My failures as a writer and ‘Little Women’

As a fledgling writer, I was desperate to be read. After posting an article, I stalked the page hits for hours hoping to see a spike. I remember the first time I wrote an article that received over 1000 hits in a day—I was shocked. Like so many beginning writers, it’s not always about the money or the hope of fame—it’s about knowing that someone read something you wrote and they liked it, or it touched them in some way. Don’t get me wrong, the whole “broke writer” thing gets tiresome, and we eventually need to take ourselves and our writing more seriously. We need to write what we know. We need to search out literary agents or publications that accept submissions in the categories for which our writing voice comes out naturally. For me, that was poetry, memoir, and creative non-fiction.

I tried writing fiction, and in terms of that genre, I’m good with short stories, but a novel length story hasn’t come out of me yet. I had written many blog posts, essays, short stories, and I had even self-published an eBook and a trade paperback that together sold about 1200 copies; however, I was beating my head against the wall. I wrote for “content mills” and did some freelance editing and book reviews—with an emphasis on FREE. I was trying so hard to get my name out there, create a brand name, or just simply find someone that wanted to read my work. At this crucial point, I even considered writing a steamy romance (as if I could) or a vampire novel (choking). Hell, everyone was doing it and selling books. The thought made me want to puke.

Next, I tried because I had heard about the tremendous followings that some writers were gaining on that platform. I had some success, but it was there that I realized I was not yet a fiction writer—and I may never be one. Besides, most of the audience/writers on Wattpad are kids writing horrible poetry anthologies about their suicidal tendencies or their latest broken heart. I just didn`t fit in with the crowd. I’m a creative non-fiction guy…and that`s okay! That’s the genre that best suits my writer’s voice.

A massive turning point came for me when my wife said to me, “Scott…write what you know.” She went on to tell me the story of Little Women and how the character Jo learns from a professor about how  to “write what she knows.” It was at this moment that I realized each one of us has unique and personal experiences in life that only we can give voice to. This was my turning point as a writer. Taking your life experiences to the keyboard can also work for fiction genres as well.

I was finally traditionally published in the genre of poetry. It took me six months to write the poem that was eventually published. When I was accepted, the editor went to work chopping the first stanza and pushing me to write a better opening for the poem. I knew deep down she was right; the opening stanza was too cliché, but it’s so hard for us writers to chop into our own flesh and blood—our writing. Thankfully, the poem had some lines in it that caught the editor’s attention, and she felt it had possibilities with some tweaking. In fact, in her email to me accepting the poem, that was her exact statement, “this poem has potential” and “we may be able to use this with a little work.”

I cannot express the feeling I had the first time someone said YES to my work. I was reminded of a story someone told me years ago about a guy that was mining for gold. He mined the same shaft for years. He went broke digging in the same hole. Finally, he sold the land. The guy who purchased the land—not experiencing the same day-in-and-day-out exhaustion of digging in that hole—started to dig in the same shaft. Three feet down he hit a major vein of gold. I’m not sure if the story is real or metaphorical, but it sure fits for us writers. Keep digging, keep writing, and keep querying agents, magazines, and journals until you hit that vein of gold.

I’m currently working on a memoir and still querying poetry and short stories to magazines and journals. I encourage you writers that have not taken the step of querying your work to take the plunge! I’ve had my share of rejections—my favorite was from The New Yorker. At least, the editor emailed me back. The general rejection of the industry today is no response at all. I wish you all much success!

Scott’s other posts on Two Drops of Ink


  1. Wise and talented wife! I am so glad she encouraged, Scott you to make the necessary shift! It’s so encouraging to see how far you have come and to know you have traveled the road before us. I am grateful for your both your writing and editorial skills -but even more I am grateful that you pour your encouragement, knowledge, and experience into fledgling writers (like myself). Thank you!

  2. Hello Scott,

    I clicked on this link from another post and I’m so glad I did. Firstly it’s shown me a strategy of how to embed links from other posts I’ve written so that it just flows naturally as part of the text in the new post. My attempts to include links for past work always seem like adverts and doesn’t seem to invite clicks. It’s always good to learn new tricks!

    Secondly, thank God for wise spouses!

    Thirdly, loved the opening sentence. Never thought of novice writers as fledglings but I find this an apt description, especially as your post encourages me that the time will come when I, like you, will soar in the winds of literary success.

    The next thing I learned and loved about this post is your strategy of tell and show. You told us you were desperate and then proceeded to show your desperation. Your experience at Wattspad made me smile. 😃 Thanks for encouraging us not to give up but try, try and try again. 1000 hits per day? Amazing! Affirmation indeed! No more stalking eh?

    The most valuable tip of all for me, was finding (and accepting) your niche. Sticking to the centre of your expertise. It’s easy to get side-tracked into looking at other people’s success and thinking perhaps I should try this.

    Thank you for writing this enjoyable and encouraging post.

    • Hello, Carol, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Embedded links are something we should all do as bloggers; however, I must admit that I forget to do this quite often. Marilyn, our lovely assistant editor, always reminds me, but I still forget. As you can see, I don’t often contribute my writing to the blog. I spend most of my time editing, which is the best use of my talents. I’m just an average writer. Marilyn is my star. Thanks for your contributions, comments, and following. We appreciate you. Scott

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