1. scribbledhopes
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    scribbledhopes Member

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    Beaten down with statistics

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by scribbledhopes, May 28, 2012.

    As a new writer for twenty years, I have been afraid to put my foot in the pool. I find statistics to be a real road block. I have all these wonderful entertaining short stories and poems and
    a novel halfway through a second draft and still it beats me down. It makes me doubt my talents.

    It keeps discouraging me. I try to read up on how to get my work in magazines and make publishers notice. What I keep coming across is page after page of
    people pointing out how impossible it is. Like it's one big stroke of luck. "Editors have slush piles ten feet high.." is rather defeating. Or one of my favorite
    I read recently, "Literacy agencies accept about 1 Manuscript for every 1000 they go over. One Literacy agency can go over 4000 manuscripts a week.

    They Read 4000 manuscripts a week? Honestly, how?

    Maybe they get 4000 submissions, I will buy that, and then chose the authors they know worth their time and toss the rest unopened.

    Still that baffles me as I try to imagine 4000 manila envelopes on a desk somewhere.


    It gets so depressing I throw my hands up and step away from writing for a month or two. My book sits there waiting for me. But like Many, I write because I have too. I am a story teller down to my bones. So I wade back in.


    Determined, I sit myself down, blow off the dust on the keyboard and continue. When I write I am happy, so once I fall back in I'm good.

    What I need is some encouragement. I thought about trying some writing contests or getting a few of shorter pieces about.

    I don't have much to put on a resume when I submit my novel. I have had two short stories accepted a few years back and recently had some luck with two poems. I feel like someone straight out of high school who hasn't had their first serious job yet.


    I have no doubts that I can write. Oh I am not perfect, I work constantly to improve.

    I have decided two things lately.

    First I am going to finish my second draft by the end of the year and get it out there, come hell or high water.


    Second I am going to try to get small pieces out there, not to make money but as encouragement.


    I keep hearing I have to have perfection on my first book to get noticed. So I edit and edit again. You have no idea how many times I have re-edited my first five chapters. Maybe
    10 times. Because I keep seeing imaginary holes. I will never get anywhere this way.

    So I am just plugging ahead. Edit the chapter move on, edit the next.


    There has to be someone here that felt the same way I do when they started out. That the odds presented seemed a wall of impossible stone. It would be nice to know that pure God loving creative talent can win the day and it's not a number picked in some lottery. Not the manuscript the editor tripped over getting his coffee or a good old boy network of writers and their fledglings. I hope not.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Statistics measure the average distribution of some measurable quantity. Statistics tell you never to buy a lottery ticket because the odds of winning ticket are one in bigintimidatingnumber. But many people with buy a handful of lottery tickets every day despite those statistics, because they have hope, or even faith, that they can beat those odds.

    At every drawing, someone does win, and it is always from among those "fools" who don't bow to the statistics.

    Lottery players do what they can to attract that elusive quality called luck.

    Writers have a somewhat better plan. Yes, they too depend somewhat on luck, but beyond that they work to accumulate skill. Skill puts the writer into ever more favorable luck brackets.

    Accumulating skill requires a great deal of hard work. Some may acquire skill more readily than others, and some observers refer to this as "natural talent." Sometimes it only looks like someone has an easier road to skill, when in fact they may simply have worked harder.

    But successful writers do have one thing in common the lottery winners. All those who succeeded played the game anyway, despite the odds, often contemptuous of the statistics.

    Because statistics measure averages, norms. Successful writers aren't quite normal. They look at the world a little differently.
     
  3. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    Have you ever read a book with flaws? I have, I've read tons of them because they are out there... we're humans.

    Now, you should be trying to make your book work, Im not suggesting you shouldn't. However, you should keep in mind that publishers dont expect your first book to be the next harry potter. Most writers need to grow. They look for people who will be marketable in the future just as much as they are looking for a good book for right now. If you're a good story teller, a hard worker and someone who has some skill, you'll get published. If you pound your book into submission (no pun intended) you may not ever submit it.

    Even if you get it perfect by your own standards, the editors will still throw suggestions and changes at you that you'll have to fix. My suggesstion, as someone unpublished but studying the industry, make sure your beta readers enjoy it, that the characters work, there aren't any glaring grammatical issues and that you have a postage stamp. Send that thing in somewhere.

    You'll get rejected at least once anyway, everyone does, get it out of the way!
     
  4. GillySoose
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    GillySoose Member

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    Take heart, even if you don't beat the odds with regular publishing you can always go the e-reader self-publish way, which will pretty much ensure you'll get published. Granted, it's not exactly the easy way out and there are other hassles involved as with all self-publishing, but at least the option is always open.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read various sites about submitting to agents and publishers, and a summary of my understanding is that they don't _read_ through them all. Only a miniscule percentage will be read through to the end.

    Remember that that four thousand figure doesn't mean that 3,999 _good_ books were rejected for every book that was accepted. That figure probably includes query letters written in crayon, Xeroxed diaries that the self-important think that they can get published, queries and submissions that drastically violate professional and submission standards, queries and submissions with extensive and obvious errors in every writing skill from almost the first word, blatant copies of the current best sellers, fan fiction, libelous memoirs, and books on topics that are not represented or published by the agent or publisher being queried.

    (And this explains why it's possible to go through four thousand submissions. The ones in crayon, for example, are not going to be read to the end. :))

    If you produce a query letter and submission packet that comply with professional standards and the agent or publisher's submission requirements, written in polished and correct prose, on a subject that is represented by the agent or publisher, you are almost certainly competing with a far, _far_ smaller number of people. I'm not saying that mere professionalism and correct writing and an appropriate subject will get you published, but I am saying that the ranks of the competition will shrink drastically.

    ChickenFreak
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Check out a site for e-book self-publishing, where people can just put up their own manuscripts without going through an editor. If the quality there is any indication of the quality of submissions an editor receives, you can easily write better than 95% of them.
     
  7. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    A friend of mine, Simon Morden (I think I'm now supposed to say "Philip K Dick award winning author, Simon Morden" :) ) says that to succeed as a writer you need any two out of talent, persistence and luck. Most of those in the huge slush piles will have zero or one of those. You can't do much about luck, but you can nurture your talent, and persistence is entirely up to you.
     
  8. LostInFiction
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    LostInFiction Senior Member

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    Cogito, your response to scribblednotes is both beautiful and inspiring.
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I say, who the hell cares about stats? Because the truth is, it's a dream, and the possibility of this dream come true is worth all the rejections in the world. My dad always says, success comes to the one who tries. (It's a Chinese proverb so the translation probably sounds odd) Basically it means, if you never take the first step, take that risk of failure, you'll never do anything, therefore never succeed in anything. Or the English equivalent - nothing ventured, nothing gained. Think of it this way, what's the worst that could happen? You don't get published. You're not published yet anyway, so you've lost nothing. But if you hit the jackpot - which you just might - then you've gained more than you could've wished for. You can't lose.

    Go for it! The most worthwhile things in life cost the most, and involve the greatest risks.

    Oh and on a practical note, find yourself an ardent supporter/fan - preferably someone you respect and whose opinion you trust - and go to him/her for encouragement. It makes a hell of a lot of difference when you have someone close to you who believes in you.
     
  10. the1
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    the1 Active Member

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    Who's to say writers look at the world normally and what you wrote is a pile of
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    What about the stats about how often a big name author's first book got rejected before it was finally published? Those stats I tend to find encouraging.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Statistics are lies with the air of authority.
     
  13. scribbledhopes
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    scribbledhopes Member

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    That helped,

    I needed that. I shouldn't let it discourage me because you all make excellent points. Cogito, you made me think about perspective. Digitig, I don't know about luck, but I can learn to be persistent and I honestly think if you try hard enough you can always polish your talent as you go.

    The thought of how many writers made it big despite the odds is a pleasant spin.

    It is a tough message, but coming here helps. Thanks.. Dave..
     
  14. Bluesman
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    Bluesman Member

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    Do things by your own standards and ignore what's out there and everyone else does if it doesn't help you. Those statistics should piss you off and make you try even harder.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Excellent reply! This, IMHO, is how one should approach the whole publishing business.
     
  16. the1
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    the1 Active Member

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    Yet statistics have the ability to be a true indication of whatever it is they are measuring. You need to look at these things both ways.
     
  17. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    80% of statistics are made up any way................LOL

    As an artsy person I don't know a heck of a lot about statistics, but my husband does. He's completing his PhD in accounting, which involves statistics - he was also the annoying person who took statistics courses to raise his GPA *blah!*

    Anyway, one thing he taught me was that statistics are often extremely misleading because people often confuse causality with correlation. What I'm trying to say is that just because they may reject 100 manuscripts doesn't mean they'll necessarily reject yours. If you don't play, you can't win.

    Someone else gave me some really good advice when I told them, hesitantly, I was writing a novel. She said, even if you don't get it published you're a lot farther than most people with that dream. You've created something out of nothing and most people don't even take that risk. They're 80 still wishing they had written that novel.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sh...
    all i can add to all of the above is one of my own 'greatest lines':

    'Nothing is impossible, till you quit and nothing is possible, unless you start.'
     
  19. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    This is the best thing I've ever read about statistics. I laugh just thinking about it.

    The Dangers of Bread
    More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread eaters.
    Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
    In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever and influenza ravaged whole nations.
    More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
    Bread is made from a substance called "dough." It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!
    Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low occurrence of cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and osteoporosis.
    Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after only two days.
    Bread is often a "gateway" food item, leading the user to "harder" items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter and even cold cuts.
    Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90 percent water, it follows that eating bread could lead to your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person.
    Newborn babies can choke on bread.
    Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.
    Most American bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.

    In light of these frightening statistics, we propose the following bread restrictions:

    No sale of bread to minors.
    No advertising of bread within 1000 feet of a school.
    A 300 percent federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we might associate with bread.
    No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.
    A $4.2 zillion fine on the three biggest bread manufacturers.
    by Art Rogers
     
  20. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    There's lies, damned lies and statistics. Ignore them. True your chances of getting an agent or a publisher are small, but they aren't zero. However, if you don't try, they actually are zero. No one ever won the lottery without a ticket.

    Cheers, Greg.
     

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