Lisa Lenard-Cook

The Lonely Writer's Companion

“Why Bother?”

Welcome to the new improved Lonely Writer’s Companion! The format’s simple: You send in your questions, and each month I’ll select one to answer. Email your questions to me c/o (Be sure to put “Question for The Lonely Writer’s Companion” in the subject line.)


In one way or another, this month’s question comes from most of you.

"Why did you start writing in the first place? "

Question: I’ve written, revised, submitted, been rejected, rewritten, submitted, and gotten great rejections—but no bites. Lately I’ve wondered, why bother? Who cares if I write, anyway?

The Lonely Writer responds: Why did you start writing in the first place? Did you have a great idea you wanted to try to turn into a novel, or did something that happened that you thought would make for a riveting memoir? Have you always loved putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)? No matter what the answers to these questions, further questions arise. Did you take classes or work with a mentor to learn how to write? Did you read books, articles, and blogs about writing, and join communities of other writers, either locally or online? Did you attend writers’ conferences to learn from more experienced writers, and from agents and editors, about the industry?

Many who’ve never written before think it will be easy to translate an idea in their head onto the page, or that once the first draft is done, it’s ready to send out into the world. But writing is hard work, and writers apprentice themselves to masters in the same way that anyone learning a trade does. The only difference is that we can apprentice on our own, by reading those masters’ books and learning from what we love—and what we don’t.

"The best writing never happens the first time out. "

The best writing never happens the first time out. It takes revision and rewriting to turn a draft into a finished product. But let’s say you’ve done all this, and still haven’t found someone willing to publish a word of what you’ve written. If that’s the case, I’ve got a few more questions.

Have you researched your market? I don’t mean five minutes of Googling mysteries or steampunk. I mean reading what’s selling and figuring out why. I mean digging into the numbers—what’s #1 on the bestseller list in your genre? (And do you know what your genre is? You’d better.) If you’re sending stories to literary magazines, have you read the magazines to which you’re sending? More important, have you subscribed to them? They aren’t there just to publish your work—you need to support them, and read what they’re offering, too. Every magazine editor has a different sensibility (and this goes for agents and book editors, too), so much so that my bosque (the magazine) ( co-editor Lynn C. Miller and I often disagree about which stories we want for our magazine. This means that every issue of bosque reflects two sensibilities—and that’s to your advantage.


"There is a market for your work out there. "

If you’ve done all of the above and still haven’t been published, take heart. There is a market for your work out there. It may be traditional, it may be online only (have you looked at Authorlink’s digital publishing services?), or it may be some venue that won’t be thought of until next week. But one of the beauties of today’s publishing world is that it really is your oyster.

Got a question for The Lonely Writer’s Companion? Email it to me c/o (Be sure to put “Question for The Lonely Writer’s Companion” in the subject line.) Your question could appear in a future column.


Find Your Story Writer Your Memoir
Find Your Story,
Write Your Memoir

by Lisa Lenard-Cook
and Lynn C. Miller
Buy This Book via

PEN-short-listed author Lisa Lenard-Cook’s most recent book is Find Your Story, Write Your Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press), which she co-authored with Lynn C. Miller, with whom she co-founded of ABQ Writers Co-op (, creating community in New Mexico for writers everywhere. She's an editor of the literary magazine bosque, on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, and the Board of Narrative Arts Center in Santa Fe. Website: