I’d say it’s time for our quarterly report… erm… post… But that might imply there’s some sort of regularity, rhyme and/or reason to my posting (or lack thereof) on this blog.
Still, it having been four months or so since my last update, I figured it was about time to check in with news… Except there aren’t any, other than I’m exhausted, and emotionally/psychologically drained thanks to the brutal cycle of querying-and-rejection.
Warning: This is a rant. The whine-minus-cheese kind. If you’re not up for it, I urge you to leave while you still can. If you’re brave enough (or curious enough) to keep reading, I recommend popcorn, dark chocolate or your choice of alcoholic beverage. Heck, have all three. God knows I might.
Did I think I was going to have insta-success in publishing, back almost a year ago now, when Wonderful Husband and I decided I should take some time off work to focus on my writing?
The truth is, shopping around my current young adult novel is not my first rodeo. Not exactly. A few years ago I finished, revised, beta-ed, re-revised and submitted a sprawling historical novel which is currently shelved in the ‘to be reworked someday’ section of my hard drive. Back then, I had no idea of the dismal odds for a debut author to be able to entice an agent in this day and age to read (let alone represent) a 120,000-word manuscript. Yes, you read correctly: 120,000 words. And that was heavily edited already, because originally, that puppy clocked in at just over *mutters* xxx,xxx words. Ahem. Let’s just say it was almost twice as big as its current size. So, after a few form rejections (and a lot of research on the publishing industry), I decided to shelf the mega project temporarily.
So I knew about rejection. And I knew one hell of a lot more than when I started shopping around the monster manuscript.
So when I decided to start a brand-new project, I went in with eyes wide open. I took my time. Came up with an idea. Developed it. Self-edited. Had an alpha reader go through it. Revised. Shelved to gain some distance. Re-revised. Shelved to gain distance again. Had several beta readers go through the latest version. Revised. Revised. Revised. Polished to a friggin’ shine.
In the meantime, a lot of life stuff happened, crowding my life so much (in a good way), that I found myself unable to devote the time, energy and effort that serious writing required. Enter The Experiment–or what I like to call my Writing Leave, in which with all the support of Wonderful Husband, I have the opportunity to take at least two years off the day job to focus on my personal goals. Namely, to see my name in print.
Did I think I’d just finish my “last” round of revisions, submit and get an agent within two weeks/months? Nope. I might have thought so back when I finished my original mammoth historical, but not this time. From my previous experience (and the still dismal odds), I knew it was going to be hard. I expected rejection–plenty of it. I expected it so much, at first it didn’t really bug me all that much. I workshopped my query letter, revised, re-workshopped, came up with a few alternative versions. I figured, eventually, at the very least, I’d start getting some sort of personalized rejections–something that would at the very least hint at what I was doing wrong, so I could have something to puzzle over and have a fighting chance to fix. After all, more often than not, I took pains (and tons of friggin’ time) to research potential agents well, painstakingly personalizing every query letter. Innocently, I thought it would be just a matter of time before someone would reply in kind and a personalized rejection would hit my inbox.
To date: NADA. That’s querying from April – June, halting to re-workshop a new version of my query, and restarting in August.
We’re talking about hours upon hours upon HOURS of work here, from idea, to draft, to revised draft after revised draft after revised draft, for both the manuscript and the query letter(s). Then more hours upon hours upon HOURS researching potential agents, making sure they sound like a good fit for myself and for my book.
And what have I got to show for it?
Form rejection galore–from the super nice ones, to the ‘go away’ equivalents, to the deafening silence of the non-responders.
Partial requests? Three. One was form-rejected, two are still out there, weeks later. I will be nudging on those, because they were both requested at a conference, but at this point, I swear I’m no longer holding my breath.
Forums and Twitter feeds and success stories all over the Internet say to not get discouraged, to never give up, to keep writing. I’ve been trying desperately to follow this advice, but the truth is, I’ve finally hit the point of utter exhaustion.
Since I started querying what is actually the first in a young adult trilogy (heavily tailored to stand on its own), I’ve finished drafting the last book in that series. It’s still very, very, extremely rough, but it’s there. I also started a brand-new, completely unrelated project, too. So, yes, I’ve made a point of keeping writing. But lately, I find that I sit in front of my computer, and even though I kind of sort of already know the story in my head, the words are just not coming.
The truth is that, no matter how much I get a kick out of playing with words, how much I love making stuff up and developing characters that start to feel real in my head… It’s really hard to carry on when you don’t have even the slightest hint of validation coming your way. And note that, at this point, I’m not even talking about The Offer. I’m just plain aching for just a personalized rejection. Something that says to me, “your idea is cool, but work on the writing” or “your writing is good, make it great” or ANYTHING, really–even a “I can’t sell this. It’s maudlin/over-written/wordy/too voicey/not voicey enough/fill in the blank.”
Thing is, I know I can write. I did make my living at it for almost a decade. And if I, my past employers and recent beta readers are wrong and my writing, in fact, sucks, it would be nice to know and figure out how to fix it. But you can only fix something so much when you don’t even know what’s wrong anymore. It might be the idea/concept. But, again, I’m just guessing here. I mean, I think my concept solid, taking a known theme in a completely different direction. (I know it’s different, because I made it up. Also, I read a lot and I know there’s nothing quite like it in the market right now.) I’ve tried about a gazillion different things to highlight to make the query stand out. Clearly, not one of said gazillion things is working, because, beyond the silence, all I keep getting is form rejections. So maybe I’m wrong and the concept sucks. Again, just taking a wild guess.
So, now I’m at the point of not really knowing what else to do. I will continue querying with bettered and modified query letters for a little while longer, but at the end of the day, I’m starting to seriously consider self-publishing–not because that’s what will be best for my book (or for me), but because it increasingly seems like the only viable answer. And while not ideal, what’s worse? Having my characters just languish in my hard drive after all the hours of work and all the heart I’ve put into their story? Or send the book out into the world, even if it has to go all alone, with no one but myself to champion its cause?