Keep Pressing On

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

I received my copies of Karen Barnett’s new book, Out of the Ruins,Β yesterday. It’s the first book in The Golden Gate Chronicles. The cover is lovely and the book is set in San Francisco around the famous 1906 earthquake. To read more about it, click here.

This is Karen’s second published book, but it was the first book she wrote. I started representing her after reading an early draft of Out of the Ruins (called Shaken at the time). barnettbooksWhile I pitched Out of the Ruins, Karen wrote her second book, First Impressions. After the second book was done, I shopped it and Abingdon Press decided to publish it. First Impressions was released as Mistaken,Β a suspenseful 1920’s romance. After Mistaken was contracted, Abingdon offered a contract for Out of the Ruins and the Golden Gate Chronicles series.

I’m sharing this story with you as an encouragement to press on. Even if your first book isn’t picked up and you receive rejection after rejection for it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that book isn’t worth publishing. Keep writing and put that story on the back burner. With time and revision, your first book baby (or second, or third…) could find a publishing home. It is easy to become discouraged and it’s tempting to quit, but if you don’t keep at it you won’t have the possibility of seeing results from your work.

It’s also a good story for showing how titles can change when a book is picked up for publication! Karen and I worked with the Abingdon team to finalize these great titles and covers.

Have you seen positive results from making the decision not to quit at something?

If you haven’t been published yet, what are you learning during your time of perseverance?

And a question to ponder…Giving up because of discouragement isn’t usually a good thing to do, but how do you know when God is asking you to quit at something or to put it on hold for a time?

58 Responses

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  1. My natural inclination is to jump to the excitement of a new project before the old one is completed. I more often hear God’s nudging to “finish what you started” than “it’s time to move on.” I think you nailed it here, Rachel. When God is in charge, a project doesn’t end in a spirit of discouragement. God’s closure is wrapped in a sense of fulfillment.

  2. COLUMBA KNOX says:

    Howdy, Ma’aM,

    Veeeeeeeeery, Interesting; read the blogging before yours, it was declared that nobody is writing about the Time Period,
    (1920—1924—1929); perhaps that was a
    Mistaken notion: does she write about
    aviation///barnstorming with that book???

    “Sometimes I Just Want To Quit”
    —Karen Carpenter

    Thee Holy Spirit Will Keep You Going………

    Sincerely, Indeed,

  3. There are a lot of aphorisms about not giving up, and they look really good on posters.

    What I’ve found most useful is this – even if you quit, you’ve still got to do SOMETHING. May as well keep on.

    Yes, I know the aphorism about climbing the ladder of success, and it was leaning against the wrong wall. Truth is, we’re climbing in the dark, and only the light of God’s Heaven will show whether the effort was in vain or not. Any other judgement is our vanity.

    Two examples come o mind. When I was working on my PhD, my classroom performance was so miserable that the Powers That Be offered me a Masters’ if I’d just go away. I said no – I hadn’t quit anything yet, and it didn’t seem to be the right moment to start. I did get the PhD, with the lowest grade-point average ever recorded at that school. They changed the rules after that, so no one else could squeak by like that.

    But I did become the project director for the testing phase of a major seismic retrofit (the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge) so the school didn’t consider me a total loss.

    The second was doing CPR on a completely unresponsive subject. It would have been easy to quit, because nothing was happening, and time was passing. A crew with a defib was on the way, but a long ways off.

    No one would have faulted me for packing it up. The dude was toast. But I figured I had to do something while I waited, so I kept on.

    The guys duly arrived, and did a successful jump-start, but so much time had passed that brain damage was inevitable.

    Or not, because 30 days later the dude walked out of the hospital, brain working as well as it ever had.

    The dude happened to be my father. Life can be weird sometimes.

    I don’t think that if God puts something in our hearts, that He asks us to quit. Far more likely that He will encourage, cajole, or outright demand that we go on even when the way seems impassible.

    The voices we hear that say, quit, take a break, reassess…those come from somewhere else. Our own laziness, or somewhere far worse.

    We may not reach the goal – Moses didn’t. But we don’t have the right to give up on His work, the work He’s placed in our hands.

  4. Thank you for this encouragement, Rachel. And congrats to Karen! With my job being interviewing missionaries and having written one nonfiction … I can’t believe at times that I wrote a fiction for middle grade. I worked it to be a sequel, but it could be easily changed to stand alone. With middle grade being hard to publish, it’s hard to know what to do next. With it finished, I entered it into a contest, just to see what feedback I get. Press on? Press out? Or go another direction? I am definitely asking God for guidance.

    • Shelli, I know God has great things in store for you!

      • Thank you, Cynthia! He is doing such sweet things … a dear friend, who didn’t know I wrote for Missions Mosaic wrote the other day … said she had been called to read my article on missions in the Philippines and share with her WMU ladies’ group … got to the end and saw my name … she said she shouted, “I know the writer!” We went to church together in Wichita Falls, and she wants me to come speak to their women’s group. I’m thrilled! See how that plays out.

        But … Father, how does fiction fit into this life of mine? I had such a blast writing the one … I’m so hungry to dive into another.

    • Asking God for guidance is the key, Shelli! You’re right on track.

      Believe it or not, I originally wrote “Shaken” (which became Out of the Ruins) as a middle-grade fiction. It took some time before I understood what God wanted of that story.

      I love middle grade fiction. I know everyone says it’s a tough sell, but we know we have a God who’s bigger than the nay-sayers. If it’s the story He’s planted in your heart, He will make a way. Or He will show you (as He did for me) the path He actually wants to set you on.

  5. Rachel, thank you for sharing such encouraging thoughts and the call to press on! Just what I needed to kick-start my weekend. πŸ™‚ I loved hearing about how God orchestrated the timing of Karen’s stories and I can’t wait to read Out of the Ruins!

    It’s easy to get discouraged when you’ve trudged the path so long, but I agree with putting things on hold for a season. I know in my own life, working on other projects grants fresh perspective when returning to previous ones.

  6. Susan Roach says:


    This post was so timely for me. I’ve laid aside my first MS for now. I believe in that story, and one day I may well rewrite/finish it. For now, though, its value for me was the education it gave me. Working on it taught me so much. But I think my new idea may be the one I actually complete and pitch, now that I’m a little wiser as to what it takes to write something that has a chance. Even so, this season in my life is crazy busy, and I am learning to give myself grace. “Slow down” or “delay” does not mean “don’t ever do it.”

  7. What a surprise to wake up and see my book featured on the Books & Such blog!

    God would never let me give up on this book. I’d used the hymn “Come Thou Fount” as a source of comfort to one of my characters in the story. and every time I considered giving up on writing the book, He’d start following me around with the song. I’d hear it 4-5 times a day in all sorts of odd places. Either I was going loopy, or He was trying to encourage me. πŸ™‚

    I’m so thankful Rachel was willing to stick with me through all the waiting. It’s a joy to have an agent who sees beyond the “one book” to an author’s whole career. She had a better vision about that than I did. I was completely fixated on the first book. Rachel’s the one who told me, “Okay, it’s time to write something new. Put this one aside for now.” She got me unstuck.

    Thank you, Rachel! You’re the best!

  8. Beautiful post, Rachel, and so encouraging to hear Karen’s story! I’m not published yet, but I hope to be, one day. I keep being reminded that giving up is seldom what I am called to do. There are rare occasions where I’ve come to the point where that was the only option. But, when God has orchestrated that, He has something else in store, usually better than what I was striving toward.

    God seems to have a way of giving me the perfect encouragement when the thoughts of giving up seem to strike a little deeper. I am learning to depend on Him, and His timing for this writing journey. Perseverance builds strength and quality of character, it give me opportunities to learn how to become a better writer and it keeps me depending on God, in the best of ways.

  9. Jim Lupis says:

    I love the opening lines to “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where one angel asks “Is he sick?”, and the other angel replies: “Worse, he is discouraged.” Discouragement can be very difficult to fight through but Christian Writers have such a remedy – Jesus.

    My favorite scripture to overcome discouragement is Psalm 27:13-14. We need to keep pressing in. Thanks Rachel, for a great post.

    • I love that movie, Jim … yes, “money [and encouragement] come in handy down here, Bub!”

      • Jim Lupis says:

        Shelli, isn’t it amazing the film received horrible reviews? They dubbed it Capra-corn after Frank Capra, who was the genius behind the film. It wasn’t until years later that the film found success. That is why it is so important to believe in your project, whatever it is.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Perfect example. And I love that movie. It’s my mom’s favorite!

  10. Thanks for sharing, Rachel. I first knew I wanted to write novels when I was in the fourth grade…I never dreamed that at the age of 31 I’d still not have a novel published (or even suitable for submission yet, at that)! But something I realized very young is that you can do (almost) anything you put your mind to if you just don’t give up.

  11. Sarah Sundin says:

    How fun to see Karen’s story here! Watching Karen navigate this process over several years, I saw the traits that led to this success – perseverance tempered with flexibility and teach-ability. And it couldn’t have happened to a lovelier person πŸ™‚

  12. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, Rachel. I’m too stubborn to give up, but I am in that place where I feel God is leading me to dedicate more of my time to something other than writing for a little while. I don’t plan to stop writing, but I need to focus on a new business for a while, which I feel is just as much a part of God’s plan for my life as my writing. If it works out well, it will eventually leave me more time for writing.

  13. I can’t wait to read this new book !
    I beleive that the Lord really closes doors if things aren’t his will for us. and if it is his will he makes a way !
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books

  14. Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    I am terrible at Math. In order to take college level math classes I spent the summer after I graduated doing a math tutorial program on the computer. I made up 5 math classes that summer and got my first A in math that fall. My first A in math since…literally Kindergarten.

    I thought that writing would be easier. I’ve always had a knack for it. Young writer’s conferences and H.S. and college creative writing teachers gave me A and A+ grades and praise. Then in 2001 I started trying to write for publication…


    I finally got 3 tiny magazine pieces published last year. I write 6 days a week and have for years. But no fruit for all my effort. I have 3 novel length manuscripts and a novella manuscript moldering on my computer. But I love to write and I am going to continue.

    I saw the look on my grandparents faces when they read a piece I wrote about the little Bible Camp they started. That one blog post and a letter explaining the heritage of Camas Meadows Bible camp. It was worth all this time and effort and rejection. I was able to articulate why they had given up their retirement and moved out to the woods. I was able to put it to words. And so I will write, because there is good in this.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I love this! Thanks for sharing how writing can touch lives. It doesn’t matter if you are published or not, God can use your writing.

  15. Liz Johnson says:

    I love hearing more about Karen’s publishing journey. We sat next to each other at an ACFW conference several years ago, and I remember hearing the passion in her voice as she told me about her books. Her perseverance and poise are certainly an inspiration. I’m thrilled for her success! Way to go, Karen! Thanks for sharing, Rachel.

  16. I’ve had one of those weeks. You all know them, the sick kid/overtired mom/hockey road trip ON Easter/MS ain’t doin’ so hot/WHO told me I could do this writing thing/will I ever sing again? kind of week…

    It’s not been soul crushing, just, sort of…draining me, drop by drop.

    Then I did the blessing count…and after the healthy kids/loving husband…came the fact that God gave me the skills I need to do this, and an agent who guides me along and believes in me.

    If I quit? I am fairly certain it will be a cold day in Santa Fe before anyone goes after the wee moment in history that I’ve spent 2 1/2 years in.

    Thank you for this encouragement, and thank you, Karen, for not giving up!

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I had an Easter weekend like yours! I felt so drained. I am feeling much better this week and my daughter and I are no longer sick. That helps.

  17. It took a long time to teach my dog Dinozzo to sit but now she sits just fine.

    *Sometimes she even sits still – while she sits.

  18. Barbara Cameron says:

    After five years of writing and submitting, my first book (ABA fiction) sold to a publisher on its third trip there. Apparently I wasn’t submitting to the correct editor who was looking to buy for a new line. I got an agent and she sold it. Through those long years I wrote and rewrote and attended writing conferences and won some pretty big awards that kept me motivated (including the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award).
    I sold a number of books but needed a full-time job when I became a single parent. I returned to college for a B.A. and took on some of the most disappointing teaching jobs …then one day my school board laid off 400 of us because jobs had left the county and so there went parents who took their kids… At my last job I taught the kids of migrant workers who wanted a better life for their kids. But those kids didn’t have to attend school after 7th grade back in Mexico so many didn’t want to be in the classroom. Sometimes when I turned my back to write on the blackboard I got it with spitballs the size of my hand and they hurt. I was pretty discouraged and tired of writing the occasional non-fiction title.
    But I thought about doors closing. The last semester I was there I had felt led to write Christian fiction. A month after my layoff I opened my e-mail to find I’d sold novellas in two anthologies to Thomas Nelson. The editor had turned down my first full-length Christian novel but Abingdon Press bought it a short time later. I just signed a contract for my 11th book with them.
    I sometimes say I was too stubborn to quit but the fact was every time I could have been discouraged I felt I got encouragement from above and that’s what I chose to focus on. Sorry for the long note but I just feel the same God who plants that tiny seed of interest in writing wants us to nurture it…

  19. Leon says:

    Rachel, thank you for writing such an encouraging post, and best of luck to Karen, with your writing career.

  20. I’ve enjoyed reading about Karen’s books and then reading all the comments. I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my writing career. The longest valley of rejection lasted five plus years. I thought I might never see another on my stories published, but then I decided to write one more book and write a book about characters I could love. So I wrote about a preacher and his daughter in a small town back in the Sixties. That book, Scent of Lilacs, found a place in the CBA market, and I love it here. Then my editor happened to mention she was interested in Shakers and I happened to mention I’d written a book about the Shakers once – some 25 years ago. That book was eventually published and more Shaker books followed. Perseverance kept me writing. Truth is, sales or no sales, I have never been able to quit writing. It’s what I do.