That light at the end of the tunnel

I never thought I’d say this, but I actually got used to rejection. Once the initial rejection came in on a particular project, I was no longer biting my nails over whether the other publishers were going to like it. Most of the time it was because I’d moved on to another project, one that excited me and wound me up and I was so sure was going to be The One. Although, yeah, on occasion, it was apathy. A very dangerous thing, certainly.

After sending out, and receiving nothing but rejections for, the two urban fantasy novels that are ready to go, I opted to switch my focus to the contemporary romance pieces I have ready. Not About Love isn’t in the running, having been sent to a few publishers and agents without success (though the good news is I think I’ve found a way to trim the issues at the beginning). Which left me with two others: What Didn’t Happen That Night and One Night in Buenos Aires.

Tangent: I haven’t mentioned Buenos Aires before. It’s a novella I wrote in response to a special call by Entangled Publishing. It was, hands down, the most difficult thing I’ve ever written, but after several revisions, I believe the story turned out well.

Anyway. I pitched What Didn’t Happen during a Savvy Authors pitch event. I pitched it a couple times, actually. It landed me a request, and I eagerly sent it off to the editor, then went ahead and sent it off to another editor who had said previously she was looking for romances along a particular story vein. From the enthusiastic response from the editor who liked my pitch, I thought I had a good shot. A great shot. I thought this could be it.

Five weeks later, I got the email saying it wasn’t up to par.

This was totally me.

I’d forgotten how much a rejection could hurt. This one stung. I’m in the middle of the first draft of a new story, and that email came smack in the middle of a problematic chapter. I couldn’t find my momentum, and after reading that email, I was struggling not to cry. I didn’t necessarily agree with the points she made, although from reading them, they’re on a large enough scale to make me think maybe she’s right. And if she is, I haven’t the faintest idea how to go about fixing it.

It was so bad I was tempted to email the other editor and pull What Didn’t Happen from consideration, dead certain as I am she’ll end up rejecting it as well. The BF talked me out of it, pointing out that I don’t have any way of knowing whether this other editor will think the same things.

It was so bad I couldn’t concentrate on my work in progress, and spent the next couple of days trying to pick up the threads. It was so bad I’d come to the rash decision to not query anything for the rest of the year, because it would only be a waste of my time (and theirs).

My point? There’s no hard and fast indicator for when we’ve “made it”.

We could final in a contest, or even win the contest and end up with a partial or full request as a result, but end up getting rejected all the same. We could participate in a pitch event and have our pitches praised to the high heavens, only to have the editor or agent indicate it doesn’t live up to their expectations. We could land that first tiny contract and think we’re on the road, that the next contract will be bigger, give us more exposure, and we end up struggling just as much as we did before we signed the damn thing.

It’s been almost a week since that email. I’ve got it saved to a folder, so I can look at the editor’s comments in a few months without the urge to trash the entire story and vow never to write another word. I still think the story will end up being rejected by the second editor. While I’m not okay with that, I guess you could say I’m resigned to it. I’m less anxious about Buenos Aires; it’s a fun story, but I’m not as attached to it, or its success. There’s a tiny bubble of hope trying to inflate in my chest that once I’ve gone through and cannibalized the first six or so chapters of Not About Love that I can send it off to two publishers I haven’t queried yet, and possibly get a revise and resubmit.

And, of course, there’s my new story. Now that I’m digging into the meat of the relationship between the two main characters and trying out different titles (Fracture, Chasing Hope, Before the Dawn, and Fleeing Shadows have all been suggested), I’m enjoying myself. Whenever I get bogged down by the editing process and trying to meet contest deadlines or story ideas that aren’t fleshing out the way I’d hoped, I tend to forget just how much I enjoy this, how supremely awesome it is to realize I managed to write not one, but two 2500 word chapters in a day (hooray for weekends!). That’s what I need to remember: the end game matters, but it won’t mean shit if I don’t enjoy the creation of it. I’m not saying I’m suddenly okay with the idea of never being published. Just that I can always write another story, and maybe, just maybe, this will be The One.

9 thoughts on “That light at the end of the tunnel

  1. Keep writing! As they say, many great authors were rejected. They persisted until their books were recognised. Also remember to do what you love; it’s a dream to be published but don’t forget to love your writing. Write on, my friend! That light at the end of the tunnel shines bright! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hey there! Sorry to hear about the editor’s comments, always tough to have our expectations crushed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Have you thought about self publishing?

    1. I have, though it’s not something I’m ready to consider at this point. There are some people who do it well, and if I went that direction, I’d want to be one of them, which means finding an editor, a designer, and building more of a presence than I have now. Maybe someday!

  3. Yesterday one of my FB friends shared Anne Lamott’s status update, which echoes your post fairly well. Here’s a chunk of it:

    “I am watching a couple of dear friends on book tour, who are with major publishing houses, who are every unpublished writer’s dream come true– earlier books that became best sellers, big reviews, loyal followers. Their books are the best work of their lives, major accomplishments, and yet, did not quite take off.

    So my writer friends’s hearts are heavy and they have been made to feel sort of like–failures. That’s really the word, and they really have. It’s so crazy! Beautiful books by highly regarded artists–it’s all hopeless. It’s Glengarry Glen Ross out there. Coffee is for closers!

    Mamas, don’t let your children grow up to be writers.

    Wait, wait, I don’t really mean that, because creation and discipline and radical self-care WILL bring you what you seek. Creativity–commitment to the creative spirit–is medicine.”

    So, you’re right, Amanda. It’s about the creative process, and the satisfaction you feel for putting your truth on a page. You’re very good at it, and it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to read your work.

    1. “Mamas, don’t let your children grow up to be writers.” Ha.

      I know the only thing I can do is keep trying, no matter how hard it gets. But I think taking some time away from the whole process and just creating is something every writer needs to do. It’d be far too easy to get wrapped up in the cycle of query and promote.

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