So I was wrong for twice in my life. Sue me.

In fact, the author Ranelid finished last in the finals for selecting the Swedish entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. Still, the finals had some lessons for an aspiring author, oddly enough.

The winner was one Loreen, who anyone interested can listen to at some pint in, I believe, May. I wouldn’t particularly recommend it; the song was the one entry of the ten which wasn’t a very typical ’B’ side—that is, completely devoid of anything that might make it a hit, such as, having the not-so-easily-defined characteristics that make you want to listen to it more than once.

The interesting lesson was a bloke called Danny, whose reaction has something to tell anyone who is trying to learn to become a professional writer—indeed, a professional anything.

OK, so you have to feel a bit sorry for the guy. His very nondescript disco song had him finish second, for the second year running. (Yes, his entry was virtually indistinguishable from his entry in 2011.) Must be a bit of a disappointment, especially since he obviously spent a medium-sized fortune on the show (except that the songwriting was, as always, on a strict budget).

Still, running off yelling that his song was much better and that he should have won was a bit of a bad move. Especially since it was televoting, and his main rival bagged a proportion of the votes usually referred to as a landslide. He told the roughly 80% of the voters that didn’t vote for him that they were morons, and probably angered even quite a few of those who did vote for him, but also happened to like some other song.

And predictably, people thought he was being immature and a bad loser. Equally predictable, other people lashed out at this demonstration of “everyone must know their place” and claimed that in Sweden, it is impossible to declare that you want to win anything.

Both of which are completely bollocks. His reaction wasn’t so much immature as unprofessional, as the concept is understood in the entire Western world. And he passed up a wonderful opportunity to learn and improve. Judging from this reaction, he is very likely to enter next year with a song that is virtually identical to his two last entries, and finish second.

So, what should he have done?

It’s very simple, really. He can declare that he liked his own song better all he likes to; that’s no surprise to anyone. Then he should congratulate the winner, and say that obviously, more people liked that song, and then maybe regurgitate some cliché celebrating the differences of taste in the world of arts. Then he should go home, figure out exactly what the other song had that his didn’t, and write a better song; “better” in the sense of “more people voting for it”.

The parallel to writing should be obvious. But here goes, anyway.

Your reaction to rejection, in whatever form it comes, shouldn’t be, can’t be, mustn’t be, to say that they’re all wrong and stupid. Believing in your own work is a fine thing, and of course you’re asking your voters one by one, more or less, instead of showing your work to several million people all in one go, so you should persevere in case you just happened to ask the wrong one.

But when the note comes back saying someone didn’t like it, there’s no arguing. They didn’t. And there’s really only one way to fix it.


You can whine, if you like, but no amount of whining will improve your writing, just as no amount of whining will change one note of the song people didn’t like. You can self-publish, which is the equivalent of putting your song up on YouTube. (Granted, there’s a one-in-a-million chance it works, but you’re competing with Darth Vader playing bagpipes on a unicycle.) You can rant and rave in public, which will aggravate your enemies and make your friends talk behind your back. You can yell at the editor or publisher, which is as clever as yelling at the referee in football, in the secure knowledge that during a century and a half years of association football, the referee has not once changed his mind. But if you want to win the Eurovision Song Contest, the only way is to write a better song. If you want to win the FA cup, the only way is to kick the ball into the net. If you want to be published by Random House, the only way is to write a better story.

So go ahead, and write a better story.

Fail harder.