Castles in the sky… to believe, to dream, to try and try and try!

castle in the sky

Following on from Helen’s post about wishes coming true, I thought I’d post about those times when disappointment or self doubt can wrap us in a cloak of hopelessness.  I’m sure most writers know exactly what I mean.  It might creep up on you whilst you are reading back through something that you initially thought was insightful, ground-breaking writing and which now makes you doubt you should even be let loose writing a shopping list!  Or perhaps it arises from the spine chilling sound of the rejection envelope hitting the doormat or the ping into your inbox of yet another “thanks, but no thanks” email.

However it comes, I think it does come to all writers at some time or another.  I know I have been there and, just this week, a writer friend of mine emailed to say that she felt like she’d had enough.  I hope she hasn’t, but I can understand why she might.  It certainly isn’t an occupation for those with a fragile ego and rejection comes with the territory.

So, when is it time to give up on your dreams?  I posted about this on a writer’s forum once and was told that, as long as it remains your dream, you should never give up.  When you stop loving the act of writing, or writing because you simple have to in order to truly live, and when your dreams no longer bring you pleasure in the imagining of their coming true – that’s the time to stop.

Until then, believe, dream and try, try, try – drawing some inspiration from those who did and found those castles in the sky:

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach was only picked up by Macmillan publishing, in 1970, after eighteen other publishers had rejected it. Within five years it had sold over seven million copies.
  • Who can forget that all time classic Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell?  If the twenty five publishers who rejected it before it was finally accepted had got their way, none of us would ever have heard of it.
  • Remember MASH the movie and spin off TV series about the Korean war?  The author of the original blockbuster novel, Richard Hooker, spent seven years tirelessly working on it, only to see it rejected by twenty one publishers.  Morrow eventually decided to publish it and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • The original Chicken Soup for the Soul book from the now hugely successful series was turned down by a total of one hundred and twenty three publishers across the US, including thirty three in New York alone, for being ‘too nice’.  Health Communications Inc, who finally made ‘The Call’ to publish it must be laughing all the way to the bank.  The first book alone sold eight million copies and spawned a series which now has thirty two titles and has chalked up fifty three million sales in thirty one languages.
  • Who doesn’t love that anti-hero The Grinch?  If Dr. Seuss had listened to the twenty seven publishers who rejected his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, before it was eventually published by Vanguard press, selling six million copies, that green harbinger of Christmas gloom would have forever dwelled in Seuss’ imagination, along with the Cat in the Hat, Horton and hundreds of his other characters.
  • The first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers for, among other reasons, being far too long for a children’s book and the series has gone on to make an estimated 25 billion in book sales, movies and merchandising.  JK Rowling can now literally afford a castle in the sky
  • Fifty Shades of Grey became the fastest selling paperback of all time, but only after EL James had her dreams and pride battered by rejection from literary agents.  She took her dreams into her own hands, however, and word spread about the book via the Writer’s Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher in Australia. The phenomenon it became must have surpassed even EL James’ wildest dreams.

The message is simple – don’t give up!  After all, the world would be nothing without dreamers.

Jo x

The above examples of dreamers who never give up was compiled by excerpts from various sources including Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen,,

12 thoughts on “Castles in the sky… to believe, to dream, to try and try and try!

  1. Fab posting, Jo!

    I’ve not sent my MS off anywhere yet, other than the New Writers Scheme, and part of me wonders whether I haven’t rushed to get it to agents or publishers sooner is simply that fear of rejection. The idea of someone saying “you’re just not good enough” fills me with dread. But then I think about cases like JK Rowling and so many others who’ve persistently persevered and got there eventually. I’m pretty sure Steven King is another (although I’m far too lazy to research that to check my facts!) The agents or publishers weren’t really saying “you’re just not good enough”; they were saying “it’s not for me” and that’s their opinion. And opinions differ.

    I guess that, as long as you believe in your story/characters/writing ability, then keep going and see the knock-backs as opportunities to say “ner, ner, you missed out” (in the privacy of your own home, of course) when you do make it.

    Last mouthful or three of tea to go then it’s time for me to work on my dream …


  2. Hi Julie

    You are right. I just read a quote from Stephen King, which said that he used to keep a nail in his wall on which to pin rejections and then when, and I quote:

    “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

    So swallow that last mouthful of tea my girl and get grafting on that dream. It’s yours for the taking!

    Jo xx

  3. Hi,
    Excellent post, Jo! I love hearing about these authors as it gives us all the encouragement to just keep going. I’ve read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he’s another author who faced the dreaded rejection. JoJo Moyes too…she wrote 3 (or perhaps 4) books before finally getting one accepted.

    Happy writing everyone…


    • Hi Helen

      It definitely shows the rejection is not necessarily a reflection on talent, ability or even the quality of a particular piece of writing. With the feedback you’ve had, I truly believe that your MS just needs to find the right desk. Just look how many attempts it took some of these incredibly successful writers/novels to find that right desk.

      Jo x

    • Hi Vikki

      Ahhh, you recognised yourself, hope you don’t mind? So glad that you aren’t going to give up on that dream – we can talk strategies for reducing your workload (I have a cunning plan, as Baldrick used to say) and, most importantly, the RNA conference and what a boost that might bring, when we meet for coffee next week.

      Jo xx

  4. Hi Jo, brilliant post and so very true.
    We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t think now and again what’s the point. I know I have thought it many times over the last few years but then I would think about all the time and effort I have spent on my novel and I just knew that it was good enough to keep on going, why? Because I truly enjoyed writing it. My punctuation is not the best, I have a habit of writing sentences in the wrong order and my point of view would fly around the page until even I wasn’t sure who was thinking what but these are all things that I have worked hard on to improve and they have made a huge difference. Whatever you do if you love your story then other people will too, it’s just a case of turning the negative thoughts into positive ones and not giving up. Out there will be the right agent/publisher it’s just a case of doing what so many writers before us have done, keep on trying 🙂

    Helen x

    • Hi Helen

      Ooh, I’ve found a kindred spirit on the point of view front. I head hop like a demon looking for a new soul to infiltrate (and any soul will do!) if I don’t watch myself…

      I do think you are right that tenacity is almost as important as the talent that undoubtedly had to come as part of the package. Talent is something that can be nurtured, though, and I am so delighted that it has paid off for you 🙂

      I can’t wait to read your book and see exactly how far you’ve come. You’ve given the rest of us Write Romantics some inspiration to keep going!

      Jo x

  5. Hi Jo
    Excellent post. I’m going to bookmark it to read the next time I’m feeling a bit dispirited. I also think you might have inadvertently found a plot for your next YA book – a story about demon who head hops looking for a soul to infiltrate??

    • Hi Alex

      Ooh, there’s an idea, but is a demon supernatural or paranormal?! I’ve actually got the scope for the YA to become a trilogy, just need to get to the end of part 1 first and decide if that’s any good… I’ve also got an idea for a YA coming-of-age Rom Com, just need to win the lottery so that I can write full time and not have to worry about earning any money from it – talking of dreaming and castles in the sky! Hope the final stages of editing your book are going well and that, come submission time, the last thing you will need when you get your feedback is cheering up.

      Jo x

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