Tales of Perseverance
By Christine Liu-Perkins
Writing great nonfiction requires hard work and persistence. It may seem that luminaries in the field find the process easy, but let's take a look at what some of them have said about creating their books:
Steve Sheinkin was tempted to give up when it took nearly ten years and hundreds of rejections to get his first trade book published. Since then, his books have won multiple top awards.
In the process of developing Dangerous Jane, Suzanne Slade first wrote 82 versions in prose, 18 versions with a different theme, and then 26 versions in free verse.
Candace Fleming's first version of The Family Romanov was deemed "boring" by her editor. She then searched for a truth beyond facts and dug deep into Russian history to develop her riveting final story.
Laurie Halse Anderson hated her first few drafts of Thank You, Sarah, a picture book biography. Luckily, she drew a doodle that led to the breakthrough she needed.
Pamela S. Turner's proposal for Samurai Rising didn't sell. But after she wrote the full manuscript, she sold it to an editor who had earlier rejected the proposal.
Deborah Heiligman suffered the pain of giving up on a project after two years of research and promising leads. Fortunately, her next project became Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers.
April Pulley Sayre's picture book Stars Beneath Your Bed was rejected 52 times over eight years before it was published.
Jim Murphy submitted seven ideas to his editor that she rejected before he finally came up with The Great Fire. He sometimes spends a day writing a single sentence that he later deletes and might rewrite a manuscript as many as 50 times.
Before Phillip Hoose wrote Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, he waited nearly four years before Ms. Colvin agreed to talk with him.
Melissa Stewart struggled with the structure for No Monkeys, No Chocolate, a writing journey that took "10 years, 56 revisions, and 3 fresh starts." Take a look at her Revision Timeline for a chronicle of her process.
I hope these tales of perseverance encourage you in writing your nonfiction works!
10/2/2019 07:09:14 am
This is so inspiring! It's amazing to get a peek "behind the curtain" to what the authors went through to get these wonderful books out into the world! I'm so glad they all stuck with it -- a good lesson for all of us.
10/4/2019 04:23:42 pm
Linda, I'm glad you're inspired! It helps me to be assured that struggling with a manuscript can lead to breakthroughs, that the effort isn't wasted.
10/2/2019 12:30:33 pm
Thank you. These stories give me hope!
10/4/2019 04:50:32 pm
Jilanne, I'm glad they do. Best wishes for your next success!
10/2/2019 03:58:18 pm
Love this post!
10/4/2019 04:55:32 pm
Stephanie, thanks! I find these struggles behind successes so fascinating.
10/2/2019 08:59:34 pm
It's a good thing we writers are pretty optimistic--because it might seem overwhelming if we knew upfront how much revision and disappointment we might run into on the way to telling the stories that want to be told! Congratulations to each of the authors on their much-deserved success with each of the above examples!
10/4/2019 05:12:18 pm
Sandy, so true! I hope your optimism is being well rewarded.
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