Failure, Fatal Flaws, and the Road to Success

Most authors, on the way to their first book, travel a road paved with plenty of rejection and failure; and even after publication, many of us continue to face failure as we figure out which way our path as a published writer takes us.

Not only is it often difficult to persevere in the midst of the failure we face, but it is also sometimes hard to remember that failure can at times be necessary for future success.

About ten years ago, I began a new manuscript and worked diligently on it for a couple years. I wrote it, revised it, got feedback from my critique group about it, polished it up, and finally sent it out into the world. I sent it to editors. I sent it to agents. And I received rejection letters from everyone. But finally, one agent responded with interest. She requested the entire manuscript, and after sending it to her, I waited with fingers and toes crossed. After several weeks, she got back to me with news I did not want to hear. Not only was her answer an ultimate "no," but the feedback she gave me about the main conflict in the plot ultimately felt like my beloved story contained an unfixable problem. I came away from the phone call believing my manuscript was fatally flawed. The story I had worked so hard on (and loved so much), in my mind, was beyond repair. So after a good cry, I did what all authors do, brushed myself off, rolled up my sleeves again, and got to work on something new.

Years later, after I had completed a few more manuscripts and managed to, not only begin working with an agent, but also to be fortunate enough to finally become a published author, I mentioned the old, fatally-flawed manuscript to my agent. Without even having read the manuscript, she very optimistically said there was likely a way to redeem the story. That was all the hope I needed to drag out that old manuscript again.

As I began working on the story, I struggled quite a bit to get past the "fatal flaws," but I kept at it and eventually found a way to breathe new life into the old characters and create a plot that worked. That manuscript is now the book When I Hit the Road, coming May 2020.

So, my not-so-fatally-flawed manuscript, that had felt like such a huge failure many years ago, is my most recent success. Seeing how the story has transformed from its original version to the book it is now honestly makes me thankful for its past failure and even makes me realize that its failure was actually a building block to its success.

Happy Reading,
Nancy J. Cavanaugh


  1. How wonderful! Congratulations on persevering after your failures. I am hoping that my most recently submitted "failure" will finally be the story it was meant to be. Thanks for sharing this.


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