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When you’re feeling beaten down

November 13, 2013

The coffee shop was uphill (both ways) from her coldwater flat.

We know her now as J.K. Rowling™, but everyone knows the story of how this struggling single mother would take paper and pen to her favorite cafe and write what we now know as the Most Successful Book and Movie Series ever, making her the Hottest Woman in the UK (okay, the richest, but let’s not quibble).

According to a recent Huffington Post article, Harry Potter almost didn’t happen. According to the article, Rowling retyped the manuscripts she sent out by hand because she didn’t have enough money for the photocopies. All this happened while her book was being rejected for being too long for kids.

There are a number of other beloved books that almost didn’t happen, according to the article, including Animal Farm (for being too mean to Stalin), Dr. Seuss’s first book (too different and silly–imagine), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee hated it so much she through it out in the snow), and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (rejected by 121 publishers). Or course, there’s also the story of how The Naval Institute Press was the only house that would publish The Hunt for Red October.

That guy over there, Orwell. He’s being unflattering to me!

In other words, a lot of fairly successful, fairly well-to-do authors got that way because they didn’t stop and didn’t give up. Whether JK Rowling really individually typed each manuscript she sent out isn’t the point here. The point is, if you believe in your work, you’ll send it out to 121 publishers waiting for someone to say yes.

You’ll keep listening and improving, discerning what criticism to include and what criticism to ignore.

You’ll keep working until you succeed.

And if you don’t do it, then someone who believes in you (like Harper Lee’s agent, who made her get the tossed-out pages back) will make you do it.

Perseverance and other people are two of the greatest blessings we can have.

  1. Prolific Pete permalink
    November 13, 2013 7:02 am

    Stephen King has a similar story for Carrie, I think?

    • November 13, 2013 8:04 am

      Yes. His wife read it from the trash and made him keep it. 🙂

  2. November 14, 2013 5:41 pm

    I’ll remember this as I head out to my critique group in a few minutes. Thanks, Chris.

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