Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Are You Discouraged with Your Writing Dream? Don't Despair, 4 Tips to Keep You on Track

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

It happens all the time. New writers enter their first conference "stary-eyed." In fact, I love to see the stars because what that tells me is these writers have dreams, and to be a good writer; one must have dreams.

Six months after the conference, those same stary-eyed writers become disillusioned. Their dreams are gone, and they're floundering in search of the goals they were so sure of months earlier. I wish I could tell you, well before your first conference, what happens to your dreams, but I don't get that privilege until I see you at the conference, and then, every one of you doesn't attend my classes. Nor, in the thick of excitement at the conference, do you really wear your listening ears. What's a momma hen author to do?

In these four items, you must understand that as a new writer, these are things you must learn. You don't just come into the industry knowing these things. But the key here is to listen and not lose your dreams. Hold tight to them, and put your goals in the proper order. 

4 Things That Can Discourage Unsuspecting New Writers

1. Publication-ready: Most new writers slave over their work bringing it to their idea of perfection. When they attend a conference, their excitement and determination to be published blinds them to the fact that their first works may not be publication-ready. Agents, editors, and publishers are looking for polished work to represent. Few are in search of an idea. Instead, they want work that has been through the wringer and back. In other words, work free of plot issues, point of view slips, overwriting, and long drawn-out descriptions that slow a story down. They need clear thoughts, strong writing, and stories with a beginning, middle, and end (don't laugh, sometimes, we find writers who never get past the beginning. It's easy to do.)

Publication ready means a critiqued work where the flaws are scrubbed as best as possible, and the story flows from beginning to end without major errors that stop a reader or cause them to question. Don't panic! This work takes practice. You don't just wake up one morning and have a polished manuscript, be it fiction or non-fiction. It takes work and guidance.

2. Agent-itis: There is a misconception among new writers and some seasoned conferees that your goal at your first conference is to pick up an agent. The truth is, an agent can't sell 1) work that isn't written or 2) work that is not publication-ready. As new writers, we aren't sure of an agent's job. The misconception comes when we think the agent is there to caudle us along. Though some agents are wonderful to help by doing some minor edits, most wait for you to send polished, well-written work so they can begin to shop and sell it. An agent is not your critique partner or your editor. Their job is to encourage you, take your work and sell it, negotiate a contract, and serve as a mediator between you and the publisher. They work on your behalf to care for you through the publishing process. 

New writers, not by any fault of their own, do not know the process. They must learn—hence, why we attend conferences so that we can learn how, when, and what to do to gain an agent.

3. Refusal to only think BOOK: Many dreams crash and burn because new writers only see the trophy of a book as the reward. They tend to look past those things that are obvious stepping stones—things like magazine articles, anthologies, and website writing. Not only can you earn money writing in these areas, but they are also amazing learning venues and networking spots. Write an article for a magazine and reach 200,000 readers. Write a book and gain 500. Hummm. Weigh that out. My point is, don't shut your eyes to these options. There's nothing more rewarding than the success of a magazine article.

4. Rejection: Nothing shoots down our dreams faster than rejection. No one likes to be told no. It takes us back to our youth when mom said, "No, don't do that," a thousand times. It's important to understand that rejection in the publishing world is different. When a publisher says no, it is not because we aren't allowed to do something. It's because of one of the following: 1) the work is not publication-ready, 2) they already have a full shelf of titles and don't need any more for the time 3) there is no place on their shelf for another book similar to one they already have. 

So when you are told no, don't hang your head disappointed. Chin up, all these things can be fixed by hard work or simply waiting. I know, the dreaded W word. Wait. 

These four things will quickly pop the dream bubble of a new writer. If you know the process and what to expect, then you set proper expectations, leading to a determined writer willing to learn and put in the work necessary to gain a yes. Your mindset is essential. It's vital.

Less than .01% of new writers gain a contract during their first conference, so come prepared to learn at your next conference. Understand that, like any profession; there is a learning curve. Writers must learn the publishing process and learn the craft of writing. It's a give-and-take sort of thing. Give the effort, and an agent, editor, or publisher will eventually take the work. 

When you see a well-published author, know they have walked this path too. They weren't published overnight. They had to learn the craft, experience the rejection, and climb the ladder to success. Well-seasoned writers have, what I call, bloody knees, meaning they've been there and experienced the ups and downs. Nothing just falls in your lap. It all takes work. 

Set your dreams on becoming published but put your expectations in the proper order. You’ll soon find yourself climbing the publishing ladder of success.


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. Having served for a number of years as a managing editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and Ironstream Media, Cindy now works as a mentor, coach, and freelance editor. She is the co-founder of Writing Right Author Mentoring Services with Lori Marett and she is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Cindy is also the co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries and WWW.CHRISTIANDEVOTIONS.US, as well as WWW.INSPIREAFIRE.COM. Her devotions are in newspapers and magazines nationwide, and her novels have become award-winning best-selling works. She is a popular speaker at conferences and a natural encourager. Cindy is a mountain girl, born and raised in the Appalachian mountains, where she and her husband still reside. She has raised four sons and now resorts to raising chickens where the pecking order is easier to manage. You can visit Cindy at WWW.CINDYSPROLES.COM or www.wramsforwriters.com.


  1. Thank you Cindy. This is exactly where this first writer is at post conference season. Discouraged. I hear your advice to think articles and anthologies. Small steps in learning craft and industry.

  2. Refocus. Practice. Keep your dreams. I used to walk through stores that sold books and open an empty spot between books. I'd take a picture and say...that's my spot. Eventually I filled that empty spot with a book. Keep the dream...learn the craft. You'll get there.

  3. Great words of encouragement for all writers!