Writing Info

Writing advice from Jodi Picoult

About a year ago, I saw Jodi Picoult speak about her book, SING YOU HOME, in Washington DC.  When she opened the floor for questions, I asked her for advice aimed at new writers.  Below is the gist of what she told me.  I found it inspiring, and I hope it is useful to you as well.

She said that after she wrote her first novel and tried to get it published, she was rejected many times.  Instead of giving up and not bothering to write again, she put down that novel and wrote a second one.  And then a third…and so on.  She said it was one of her subsequent books that eventually got her in the door as a published author.  So her advice to me was not to give up on publishing but to start a new writing project–to mainly keep writing.  Then when she became famous, the first agent that ever turned her down didn’t remember having rejected Jodi.  This agent tried to woo Jodi away from her current agent, but Jodi gave a firm no.

This inspired me for a few reasons.  For one, it was eye opening to think that Jodi Picoult received no traction on her own first novel.  She got rejection after rejection.  (Can you imagine how bad those agents must feel now?)  Two it showed that she didn’t pack it all in with her first novel, and eventually after one of her later novels sold, the first one did too.  She just had to make a name for herself first by publishing a later book.  Third, it shows that publishing is a hard road for many people.  Even hugely successful writers have a difficult time with it at first.

One member of my writer’s circle, Kellye, sent us an article about John Grisham.  Do you know how many times his first book, A TIME TO KILL, was rejected?  A ridiculous number in the hundreds, I believe.  What did he do?  He wrote his next book.  (And then worked to edit A TIME TO KILL in half.)

And Margaret Mitchell, the author of GONE WITH THE WIND.  Do you know what she did?  She was rejected so many times that when she actually met the editor who would become the person to push her book forward she told him something to the extent of, “really, it’s not very good.  if you’d like to return it to me, you don’t even have to read it at all.”  (Fortunately, he did crack it open on his train ride back home and liked it.)

So what does this prove?  Don’t give up.  Keep writing.  Lots of people get rejections.  It’s just part of the business and part of art.

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