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Why Breaking into Publishing is Like Pac Man

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss.
Happy New Year! It’s been a busy fall and holiday season, between work on different projects and the release of “Fright before Christmas.” I can’t believe my last post in this series was back in September. 
Those of you who read my guest post on “Judging More Than Just The Cover,” already know that I’m a fan of “Project Runway.” Lately, I’ve been watching the “Junior” version (which is amazing by the way; these kids are incredibly talented and mature), and I was struck by something that comes up all the time on this and similar shows like “Top Chef,” another of my favorites: how contestants respond to being cut. The reaction is the same regardless of whether we’re talking fashion design or culinary arts: “It’s so hard to leave after getting so close.”
Enter Pac Man.
Okay, what? I’ll explain. 
As a new author knee-deep in the querying process, I find myself saying the very same thing when I get a tough rejection. Not that rejections are ever easy, but some are tougher than others. For example, getting a partial request on a query, then getting a full request, then waiting and waiting and waiting only to get a ‘no,’ is like one of these reality show moments. 
What makes these experiences similar is that once the ‘no’ comes, you’re at ground zero again. It reminds me of the classic arcade and early home console games like Atari and Colecovision (yes, I’m an 80s child). Back in the day, even if you beat levels 1-99, if you died in level 100, you had to start at the beginning again. Kids these days, with their video game ‘save’ buttons have it easy. Once you beat a particular challenge, you never have to worry about that milestone again. Not so in writing. Sure, you’re always learning, but none of your progress toward getting an agent or publishing contract is saved. As with the old-school video games, once your guys die, you’re out of luck and have to dig in your pocket for another quarter or go home.
Getting so close you can almost taste it is exhilarating, but the crash can be extremely challenging to overcome. Persevering takes determination and a lot of social support. But, just like on “Project Runway,” “Top Chef,” and my other favorite, “So You Think You Can Dance,” there’s always another chance. For example, this year on “Project Runway,” (Season 14) the runner up was someone who literally tried out every single year since the show premiered. That means, he was told ‘no’ thirteen times. By the same people. Then he placed second. Similarly, on “SYCYCD,” a contestant auditioned in one city and was cut, but then showed up in another city, in the very same season. Not only was she given the golden ticket, she won it all. How many author stories have you heard about a book that was rejected countless times before becoming a huge hit?
Getting so close only to be told ‘no’ just plain sucks, and not having that save button only makes it harder, but if those world class Pac Man champs (and the Donkey Kong champs and the Centipede champs) can gain enough mastery to play the game from level one to win, then we can accomplish the same with our writing. And the best part is, we don’t need an endless supply of quarters to get there.
“You can do it, you can write!” 

This article was also posted on as a part of the "It's A Writer Thing" series. 

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

Jessica is offering her short story, Breathless, for free TODAY only. Follow the links to claim yours!

Check out Jessica's post "What Project Runway Taught Me about Being a Writer"!

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