Melodrama, I haz it.

Writing a novel, then editing, polishing, editing some more: 3-6 months.

Writing a query letter good enough to catch an agent’s eye: 2-4 weeks.

Researching agents that are legitimate, accepting queries and have made sales this century: 1-4 weeks for round 1.

Waiting to hear back from partials and requested pages: 6 – 18 months.

Having that one dream agent ask for a sample: Priceless.

Getting her form rejection 5 days later: Pure, unadulterated shitzu!

So this weekend I was seriously bummed. An agent I would consider “a dream agent” had asked for pages, then five days later rejected them without comment. It’s not unusual, unfortunately not at all unusual. In fact a friend of mine  had that same writerly kick in the nads recently, only his happened in a few hours from a requested full, where mine left me 5 whole days to live the dream on only a requested 35 pages. I can’t say it happens to all of us, because there’s a writer I know who claims he’s never seen a rejection, and everything he’s ever written since he first put words to paper sold the first time. Well, he can kiss my ass.

The vast majority of us struggle, sweat, cry and bleed for various amounts of time. Few of us see success, many of us toil until death, keeping the faith and holding up the bottom of the barrel for everyone else. Now and again one of us gets lucky and finds an agent – but that’s only part of the plot. You still gotta hope that agent can sell your work of wonder – struggle with editors that want you to rewrite the entire plot, publishers who hate your title, push back your production date, then dump you after low sales. And that’s just for one novel. Wanna write a sequel? Wanna write another one? Wanna make a LIVING at this??


So this weekend, as I was wallowing in self pity, I wondered when it would be time to throw in the proverbial towel. You know, after years of rejections, novel after novel after novel going unpublished, agent after agent sending you nothing more informative than a big fat Form Rejection. When you have strangers beta for you – people with no compunction to lie to save your feelings. When you know you’ve conquered the spelling and grammar speed bump that 90% of the other submitters haven’t figured out. When you realize you’ve told countless fantastic stories that YOU’D pay money to read, but no one else ever will . . . When do you throw in the towel?

For the record, I’m far from that point. I’ve only been at this serious querying business for one year now. It sounds pathetic, but it’s way too soon to quit. Not when there are other novels still in me. Sure, they may well suck, but we won’t know for quite some time. Many sucessful authors took years to sell a novel, almost never the first attempt, typically well into the teens, actually. And while I’ve written many novels, I’ve only so far attempted to publish one.

I’ve heard writers say they couldn’t ever stop writing. That if they didn’t write, they’d die in some melodramatic fashion. That writing is their LIFE, and if you took away their pens and papers (sounds more melodramtic than computers) then they would literally cease to be.

My response: Oh pu-leeze. It’s not a soap opera, people. Stop eating, you’ll die. Stop breathing, you’re a goner. Get some horrific, incurable disease – it’s the end. But stop writing? You’ll find another job.

If I didn’t want, very much, to have an audience and get my stories read by strangers, I wouldn’t waste my time. I could sit happily soaking in the bubble bath daydreaming my novel ideas and never have to spend a minute in front of the screen. Thing is, I do want an audience. I do want, very much, to have my stories read by strangers.

So I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep writing, keep polishing, keep querying. I won’t let this one particular rejection get me down. It wasn’t the first, it won’t be the last. I’ll shake it off, and continue to write what I love, what I want to read. I’ll keep fighting the good fight, believing in the dream, yada yada yada. 

Because, in the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

5 thoughts on “Melodrama, I haz it.

  1. First — my sympathies. Writing is a tough gig and sometimes it seems only other writers understand. You’re a great writer–keep going! Of course, you’d keep going regardless, but we support you. 🙂

    Second — Yeah, I probably wouldn’t die if I stopped writing–if you mean writing *the career*, sure, another career is around the corner.

    If I couldn’t write *period* though–not for myself, not for any reason–then yes, I’d die. I rather think that’s more what people are referring to when they say they’d die without the writing.

    I’ve been through rough times–and we aren’t talking ‘my boyfriend cheated on me’ rough, we’re talking ‘my father tried to strangle me and I am worthless’ rough–and I thought I’d stopped writing through them. But when I looked back, writing was how I reached out–to myself, and to others. It wasn’t fiction necessarily, it wasn’t even publishable most of the time, it was just writing.

  2. I don’t know what’s wrong with wordpress today, but it keeps timing out on me and I can’t log in.


    That out of the way… I wish it only took me 3-6 months to complete a novel.

    And guess what? I stopped writing once. For several years. I didn’t die. I didn’t even get sick. I didn’t even miss it. So when I threaten to quit, I know I can do it, just like I quit smoking.

    There was a time after the birth of my first son that something had to give. He was colicky and I’d go to sleep as early as I could, some nights as early as 8:30, because I knew I’d be up at 2 or 3 with a crying baby.

    I also was suffering from an undiagnosed slow thyroid, so I was tired all the time from that, plus it gave me the worst case of carpel tunnel. I couldn’t type for more than 5 minutes or my wrists would be burning with pain, my hands turned into stiff claws.

    So, I’d say for a period of 3 maybe 4 years, I stopped writing. Totally. And I survived just fine.

    Once I came back, however, I think I’ve since been writing the best stuff I’ve ever written. So maybe taking a break actually helped. (Although it hasn’t helped me get an agent any.)

  3. And how many people walk the foothills of Everest without ever reaching the top?

    It’s tough, and it sucks to put all the effort in only to get a “sorry not for me”. But you know what? You’re doing better than the people (like me) who hardly dare walk up even the gentlest of slopes.

  4. You’ll get there. I believe you’ve got some good material floating around in your head. I look forward to being able to go and grab some of my TGTD friends’ books off the shelves of the local bookstore and take them home with me.

  5. I know that I wouldn’t die without writing. It IS melodramatic to assume that. But what scares me — and what I don’t have an answer to, is — I don’t know what I’d do with all the headspace and heartspace that is filled up with stories. I think I could stop trying to sell writing, but I don’t think I could stop telling stories. Even if I only ever did it in my head.

    But I’d find something else to do. The older I get, the more things I find. I’ll go become a survival instructor. I’ll go deep sea exploring. I’ll…well, something, probably.

    Keep writing. I can’t offer encouragement for the submission, the querying process, any of that, because I hate it so much that I frequently lose the willpower to bother and I go back to writing stories, that which makes me happiest. But it’s a necessary evil. And, in the grand scheme of things…there are worse problems. 🙂

    Anyway, you’re a good writer. That always helps.

    (And if all else fails for you and I, then I bet you we could make money with writing on the internets. So there’s a nice fallback idea. Or dream. Or delusion. Or what have you.)

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