Title: Should I Keep Writing?
Author: David B. Silva
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Should I Keep Writing?
by David B. Silva
Writers are an insecure lot.
It's easy to understand why. You screw up at work and your boss
jumps on your case, quick to tell you exactly what you need to
do if you want to keep your job stuffing dough into that pizza
press. You screw up your writing...well, ten weeks later you
receive a polite, generic rejection letter in the mail that
basically says: Thanks, but no thanks. There is no boss to tell
you how you screwed up or how to make it better. You're on your
own, Mr. Wannabe A. Writer. Go lock yourself in your
bathroom/office until you figure it out.
Unfortunately, this lack of feedback goes against our very nature
as homo sapiens. If there's no stop sign at the intersection, we
have to give serious consideration to whether we're willing to
stop or not. That can be a real chore for those of us who are
busy trying to dig a dime out between the seat cushions for that
double-mocha cappuccino on the way to work. Put in a stop sign
and it's a no-brainer. You stop. Then you start digging for the
But for a writer, feedback comes in only one form...if you sell
the story, you did something right. If you didn't sell it, you
did something wrong. There are those who will try to tell you
this isn't true. That you can get good feedback from your spouse
or your girlfriend or your buddies. But these are the same
people who said you were feeding dough into the pizza press just
fine. You can't trust the opinions, good intentions or not, of
people who are only casual observers. So...did your story sell or
Well...no. But why can't the editor take an extra minute and just
tell me what was wrong? you wonder.
Yours is not the only manuscript the editor has to read. There
are stacks of manuscripts all over the office, some higher than
the desktop, with more arriving in the mail everyday. Editors
don't have an extra minute. Not if they plan to scarf down a
sandwich between noon and twelve-fifteen and still have time for
a bathroom break. Your story has a page, two at the most, to
capture the editor's interest. After that, well, there's always
another story on the stack.
Another reason why the editor doesn't tell you what's wrong: your
story's a nightmare. It would take more time to explain the
problems than it took you to write the thing.
And the biggest reason of all: hell hath no fury like a writer
scorned. Offer some helpful advice and the editor has undoubtedly
learned that too often what he gets in return is an indignant
letter full of obscenities.
Finally, writers need to understand that editors don't have all
the answers. Yes, it's true, editors are people, too. They have
their likes and their dislikes, their stern beliefs, their
misconceptions. While one editor may abhor your story, another
may find it brilliant. I mention all this in case you weren't
already insecure enough.
And I mention it because there's another dead end request editors
get thrown at them quite frequently. It goes like this:
Dear Mr. Editor: Enclosed please find my short story, titled "A
Story By Any Other Name." I hope you like it. I think it's the
best thing I've written. If you decide not to buy it, could you
please tell me why. And could you also tell me if I should keep
writing. I'd like to know if I have a future doing this.
If you have to ask, the answer is no, you don't have a future and
you shouldn't keep writing.
Writing is not a pursuit for those who are weak of heart. Nor
those who are thin-skinned. It is a pursuit for those who love
William F. Nolan used to say that if you want to be a writer then
you sit your behind in the chair and write. Charles Grant said
that he writes because he has to; he can't imagine not writing.
You want to be a writer? Don't ask editors or anyone else if you
have what it takes. They don't know. They can't tell you if
you'll make it or not. They might be able to tell you if you
need to develop your skills more, but you already knew that.
Writing is a profession you never stop perfecting. There's always
more to learn.
You want to be a writer?
Go write...and persevere.
Copyright © 2005 David B. Silva
About David: David B. Silva has written eight novels. His most
recent, All The Lonely People, is published by Delirium Press.
He's awaiting the release of The Hawke Legacy, a novel of epic
horror, from Subterranean Press. His short fiction has appeared
in The Year's Best Horror, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and
The Best American Mystery Stories. In 1991, he won a Bram Stoker
Award for his short story, The Calling. Visit his site,
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