Failure

Writers don’t talk about failure too much, so I wanted to share mine with you. Failure doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. When I was a new writer, I took it personally. If I got a hundred rejection letters, I kicked myself as a bad writer, even though I got handwritten notes from editors saying, “Loved the story, but it’s not what I’m looking for right now.” Somehow, I missed the “I love” part. I thought they were just being nice, trying to let me down easy. And I concentrated on the “I don’t want it” part. Now, I know I have a talent for writing what’s already glutted or what no one wants. I’m good at that. But rejection still felt personal, like I was a failure. The one thing I took pride in is HOW MANY rejections I got. It meant I gave each story/book a good chance. I didn’t give up without a fight.

Over time, I sold more short stories and eventually, even sold books. And somewhere over the years, rejections became part of the business, not a direct opinion that I should turn off my computer and tend to my garden instead. There were people who liked what I wrote, and people who didn’t.

When Vella went live, I wanted to try it. I thought a serialized novel might work for Muddy River, that I might find some new readers. Not so much. I knew it was a gamble for me. My mysteries sell a lot better than my paranormals. But I didn’t want to try to serialize a mystery, and if Muddy River failed, life happens. I was only going to write 30,000 some words, and I could take those down and publish them on Kindle as a novella.

Unpublishing; however,, is not as easy as it sounds. I had to push the Unpublish button and learned that Vella won’t take down the story for 60 days, in case readers had started it and needed a chance to finish it. That sounded fair. And long. But when I hit the unpublish button, I got a personal e-mail that Vella would make a one-time exception for me because Alex, who is very nice, had looked up my numbers, and only THREE readers had looked at my story. EPIC FAILURE.

There are people who have over a thousand likes on Vella. Some writers are finding success. I’m just not one of them. What did I do wrong? The cover? The blurb? The tags? Beats me. But I have to admit defeat. Am I hanging my head in misery? Not so much. I was curious about it. I gave it a try. It didn’t work. And that’s the thing about writing. Sometimes you write something that you think is your best, and it dies on the vine. Writing isn’t all about what a good writer you are. Plain, old, dumb luck is involved. Hitting the right thing at the right time. Getting good reviews from the right people. And what editors are looking for and buying comes and goes, too. There are so many variables, I could never keep track of them all.

But the most important thing I hope you get from this is: FAILURE ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD. Sometimes, it’s the start of something new. I wrote one cozy after another for years and got rejections. No one wanted them. So I finally decided to write something else. And I sold a romance. Don’t snicker and say, “I could never write one of those.” Because that’s what I said. And guess what? I could. Just like in horoscopes, timing is important. If you can’t sale one thing, maybe you should try something else. Really pay attention to any comments about why an editor didn’t choose your novel. Try to fix what’s wrong. It might not be your writing. It might be your subject, or the way you told the story. Maybe it’s too much like what’s already out there. Or maybe it’s not enough like what’s already been done.

But failure’s just a no. Keep writing and trying until you get a yes. Mine took a long time, and I thought about giving up. There’s no shame in that. If you don’t enjoy what you’re working on, why do it? But if you’re determined to succeed, use those failures to stand on and push yourself higher.

I’ve unpublished SOLSTICE RETRIBUTION on Vella and I’ve loaded it for Kindle. It might still bomb, but I enjoyed writing it, and I like Muddy River. Failure isn’t the end of the world. A lot of hugely successful people have failed their way to success, so if you’re hooked on writing, hang in there!

13 thoughts on “Failure

  1. Kudos to you for trying Vella. It wasn’t something I was interested in as a writer or reader, but I guess it works for some people.

    I wouldn’t call this a failure but a learning experience. I’m reminded of the Winston Churchill quote, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You’re right, Judi. People don’t often talk about the things that didn’t work. I applaud you for trying Vella. And for sharing your experience.

    As for it being a failure? Well, it’s my understanding that brownies were invented because the baker was making a cake and it flopped, so it got a new name. Sometimes, to have a success, we need to make a mistake. So maybe Solstice Retribution isn’t a failed serial. Perhaps it’s a successful Kindle release. It just needed to be re-categorized.

    Wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was hoping this post would help people see that failure is just trying something that didn’t work out. It’s not the end of the world. It just means you need to tweak a little more or move on to something else.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Judi, you gave it a shot and it didn’t work out. The good thing in it’s not a loss, because you’ve republished Solstice Retribution on Kindle. Thank you for that, because I loved it! You know I’m a huge fan of Muddy River.

    I think a lot of writers who tried Vella found it didn’t pan out as expected. For me, I wasn’t intrigued by the concept as either a writer or a reader. As Joan said, it was a learning experience for you, not a failure.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve found that I’m more willing to risk something not working than I used to be. I figure even if it turns out crappy, I’ve learned something and tried something new. If I ever find real success, I hope I’m still willing to fall flat on my face now and then.

    Like

  5. Love this post, Judi! You’re right. Writers don’t talk enough about failure, but we all hear a lot of no’s before we get one yes. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wrote 10 eps of a serial before giving up because I didn’t have a single read or like.

    Looking at the most popular Vella stories over the last couple of months, they haven’t changed much.

    It makes me think if someone wasn’t popular right away, Vella doesn’t offer much opportunity.

    Alas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you, since it was new, I was hoping Amazon would give it and its writers a big push. But I’m still glad I tried. Hope you can take down your episodes and publish the story on Kindle.

      Like

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