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Jay Neugeboren Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 6.08.11

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“My scoreboard is my muse. When I was starting out—unpublished—and sending my stories and novels far and wide, I kept a list taped to the wall next to my desk, so I could keep track of what was where and when I’d made the submission. One day, while typing out a new list—rejections and cross-outs had made the list illegible—I hit the tab bar on my old Underwood, and typed in odds—5000–1—that this particular story would be accepted by the magazine I was sending it to. I did the same with the rest of the list. At the bottom of the page, I put in a Best Bet, Long Shot, Sleeper, Daily Double, and Hopeful. I also kept a running count: Them vs. Us. (By the time I sold my first short story, I’d notched 576 rejections; by the time I sold my first book, over 2,000.) The odds generally related more to my state of mind—optimistic, despairing—than to realities of the publishing world, and shrewd bettors could have cleaned up on a few long shots along the way. I still keep a scoreboard next to my desk, update it regularly, and whenever the writing, or the spirit, flags, I look at it, consider the odds—sometimes alter the odds—and this keeps me going, reminds me that the only real way to win is to keep writing.”
Jay Neugeboren, author of You Are My Heart (Two Dollar Radio, 2011).

Reader Comments

  • wdmreed says...

    I totally agree. I live in Tanzania and stopped bothering submitting because the mail service is so unreliable. Lately I have noticed journals accepting email submissions, but now I'm just working on novels. Also, keeping track of all that is not my forte, I did try, but I'm just not good at it. When I've got something to send out, I'll jump back in, however. The main thing, to me, is to keep writing. If I do my best work, I'm satisfied. I like to remind myself that the budget for the film in my mind is unlimited.

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