Fear’s a great motivator. It’s an even better leash.
I was talking with one of my writer buddies the other day about fear. We’re both in the midst of some hand-wringing moments, and trying to move past them is…difficult.
One I’ve been dealing with has to do with edit notes. I recently got them back on Hidden Scars, the story I’ll be self-publishing next spring (cue hand-wringing). You remember I’d submitted this under its original title to two digital-first publishers, and both turned it down? Yeah, well, after reading the notes, I can understand why.
It’s not that it’s a poorly written book. I have enough confidence in my writing that I can believe it’s decently written. But the questions and points the editor made kind of had me cringing because I could see what she was talking about – which gave me several facepalm and “why didn’t I think of that?” moments.
Great, fantastic, this is all well and good, it gives me plenty of direction for fixing it so I can be reasonably certain I’ll turn out a good product that people will enjoy. That’s not the point. The point is that I’d thought this story was submission ready. I wouldn’t have sent it in otherwise. When it was rejected, well, obviously the editors didn’t agree, and after reading the notes, I have an idea or three about why.
Which leads me to my other submissions. I’ve got two out at the moment. I thought they were as good as I could make them, that there was a pretty good chance the editor would agree with me. Now? Now I’m not so sure.
Lest you pooh-pooh me, my paranoia gets worse. At the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this October, I’ll be pitching to an editor with one of the Big 5. Fabu opportunity, no? Considering you’d normally need an agent to get your work in front of one of these editors, I’d say that falls squarely in the yes category. I was waffling back and forth between pitching Fracture (and trying to get someone else to publish it instead of going the self-pub route) and pitching Game of Shadows, which I’ve just started revising. Then the big ol’ paranoia hammer falls, and I start thinking…
…maybe I shouldn’t pitch at all.
I want that contract too much. It’s a rare thing to catch in the wild, an editor with a Big 5, and given the feedback I’ve gotten of late, I wonder if maybe the stories aren’t up to snuff, if I’m just setting myself up for disappointment. Self-defeatist? Uh, yeah. No shit.
So how do I move past this?
In the case of my current submissions, I take a deep breath, hitch up my big girl panties, and hit send. One of those subs I haven’t sent anywhere other than my current publisher, and I could easily wait until next year and send it elsewhere if they say no (it’s a holiday story). The other? I’ve still got some options I could pursue, and yes, one of them is self-pub.
But the pitching? I honestly don’t know. Turning down the pitch opportunity would be stupid. Worst case scenario, it’s great practice, and I can always try pitching the stories again at Nationals next summer, provided I can find the money to go. Having to deal with the possible disappointment (potentially massive disappointment), though, could have me slinking off into the corner and glaring at anyone who comes within ten feet of me.
I don’t have the answer to that particular question right now. I wish I did. It’d probably save me some stress I could be expending on other things. Since I don’t, I’ll just continue drinking my weight in Pepsi and staring blankly at my laptop screen.
How do you handle the fear?