Kelly Haworth

Author of Queer Speculative Romance

A Drop in the Ocean


As a writer, I face a lot of competition.  Sometimes it seems like everyone and their mother (literally) want to be a writer.  I search twitter and I am inundated with hundreds of writers with every flick of my fingers on my phone screen.  How do I get noticed?  How do I be heard?

Agents say they want fresh, they want different.  These phrases they use, like “fresh writing” and “unique voice” are seen everywhere, but what do they mean, and how do you achieve them?

Are you the chosen one?

I think the answer is ten parts practice and one part being gifted.  I think anyone with enough practice can become a good writer and even become published if they write the right story and send it to the right people.  But there’s a nuance of prose, a spellcasting of words, which cannot be learned.  And this “gift” could put one above the rest.  I can’t completely quantify what I mean, past “you know it when you read it.”  Those books that keep you reading until you cringe every time you glance at the clock, you know what I’m talking about.  I don’t claim to have this gift any more than the next writer.  But with so many others vying for a chance to see their words in print, I’m afraid I may never get to find out.

No one said that the road to publication was going to be easy, but when I spent years on each of my first novels and then saw how much work you have to put into researching agents and publishers, I felt my stomach drop and my skin go cold.  It’s an uphill battle and you have to fight for every handhold.  And it’s harder when you got things like genre and subject stacked against you.

I write science fiction and fantasy.  I LOVE SF/F and can’t see myself easily writing anything else.  But so do a lot of people, and a disproportionately smaller amount of agents actually WANT SF/F (or so it seems.).  And that’s not all I have against me, as my most polished novel is also LGBT.  Do you know how many agents and publishers accept SF/F LGBT?  Yeah, not many.

You gotta try.

And try I have, and try I am.  And when the list runs out I’ll pick up my next unusual novel and try that one.  I’d like to think that persistence will see me through to the other side.  And that sure is what published authors and agents will tell you.  But when is enough enough?  When do you give up and quit?  More importantly, is that even an option?

I know it would be easy for me to just let life take me in another direction, where writing becomes a distant hobby I once had.  But I don’t think I would be happy. I have all these worlds and creatures and people in my head that I have to do something with or they’ll all drive me crazy.  Thus, I write.  Put life on the page.  And hope that one day someone will read that life, and it will move them, like it has moved me.

Even if you’re just a drop.

When I post a blog or tweet a tweet or send a query, I feel like I’m just adding one little blip to the sea of words and information that has become the internet.  You try to take it all in and it turns to nonsense.  Agents and publishers are so bogged down by submissions that they can’t even give people personal replies anymore.  Writers face so much rejection that they lose their minds and respond to rejections with white hot anger or dull grey depression.  Writing has become a profession not for the weak of mind, or the timid of spirit, but for the strong-willed, the stubborn, and the people in the right place at the right time.

As a writer on my career path, I am shoulder to shoulder with everyone else, jostling for my next step.  And everyone’s talking talking talking, blogs and tweets and pages and queries and pitches and manuscripts and forums and I feel like all I can do is whisper.

Well.  I’ll just keep on whispering until I learn how to scream.


  1. You lay out the situation very well, although I’m not sure I agree that having a “gift” really bestows an advantage. I’ve seen a tremendous amount of published work from writers who are anything but gifted. That’s a big part of what makes me throw may hands up in despair, raging at the injustice that someone so mediocre got a deal where I have not. In the end, the deciding factor, I think, is just plain luck.

    As for all the talking talking talking, the more people talk, the less others listen; I know that happens to me. Eventually it just becomes noise, as you’ve noted yourself. There’s a difference between talking and having something to say. That’s why I don’t put the effort into maintaining a dozen social media outlets that everyone says I have to if I want to make it.

    You don’t have to learn to scream; the process will make you do that regardless. Learn, rather, to whisper well. That’s what I do in my classes when I really want to emphasize a point.

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