So … because I didn’t start this blog last Thursday, I’ve got a little bit of catching up to do. I’m going to fill you in on some background real quick and then we’ll get down to where I am now. Once I get this first update posted, I’ll go back and cover a lot of what has happened, writing-wise, over the past 25 years or so. I’m sure you can hardly wait!
I’ve been writing fiction for as long as I can remember, or at least since I was in 5th grade and won the Young Author’s contest at my school/district with the instant classic “My Mysterious Double”. In 6th grade I won again with “Anteater’s Reluctant Journey”. How many stories can you think of with “anteater” in the title? None? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Maybe, if you’re lucky, I can scan/post those stories somehow – they’re a hoot. Check out the covers above -- I'm rocking my Toni Tennille haircut on MMD. To this day I’m not convinced it was actually my writing that won those contests: it could have been my brothers’ illustrations or my mom’s professional binding of the books, or just the incredible covers. But, either way, winning made me believe I could write.
So since I got out of college I have completed (or very nearly completed) 6 novels and 1 feature film script. You can see descriptions of these projects to the left. Unfortunately, most of them are, like many young writers’ attempts, a suckfest of suck. Looking back as a more … um … mature woman, I realize that was all “practice” – it felt good at the time, and there are flashes of brilliance, but now I can see how mediocre most of it is. I shopped some of it around and actually even had an agent for one project (ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS) for a time, but nothing ever came of any of it. Because none of it was really publishable. This is a problem with most writers: we all want to believe we are publishable. But the truth is, we may not be … yet.
If you haven’t read the below Ira Glass quote about creative efforts, please do it. Do it now. It is so good and so true.
About 4 years ago I had an idea for a Young Adult story (I’ll write more about this idea and how it came to me in a later blog post). Over the course of the next 9 months (but really 2-3 months of concentrated writing, and 6 months of just sitting on my ass) I wrote a YA dystopian novel called THE SWAILING. I was convinced that THIS WAS MY MOMENT and embarked on a mission to try to get it published.
For those of you who may not know, here’s a quick summary of the pre-publishing process as I understand it (for fiction, anyway):
(A lot of people ask me why I don’t self-publish or go directly to publishers and avoid the agent middle-man. There are reasons for this, but I will address them in future posts.)
So, after I finished writing and revising THE SWAILING, over the course of a year I sent out 102 queries. Of those 102, 10 agents requested more. I had two R&Rs which eventually turned into rejections. Believe it or not, those probably aren’t terrible numbers. But when I showed my daughter all the rejections I got the other day, she was dumbfounded. “Poor Madre,” she said. Yes, trying to get published is not for the weak!
Ultimately I was told by many agents that, although my premise and writing were strong, the dystopian market was oversaturated and they wouldn’t be able to sell it. Basically, I had sucky timing. I missed the Hunger-Games-aftermath window. So … I begrudgingly put that project aside.
After that year of hard work and hope and thinking I was this close to getting published, I was feeling blue. I wasn’t writing at all and I was wondering if the dream I’d had for the past 30+ years was maybe never going to happen. I knew I had to get myself out of the funk of rejection. So one beautiful fall day I went for a walk and brought along my journal. And I sat at a picnic table at the park and brainstormed ideas for a new novel. And one of those ideas turned into my next project, ZENN DIAGRAM. (I’ll talk more about the writing process for ZENN DIAGRAM in a later post.)
Now here I am, a year and a half later with another completed manuscript, ready to face rejection again. It’s terrifying.
So this is where I am today: I am sending out queries. Last Thursday, when I bit the bullet and sent the first batch out, I targeted the agents who had requested my previous manuscript, or agents who at least wrote me a kind note of encouragement with their "thanks-but-no-thanks." You grasp at whatever straws you can, and if an agent liked your writing once, they might like it again. That first day I sent out 10 queries. The next day I sent out another 5.
Then, miracle of miracles, I got one request for a partial and two requests for fulls! WHAT?! Three responses in one day??? My stats were already skyrocketing past my last project! Then I got a rejection, which sucks the wind right out of your sails. But before I let myself get down about that, I sent out another 2 queries. And that is my first piece of writing advice -- or maybe just life advice in general: NO MATTER WHAT, DON’T WALLOW AND DON’T STOP AND WAIT. Keep moving forward, casting your line out there, keep writing. When you stop, nothing happens. When you wallow, all your energy is spent on feeling sorry for yourself. You have no control or momentum. As long as there is the potential “yes” out there, there is hope. So keep on keeping on.
So I am continuing to send out queries and waiting to hear back. I’ve started this blog. I’m making a list of blog topics. I’m not just treading water while I wait – I’m keeping busy and taking action.
Whew … this is a long one. See why I write novels? ;-)