Never Give Up! Never Surrender! (Mary Strand)

This month, we’re blogging about what we learned in 2019 that we’re applying to our writing in 2020. For me?

Don’t. Give. Up.
"Never give up!
Never Surrender!"

This shouldn’t be something new that I learned in 2019. I practiced law for 16 years. I’ve played intense sports almost since birth. As a result, I’m extremely disciplined. I work hard. I meet deadlines. I’m pretty fearless.

But my knees conspired against me in 2018 and 2019, and depression ensued, and I went a total of 17 months without writing new words. I tried, briefly, but it didn’t work, so I finally gave up. At the same time, I made brief and infrequent forays into the world of querying. But I mostly gave up on that, too.

Okay, I didn’t give up entirely. While I was avoiding new words and agent queries, I wound up revising three manuscripts. No, it shouldn’t take 17 months (for me) to revise three manuscripts, but life was U-G-L-Y. (Still is. The knees still kill me.) I counted those three manuscripts, which now look pretty damned good, as a win. I also wrote a few songs. They weren’t novels, but I counted them as a minor win.

MOVIES: one thing
I do when not writing
Then came November 2019.

November is known widely to writers as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you follow the rules of it, which I occasionally do, you try to write at least 50,000 words on a new novel during the month of November.

Obviously, after writing zero new words in the prior 17 months, I wasn’t stupid enough to try writing 50,000 words in a single month. That would be like trying to run a marathon after going 17 months without going for a jog. But I decided to go with the SPIRIT of NaNoWriMo and try writing again. Goal: write an average of at least 2 pages per day every weekday in November, which would be 42 pages. I lost a few days to figuring out where I was going on the book in question, two or three days to sickness, four days to a last-minute jaunt to Florida (although I wrote on one of those days), and a couple of days to Thanksgiving. But I wound up with 45 pages in November.

Forty-five pages of writing in a month is nothing to write home about. (So to speak.) But it was 45 pages after 17 months of zero pages. A major win! I followed it with 49 new pages in December. At the same time, I sent out some agent queries, and I tried PitMad in December (a crazy, one-day Twitter event in which you try to interest agents and editors in your work). All of this was basically baby steps, but it was a start.

Another movie I saw when not writing.
Also: how my Thanksgivings went when I was growing up.

Frankly, this reads like one long, dull summary. (Sorry!) But what I learned in November and December, after learning virtually nothing at all in the preceding 10 months of 2019, is not to give up. Writing and querying and all of the rest is a habit. I’m still reacquiring that habit, but I’m now two months into being back in the game. It’s way too soon to say I’m TRULY back, but as I like to say: all progress is good.

Happy New Year! Make 2020 a good one. And don’t give up!

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. This is really so important. Just because you haven't written in a few months (or years!) doesn't mean you're finished. I'm so glad you're getting back into the habit of it!


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