This is a follow-up to an earlier post with many more numbers. If you like numbers, you can find it here.
Silence (cross-dressing girl warrior story): another rejection of the full manuscript. There’s now one agent who still has it for consideration. It’s just about time to relegate this manuscript to the Deepest, Darkest Drawer.
Vessel (magical girls and sea monsters): another request for the full manuscript. Another rejection of the full manuscript from an earlier request. I’ve sent more queries, for a total of 143. I’m nearing the end of my list of agents who might be a good fit for this book. Once that happens, barring an offer of representation, it will then be time to consign this project to the Drawer.
What I’ve learned: My first experience querying agents taught me that I needed to work on plotting. That was the one critique that consistently came up. I’ve been working on it. With Silence and Vessel, the critiques have been all over the place, which is kind of hopeful, since it seems to suggest that I haven’t really royally mucked anything up–I just haven’t yet found the agent who’s the right fit for my work.
How I feel about all this: It’s hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I ran track in high school, I was a sprinter. Marathons are not my jam. I’ve been running a mega-ultra-super-marathon for the past ten years as I’ve been putting my writing out in the publishing world. Though criticism felt deadly ten years ago, I’ve learned to truly appreciate it. It can make my writing better. What’s hard is the not-knowing, the wondering if/when I will “make it,” if I’ll be one of the extraordinarily fortunate very few who manage to make a career out of writing fiction. It’s frequently demoralizing to think about this. With some regularity, I fall into pits of despair.
Over the past ten years I’ve been querying and blogging, I’ve seen obscure bloggers I’ve followed go viral and get book deals. I’ve seen random writers on Twitter find agents and hit it big. I wonder what I am doing wrong. I wonder if the industry is broken. I get super-twitchy when I think about my kickass critique partners who have written books that are better than much of the published work I’ve read in their genres, but who aren’t yet published. I wonder what it takes–is it some weird alchemy of hard work + talent + circumstance + sheer luck + unicorn blood?
A friend asked me the other day how I keep writing. I can’t not write. And I can’t stop trying, either, for the career that I want. I feel like this is what I am for. I know of no other job that could make me this fulfilled, match so perfectly with my sense of who I am and what I am here to do.Sometimes I really wish I wanted any other career. One of those nice, normal careers where you train for x number of years and pass certain tests and fulfill certain requirements and then get a position. Why can I not want to be something else?
I could question this, and publishing, and what I am doing with my life, all day. But the bottom line is that, as much as I think and say “can’t not, can’t stop,” this is what I choose. It’s hard. It’s pretty damn near impossible. Often it downright stinks. Yet this is still a choice. I need to keep that truth close, cozy up to it, as prickly as it is. I could choose to quit at any moment. That option is always open.
The thing about ten years of trying and failing is that you get to know yourself pretty well, especially the ugly bits. But also the good ones. And what I know is this–I would rather struggle to be happy than accept being content. So I keep going.