On discouragement

It’s easy to feel discouraged as a writer.  To begin with, we have trouble convincing ourselves that our writing is any good.  It’s just a hobby, we tell ourselves, It’s not like I’m ever going to be published.  Sure, we imagine walking through Barnes & Noble and seeing our books right there, on the shelf, made of actual paper, but it’s a dream, really.  We think about how our characters will be able to brighten someone’s day, or ignite a reader’s imagination.  But it’s not something we actually plan on doing.  And then, somehow, as the years go by, and we’ve finished several ‘starter’ novels, we finally come up with something that we think we might be ready to share with the world.

And so we take the leap.  We query.  We get rejected.  Again and again.  It’s all a part of the process, and we know it.  But sometimes, it starts to get to us.  Or maybe I’m alone in this.  Some may have more resilience…but I doubt it.  I think all of us feel the discouragement that I’m feeling today.

You guessed it, another “pass” on my query.  Very kind, very polite, and exactly as it should be.  It’s not my first rejection; rather, it is the one that feels very much like the straw that came right before the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The one that makes me think that maybe this should be just another starter novel, even though I’m in love with my characters and would never tell them to their faces that they might end up just being more ‘practice.’  

So, I suppose my question is this: where should the line be drawn concerning rejection and discouragement, on one side, and acknowledging a product that is not ready for the world, on the other?  Moreover, where is the line that stands between writing as a hobby and writing as a profession (in other words, giving up ‘the dream’)?  I’ve thought about this a lot today, as I walked around the neighborhood with my six-month-old daughter strapped to my chest, watching her face positively light up and revel in the joy of rattling an iron gate repeatedly against its own locking mechanism (sorry for the racket, neighbors).  And I think in her perfect, uninhibited smile I found the answer.

Writing is something I’ve found joy in from the beginning; something that made me smile and feel fulfilled since the first time I allowed my creativity to flow.  Now, it might not seem like as rowdy and carefree a time as banging an old iron gate, but I assure you, my smile is just as genuine when I finish a story as my daughter’s was today.  And that, my friends, is why I will not give up on the dream.

Because although it is easy to take rejection personally, and to be discouraged by “pass” after “pass” after “pass,” none of it can take away the sincerity of my story.  None of it can take away the accomplished feeling I get from finding the perfect words to end each chapter, and finally each book.  That is how I know that the things I write matter, and that I am in the right business, even if the ‘business’ end has not necessarily taken off yet.

So, I guess I’m saying, in so many words, don’t give up.  Keep living the dream (because you are–you’re living it every time you write), and don’t let the rejections get you down.  At the end of the day, if publication doesn’t happen (and don’t give up on trying!), at least you’ve contributed to the world by creating something meaningful.

And in the meantime, if you’re feeling frustrated, I’ve discovered that rattling iron gates is actually a very cathartic coping mechanism.  🙂

First Love

As a writer, fiction is my first love.  I remember clearly sitting at my father’s old, gargantuan computer monitor, watching as the black screen filled with those golden letters in one of the early versions of MS DOS.  I was a puzzling child; I excelled at running around outside, climbing tress and slithering through marsh mud, climbing to the top of the elementary school’s fire escape, or sometimes plunging into the ocean.  And yet I was equally as content sitting at the computer monitor, writing about adventures in faraway places I had completely imagined in my head.  There were shipwrecks and haunted houses, complexes of underground caves and mysterious spells.  But here’s the puzzling part: I didn’t particularly like to read.  It was painfully boring to me, but I did it because some of my friends did (see, peer pressure can be positive!).  I would much rather have been off having real adventures of my own, or dreaming exciting ones up in my head,than reading about other people’s adventures.  Boooring.

Obviously, that changed.  I think around the fourth or fifth grade I read a book about ancient Egypt, and I was intrigued.  Then, of course, came Sweet Valley Twins and R. L. Stine.  Maybe I had grown up enough to shed a level of juvenile selfishness, and was able to empathize with others.  Or maybe I had just found the right words.

Now, as an adult, however, I feel myself drawn ever more to non-fiction.  I love the power of prose when a person is writing about their own feelings, openly and bravely.  Currently, I’m reading a treasure called Bend, Not Break by Ping Fu, and I am completely absorbed.  There is so much to be gained from taking a moment to engage in someone else’s life.  Even more so, much is to be gained from taking a moment to reflect on instances in your own life.  And that is why the personal essay is my new love; it actually is easier for me than fiction.  Does that mean I simply have a reflective mind?  Or does it simply reveal the challenge it truly is to write a quality fictional novel?  I think maybe a little bit of both.  So, as tempting as it is to dwell on the skill that is both enjoyable and easy for me, I’ll press on with my fiction writing.

Because I haven’t forgotten my first love; no one ever can.

PS: If you do happen to write personal essay pieces and are looking for an outlet, check out this helpful link that I’ve found on Meghan Ward’s blog–20 places to publish essays.  Happy Friday!

The Infamous Nudge

Up until recently, I had a manuscript out with an agent.  Well over the allotted number of weeks had gone by, and I was coming dangerously close to sending that “nudge” email.  In fact, the only reason I didn’t send it was because I wasn’t sure what exactly to say.  “Uh, hey, remember me and my book from a few months ago?  Have you, uh, like, read it yet?  Just wondering!”

I was lucky enough to run across this blog post by Vickie Motter on her blog Navigating the Slushpile.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course, but I think it’s SO useful to see at least one example of a “nudge” email.  It seems simple enough, but goodness knows that during the querying stage we authors are quite afraid of taking a wrong step!  Thanks for the info!  Her blog also is filled with lots of information and tips that are useful to writers!  Check it out!

(Unfortunately for me, before I had to send the “nudge” email, I received a rejection on the manuscript.  But I persevere!)

Simple Tagline

The next step in my preparation for the writer’s conference is to come up with a simple tagline to put on the back of my business cards.  Of course, I am having trouble coming up with the perfect thing!  Without giving too much of my story away (I hate spoilers!), which of the following seems to strike up the most interest?  Thoughts?

  • “More than immortal.”
  • “Finding the anchor within.”
  • “One Curse to destroy the world. One Immortal to destroy it.  One Liaison to show the way.  And one Ordinary girl to save them all.”

Getting Down to Business

As I prepare to attend my first ever writer’s conference, I have found myself swimming in a deluge of options for, you guessed it, business cards.

What exactly should a writer put on a business card?  Basic contact info, obviously, but how detailed should I get? Should I list what genres I write?  Do they really need my physical mailing address?  Is it okay to make cutesy business cards, or she I keep things strictly business?

Luckily, I have stumbled across this blog post by Lauren Ruth on Slushpile Tales, which gives at least one publisher’s opinion on the matter; it’s got the answers to a lot of the questions I had.  I thought I’d share the wealth!

Little Baby Author

It has recently come to my attention that in today’s world, even a budding author ought to have some type of online presence.  Agents search for information about you online, as well as potential employers?  That’s the word on the street.  And by street, I mean the internet (where information is much more reliable than on the street).  

Okay, okay–confession time.  This didn’t come to my attention all that recently.  I’ve been hearing it for a while now, but procrastinated because I was nervous of sharing my work with others and really putting myself out there.  But I’m finally ready to come out of my shell, cast a line out into the literary world, and see if anything bites.  Here’s to hoping!  More to come!