WHAT’S THE ABSOLUTELY WORST THING ABOUT WRITING? by Art Smukler, MD, author & psychiatrist

Four and a half years ago, after I retired from practicing psychiatry, I got the chance to do something that I had only dreamed about – write full time.

I’ve completed two new novels, a coming-of-age novel, and a mystery/thriller.

Writing the books, and I’m still tweaking them, is a joy. The new roads that my characters take are exciting. They push me to explore ideas and concepts that, for me, are brand new. Also, as the cliche’ goes, writing is rewriting. Even that part of the process is fun. Sometimes a rewrite takes unexpected turns and my character winds up in a place that I never imagined.

But, and it’s a huge but, all the problems start after the novels are done.

Then, the job is to get a literary agent. Some agents hire readers who sift through the thousands of hopeful email pitches. If the agent herself reads all the queries, hundreds and hundreds, how shell-shocked she must be at the end of a day. It certainly isn’t an easy job.

If fate is on your side, and an agent chooses to represent you, for 15% of the sales, she then needs to find a publisher. The publisher’s job, if she agrees to take on your book, is to get it out in the world where it can be discovered and read. That will cost thousands of her dollars. Plus, the publisher also gets a percentage of the sales.

Of course you’ve noticed that there aren’t many book stores anymore. Most of us find our next read online or from friends or on social media sites. If we love a book, we tell our friends, who tell their friends, and on and on. Another daunting fact is that most advertising is left up to the author. Long gone are the days of luxurious book tours.

Knowing how difficult the process would be, I hired an editor to work with me on my coming-of-age novel. He is well known and devoted to his work. After reading the first few chapters of my novel, he was convinced that it would do well and agreed to work with me. He believed that my work was unique and that it wouldn’t be hard to get an agent to represent me.

HA! Not a funny ha. After dozens of rejections, some after agents requested and promised to read the entire manuscript, they didn’t get back to me for many, many months.

That’s what I hate about writing! The helplessness is the worst thing. The fact that someone, either qualified or unqualified, has the power over your hundreds of hours of effort is so frustrating. Whether you think your work is great is irrelevant. If your name is Grisham, Connelly, Foley or Coben, then no problem. Smukler? Forget it! Just buy the jelly… Oh, that’s Smuckers. Buy it anyway. It really is tasty.

I decided to do something about all that. Tune in to my next post.


Art Smukler

Check out THE REAL STORY, a mystery. You’ll get a free jar of jelly – just kidding.


3 thoughts on “WHAT’S THE ABSOLUTELY WORST THING ABOUT WRITING? by Art Smukler, MD, author & psychiatrist

  1. Art- Awful to be at the mercy of an anonymous reader, who may have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed or has a headache. Mara works on a project for 3 years, and finally is convinced that she’s answered an important scientific question. Respected colleagues have made suggestions along the way. They now feel the job is done, and done well. Mara submits her carefully written paper to an appropriate journal. 3 mos later, the journal editor tells Mara about the 3 anonymous reviewers evaluations. One likes it. One would consider approval, but only after further experiments. The 3rd is merciless, listing the paper’s deficiencies. Mara is incredulous – the “deficiencies” are clearly spelled out in the paper ! The reviewer, after 3 months, barely read the paper but bashed it. Mara hates this aspect of science like you hate the publication nightmare with your novels. Hang in there,


    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Thank you for your understanding. My heart goes out to Mara. Her career, in some aspects, is at the mercy of insensitive, sometimes sadistic, reviewers. Research that can help all of us is being thwarted. I hope she can overcome these obstacle and achieve her dreams.


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