You Probably Won’t Get Published On the First Try

And that’s OK.

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It’s what we all want.

To write something, to show it to someone, and to have it get accepted — published, even — right away.

We can handle a little waiting. But all we want is for someone to say “yes” without too much pain.

Without too much … effort.

You already know what I’m going to say.

You have, I’ll just say a 10% chance, of this happening to you. And that feels like a generous estimate, if I’m being honest.

Okay, fine. You already knew this. You already knew that 90% (ish) of writers who try submitting something for the very first time don’t do it quite right. Or their work doesn’t land into the exact hands it needed to. Or their timing ended up being wrong, somehow.

So why am I telling you all this anyway?

Because you need to hear something other than the hollow “just keep trying, you’ll get there” advice too many writers and non-writers alike give to people like you.

I mean … if you do keep trying, eventually, you will get somewhere. Technically, the advice isn’t wrong.

But the thing is, to get published, you have to put in the work. Over and over again.

And many times, that’s going to mean you do a lot of work that will feel like wasted effort.

Every time you rewrite part or even all of a first draft, it’s not going to be easy letting go of everything you wrote before. Was all that time you spent on it the first time even worth it?

Well … yeah. It was.

The reason you’re not very likely to get published on your first try is because basically all first tries are experiments. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if what you’re submitting is developed enough to qualify for whatever you’re submitting to. You can’t learn what works and what doesn’t work until you get rejected and are (maybe) lucky enough to be told why.

Plus, you only get better at writing the more you write. And the best way to familiarize yourself with your own mistakes is to look back at them and figure out how to “fix” them.

Honestly, if I wrote a book, barely revised it, queried an agent, and got it published it — all on my first go — would I have learned more than I’ve learned from years of rejections, rewrites, and more?

I mean, I don’t know. I’ll never know for sure.

Yes, getting rejected is discouraging. So is feeling like you have to redo months of work to make something more likely to get published. But writing is work. It takes a lot of time and effort. And if you’re not willing to put in those hours to get results, you’re just not going to get the results you want.

We don’t want to put in the effort, or the time. But we must.

That’s how we learn. That’s how we become “better.”


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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9 thoughts on “You Probably Won’t Get Published On the First Try

    1. I never thought of it like that – but I love it! So I guess I’ve written plenty of “practice novels” in the past decade. That makes me feel better about myself! haha.

  1. This is all so very true–the hardest thing I’ve had to do so far is to completely eliminate a character’s POV from my novel…I’m still working on it. But I’m trying to look at it as a challenge–a way to better hone my craft. Thanks for this!

    1. I love your “POV” on this issue! ;) I actually ‘have to’ add different POVs to my WIP, which right now is just from one character’s perspective. Both are quite challenging indeed, but WE CAN DO IT!

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