Way back when I started on the path to publication, before I knew I could somewhat string words together to make books and pretty-sounding things, my belief in "the process" was at its highest level. You know the one. It's full of hope (full of something), and dreams of what could be. You imagine your book on the front display at the bookstore and signing autographs and hanging out in coffee shops with the likes of Stephen King while you discuss plot twists and character flaws, all while laughing at all the "others" who won't make the full journey. Because it's hard and they'll quit. But this is about something else. This is about all the things no one will say. And why it sucks so hard.
If you'll remember waaaaaayyyy back, I wrote a book that was a winner of the Teenfire/Sourcebooks writing competition. Before that book, I didn't know who I was as a writer. Sure, I'd made some money from it, but nothing major. That contest gave me validation. That what I was doing was right. The announcement fell between a mile-high stack of rejections and my loss of faith in myself, so the timing couldn't have been better.
But it wasn't enough.
I revised the crap out of that book, re-queried, and sat on the silence. For months. One agent took a keen interest in my writing and unofficially helped me shape the book into something solid. It was happening. Someone FINALLY believed enough in my writing to take a real chance. She offered representation, sent pages and pages of notes along with the contract and gave me a reason to believe. In myself. In dreams. In good things happening to those who work hard enough.
After months of re-writing [what is still] my favorite love story of all time, I submitted all things book-ish to my agent. I loved saying that, too. MY AGENT. I said it every chance I got because I earned it. Just as all of you with agents say it, it made my tongue tingle with anticipation for what the future may hold.
And then she disappeared.
Literally. She left all her clients in the dust. No explanation. No apology. NOTHING. And that's exactly what I felt like when I had no response all those months of calling and emailing. NOTHING.
I stopped writing altogether because it hurt too much. Over a hundred rejections, multiple re-writes, and although most could agree they loved "my voice," only one agent took a chance on me. And she was gone.
It was nearly a year before I came across a freelance writing/editing website to make some money and gradually pick up the pieces of my writing heart. It was hard. I kind of hated it. I wanted, so badly, for my book to make it. That story and I had been through SO MUCH together. And even still, I *know* I have something there. It hasn't garnered the attention it has for no reason. But it doesn't matter...
Every now and then, I still re-query my baby. But the truth is, agents don't know what they want, regardless of what they say. Even when they think they do, and they have what they're asking for in their hands, it's not guaranteed they'll love it. I received a rejection SIX MONTHS after sending a requested full. It came out of nowhere. It doesn't matter that in the years' prior, I've written books for best-selling authors or that I'm a writer with a real voice. It doesn't matter that I would re-write until my fingers fall off to see my book on a shelf. I kept telling myself 'if I had time, I'd write one of the other books I have notebooks full of outlines for.'
That's what everyone says: Move on. Write another book. Keep going.
But if agents are sold mostly on talent and voice, and everything else is fixable, then why are so many amazing writers stuck in this no-man's land and why are so many terrible books on the shelves? I don't get it. And maybe I'm not supposed to. Maybe I should just do what everyone says and live inside the box to obtain commercial success on my own merit.
So while you're querying, stop and think about all the rules we're supposed to abide by and in 2014, decide to break them. Do things YOUR way. Don't let all the nonsense get into your head. Don't read about all the cool stuff Author A is doing. Focus on you. I swear. This is the year I write another book.
In my own name.