Even Your Unpublishable Stories Are Still Important


With every worthwhile masterpiece comes a harsh reality: just because you have written the best story yet, doesn’t mean it’s right for the publishing industry.

Pitching a story is the same across all channels, whether you’ve written a book, an article or a totally kick-butt essay. It has to fit into a niche; it has to be written to/for a specific audience. It has to, to some extent, align with current trends, themes and messages.

All that, and it still has to be well-written, with strong, diverse characters, an intriguing plot and usually a few twists nobody, not even your agent, saw coming.

Creativity and business do go hand-in-hand. While we need to focus on our own creative process to write something at all, it’s not over when we make that last revision. If you write just to write, that’s one thing. But if you write so others can enjoy your work, well, you have a long way to go yet.

And even if you put months, even years of your life into revising that story you love so much, sometimes it doesn’t always fit into a publishable category. Sometimes it’s unique, but not unique enough. Well-written, but not as original as you may have thought. Who knows: it might even be too ahead of its time (not such a bad thing really, if you think about it).

Once you write that story, you have to make a shift: from creator to seller. You have to figure out how to persuade an agent to see in your story what you’ve seen in it all along. Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right agent for that particular story, and yes, that will take a lot of research and a lot of time. It might pay off. Honestly, though, it might not.

This is why blogs exist. This is why self-publishing exists. If you think your story is worth printing, no one can stop you. But if you can’t sell it, and no one seems interested, and you’re starting to get discouraged, maybe you don’t want to self-publish. Maybe you just want to forget you wrote it at all, and move on.

Moving on is a must. Even if you’re still looking for an agent to give your queries a deeper look, that doesn’t mean you should stop working on other projects. It may turn out that your Best Story Ever just isn’t mean to go on to become the next bestseller. Does that mean the story’s bad? Of course not. Does it mean you’re a bad writer? Absolutely not the case.

It means you just haven’t found the idea + market combination that’s going to turn into a successful product. Every story you write matters, regardless of whether or not anybody else wants to take it to the next level. And here’s why.

Every story you write will teach you something new—about yourself, about your writing style, about your creative process: everything. That’s why it’s so heartbreaking when aspiring writers put their writing on hold when they can’t get published. Writing is your art! Your passion! It does not have to be your career. Claiming writing as your hobby does not make you any less of a writer. Getting published is hard. Especially in the very beginning, when you’ve never had to try selling your idea to someone else before.

Let your discouragement fuel your creativity. That might sound a little bonkers, but think about it: how many people get discouraged and give up? Probably a lot. But you don’t have to be one of them. Turn your disappointment into framework for a new story. Experiment with all the different emotions you’re feeling. Write something you’ve never written before. What do you have to lose?

If you stopped writing now, what are you gaining?

Some writers never get published. Some have to wait years. It’s a matter of how far you’re willing to go to learn how to write something you’re passionate about that will get a publisher’s attention. Practice does not make perfect. But maybe, eventually, practice can make publishable.

In the meantime, don’t you dare toss out that story you’ve worked so hard on all this time. Reflect on how much it has taught you. Keep it forever. Whether you want to believe it or not, it is now a part of your history. There is no going back.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.