve the larger cut of the gross; they do.
Sorry, Anon. I must have misunderstood your original remark of "publishers get more, event though I wrote it." It sounded as though you found the publisher/author arrangement unfair, and I wanted to clarify.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Nicola, didn't mean to veer this important thread off course.

Katherine Langrish said...

I sympathise with Beleaguered Squirrel. But it's true, writing is tough. And who knows what success really is? Think of John Keats, dying at 25, not knowing if, as he hoped, he would be counted 'among the English poets' after his death, and who asked to have written on his grave merely: 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water.'

Anonymous said...

Never fear, behlerblog, Nicola knows exactly who's responsible for thread-veering!

(And sorry if I got a little prickly. I've repeatedly insisted on this blog that I'm by nature a bit of a jerk, but I -do- try not to prove it too often.)


Nicola Morgan said...

V sorry, everyone - have been horribly tied up with stuff, none of which was proper writing.

To Proe: awww, you know yourself so well, you curmudgeonly old so-and-so! And I should have warned Lynn of the bblog about your grumpy habits... Lynn - if proe can find something to stir us up about, he will. But I think he's mellowing - gosh there was a time when he rivalled me for crabbititude.

Others - lots of wisdom there for the beleaguered squirrel. Thank you all so much.

Debi said...

I love the Squirrel dearly and know that this stage too is part of her journey. We all have our tales to tell and she has articulated a personal story that resonates with many other writers (inc me!).

Meanwhile, something very good has come for me personally from this post. I was feeling swamped with Real Life and getting bogged down and stressed. Reading this, the obvious solution hit me. So obvious but ...

So now I'm off to give my WIP some well-deserved space. I always feel better when I'm immersed in fiction world, which is one of the better reasons for writing. Maybe the only one that counts ...

Thanks for reminding me!

Anonymous said...

Hello Beleaguered Squirrel, it's nice to see you here despite the sad tale. I hope you'll decide to continue writing and have more inner strength unlike the quitters such as myself. The fact that you're published indicates to me that you have the ability. I think you've just been very unlucky and I hope that changes.

Nicola, thank you for posting this. I already know Squirrel and this story from another forum but it was useful, though saddening, to read it again. Readers and writers need to be aware that the art/craft/science/industry of writing can be unforgiving. Success stories such as JKR's are the exception rather than the norm.

All too often we hear from the authors who have made it, albeit usually with a struggle. We hardly ever hear about the ones who gave up or who were forced to give up. Why would we? They're useful stories though, as the give us a balance and often a much-needed reality check.

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