So, it’s been a minute–or however many are in a month–since I last posted here. I now realize that was my fangirl post about BookCon, and I’m still nowhere near done with that pile of books. But where I have been? The short version–the only one you probably care about, if you care at all–is that I’ve been caught up. In what? Well, honestly, mostly in trying to keep smiling when customers complain to me about their coffee, in trying not to drown in my TBR list, in trying to afford every YA novel the day it hits shelves, and simply in staying afloat.
My novel has come to a standstill. I’ve received the last of the responses I was waiting for and have finally heard back from that one agent who had my thesis novel. All were ultimately a no, and this brings me to a very vulnerable point in this post.
For some reason, at least amongst my writer friends these days, it’s almost taboo to talk about the querying process. To bring up rejection is to imply that you would like pity, or a pat on the back, or someone standing up from the table in outrage just for your sake. But rejection is such a part of growing as a writer that I’m trying not to shy away from it, trying not to let it get the best of me.
What I also tend to shy away from is talking about the good things these days. I don’t know if it’s a late bit of competition that has sprouted between my friends, but it goes without saying that we simply don’t talk about writing anymore. And if you do, you have to be sensitive to everyone’s place in the process. This is nice, but also a little infuriating, because if you can’t talk about the things that hurt, or your accomplishments with your friends, then what do you do? Just bottle ’em up? Drink about it? Pretend like nothing good is happening to you simply because you’re afraid of hurting your friends? I don’t know, but it’s led me to this small, private space of mine to talk about the things I no longer feel like I can bring up with my friends in fear of hurting someone, sparking a flame of (unwarranted) jealousy, or some other emotion I can’t predict.
Okay, that was totally a mini rant, but I need to talk about my rejections. I need to talk about my frustrations when they say the voice doesn’t sound right. I need to talk about how much I fear having to sacrifice who I am as a writer in order to sell a book in this market. But I can’t talk about that fear of having to turn a serious book about grief into some sort of dark, humorous tale simply so that an agent will ask for the full. But maybe I’ve been comping it wrong, maybe the voice I like to write is too mature for the YA market right now, or maybe, this book just simply isn’t right for the market.
Those are the things I would like to say to my writer friends. I want to tell them that I haven’t written anything since May. Sure, I’ve rewritten that first chapter a dozen times, have gone to Target and spent too much on new candles, pens, notebooks and planners and stickers (I’m a big fan of the reward system), but haven’t written anything of substance. Not a single scene. It’s frustrating and I’ve definitely considered punting my laptop out the window a few dozen times these past two months.
I reread On Writing in hopes that I would find something to spark the creative part of my brain that currently feels dead. Stephen King says to take time away from your manuscript. He takes a season to write, prints it out, shoves it in a drawer (or maybe he feeds the first draft to Molly, AKA the Thing of Evil), and tries his hardest to forget about it so that when he returns, it’s with fresh eyes. He’s taken a step back and can return to the story with clarity.
This doesn’t work for me. Sure, my break was more accidental than on purpose, but not writing–even though it’s not my career and I’m not getting paid for it–stresses me out. I’m cranky, bitchy, and my anxiety is out of this world. So I apologize to everyone who’s dealt with me since May.
I try to stay positive, even as rejection letters flood my inbox. I’m not one to give up. I’m one to use this as some sort of lesson, especially because most have been personalized, along the lines of: it’s not you, it’s me. They like the concept, but aren’t in love with the voice. It’s the most frustrating part of querying. Agents can’t always tell you exactly why they’re rejecting it, and they don’t get paid to give writing advice, so they don’t. Not to mention, they get so many queries they don’t have time to do that. But sometimes it’s because you didn’t punctuate any of your dialogue right, or it’s very clear that writing just may not be a talent you can pursue at a paid level. Other times, it’s that subjective thing again. They just aren’t drawn to it, they aren’t feeling the voice.
THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE NOT A GOOD WRITER. It just means that that agent isn’t for your project. That’s okay.
Until it’s not, of course. But the hardest part of trying to get published is not giving up. It’s going on even when you feel like you’re the only person who gives a damn about your story. It’s convincing yourself to keep writing, keep thinking, hell, keep daydreaming. But don’t stop writing.
I know I’ve talked about rejection a lot lately. Like in my first ever post on here, I think this one is more for me than for you. I am very much stuck in a state of self-doubt, in the worry and realization that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, not everyone’s dreams come true. I’m not sure where to go from here, other than to keep trying.
Because just today, I watched Tomi Adeyemi’s Instagram story and she was on the Tonight Show talking about CBB. I read her blog a few weeks ago, and she received over 60 rejections on her first project, entered Pitch Wars, won, and is now flourishing at what she does. She deserves everything she’s worked for. She’s also an inspiration to those of us who are trying to find the courage to keep writing, to keep querying.
In the end, it’s about timing. It’s about taking a deep breath, reminding yourself you’re still capable of great things. It’s about hope. It’s about knowing that you don’t know the future and what it holds. Finally, it’s about carrying onward, especially when it feels like no one else thinks you’re capable of it.