Feb 21, 2012

Reality Check

The title of this post should more acurately be called: when you can't figure out why you're not getting any (or more) requests.  But that's a bit bulky for a title.

Although I've been blogging only since last summer, I've noticed there isn't a bloghop that goes by without evidence of the awesome writerly community online. Comments are filled with encouragement and statements of how talented we all are. Taken from a nurturing standpoint, this is wonderful.
 
Taken from a business/reality standpoint, it's awful. And here's why.

Say you're an emerging writer who has a great idea for a first book. You've stayed up late writing so fast, your fingers smoke. You follow blogs that cover technique, you track your favorite authors. You've started a blog and are dipping into the Twitter waters. You critique, comment, contest and campaign your little heart out. You've even sent your MS off to a few betas who all respond with hearty applause, so you gird your loins and start writing a query. A few months - and hopefully revisions - later and off it flies to agent inboxes.

And...nada. You might get a request or two out of every fifty queries sent but after that? Crickets. Or rejections. And those few requests end up months later in form rejections.

Because, despite what all your readers have said (and they're great people, they want you to succeed) you're not ready. Your idea has too much competition, your MS rambles like an out-of-control freight train and you are the rule, not the exception. It's the equivalent of going in public with your fly down and nobody telling you.  Or having something green in your teeth and everybody smiling vaguely while avoiding looking directly at you. Or....well, you get the picture. Your blogging buddies, your betas, your family, aren't telling you the truth - either because they can't see it or they don't know.

You realize this in stages as the months go by. First denial, then anger, then tears - all the stages of grief encompass you and you wonder in despair if you just DON'T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES. *sob*

Here's the thing: you don't. Not yet. Not with this MS. Not with this economy/trends in the market/writing abilities you have right now.  I underlined that for emphasis because it's everything. 

This is the point when many emerging writers go for self-publishing. And I'm not knocking this. There are success stories every few months of self-pubbers who go on to land a publishing contract (and thousands more who sell ten copies.) If that's your choice, go for it. You'll learn a lot.

For those of you whose dream it is to go the traditional route, know this: Just because your current MS has more rejections than Jack Black at a super model convention doesn't mean your next story is doomed.

All these rejections are telling you now is to try harder. READ. Write something else, maybe a short story or a nonfiction article. Hone your craft by going shorter, learning how to trim, focus, target, plot. READ. Find a beta who isn't scared of hurting your feelings and will tell you what's wrong. READ. Grow a thick skin so you don't get offended, so you can actually learn from those comments.  Be suspicious of kind comments because, let's face it, you're not Shakespeare.  (oh..and READ. Set a goal for at least a book a week. I won't tell you how many I read bc it is kind of embarrassing in a holy-cow-she-has-no-life way.)

You will get better with relentless practice. In the meantime, the market might shift so your next MS is now the trend.

Realize this. Own it. Move on. There's a reason most professional writers look more like the Velveteen Rabbit than Barbie. It's just part of being real.

23 comments:

Mindy McGinnis said...

You make a good point, and an even better point for getting a crit partner who won't do you the disservice of holding your hand. My crit partners tell me in no uncertain terms when I'm off base, and that's the best thing a writer can ask for.

Kyra Lennon said...

This is a scary, but very honest post! I agree with you completely though, and especially about having a great CP who won't pat you on the head and tell you you're awesome, unless it's the truth lol!

Cassie Mae said...

writing is indeed a PROCESS! And we need all the help we can during it all.

Awesome post Melodie. You never cease to amaze ;)

Angelica R. Jackson said...

That's definitely part of the learning process, weeding out the cheering section and the truthful critiquers. There are absolutely places for both of them in your writing life, just be aware of what they're offering and what you're going to take away.

Linda Jackson said...

Thank you for telling the honest-to-goodness truth!

Jeigh said...

Great advice. A good CP is critical, and it's important to remember that even if your story doesn't work, for any reason, doesn't mean you can't write something that will work. Persevere. And READ!

Rebecca Belliston said...

So, so true. While I love nice and kind beta readers, I'm so leery now, it's hard to trust what they say. Thanks for the post.

Jenny S. Morris said...

So true! I feel like my CP's were very honest with me. But there was still things they couldn't see. And I have had someone be completely honest and it helped SO much. Does it mean that my current WIP is IT. Probably not. But I've learned so much.

Great, honest, post!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Ugh. This rang true to me. And just so everyone knows, this happens to agented writers, too. It's somehow even worse when your agent tells you what you have is unsellable (the second book after the one he or she fell in love with). I never cried over "rejection" until I was agented. We just keep going, though, right? Keep learning and growing!

Kelley said...

Great post Melodie. I agree 100%. After I typed 'the end' on my first MS I thought it would be the one.

Pa!

Now, four manuscripts later I do feel like I'm in a place where my writing is clean, my plot line and character arcs ring true. I'm getting full requests and winning some contests.

Am I done learning? Hell no. And I'm not silly to think that even though my current MS is gaining traction that its 'the one'. Nope. I'm querying it hard but I'm also writing the next.

Thanks for the wonderful, truthful words!

Carrie Butler said...

More rejections than Jack Black at a super model convention... *Snickers*

Sharon Bayliss said...

Good post! As much as I love praise, I have to ask...if I'm so awesome, why don't I have an agent yet? I want the real deal. And I starting to look a lot like Velveteen rabbit (on the inside and sometimes on the outside too) so maybe I'm getting close. :)

Christopher S. Ledbetter said...

Thank you for this. The reality check is indeed sobering. But it only applies to right now... not the future.

ladonna watkins said...

Great post. We need the reality check.

elizabeth seckman said...

Truer words were never spoken. It's understanding this that puts knots in my stomach.

Daisy Carter said...

Excellent post. Love the tough love!

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Amen, sista. I'd rather have brutal honesty, although gentle is always nice, than false declarations of my brilliance. Someday we come to recognize the latter for what they are, and it doesn't help us appreciate them more.

Suzi said...

Great post. Sometimes as a new writer, finding those good critiquers is the hardest part.

I never ever ever ever... expected what this would take when I started writing. Editing. Queries. Agents. There's so much to learn.

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban said...

I agree. No matter how good you are, rejection is a fact.

It took me over thirty rejections to get a publishing house for my first book, Two Moon Princess.

And even with a published book, it took me over a hundred rejections to get an agent to represent my next book.

In this business, persistence is the key.

Sarah Pearson said...

You make a good case as to why choosing compatible critique partners and beta readers is so important.

Jolene Perry said...

SUCH a good point.

It's funny because after doing a VERY few online blogfests, or post your first 250 - I learned two things.
people are either too nice, or people pull it apart just to pull it apart.
I wasn't getting anything from it. Not really.

And yeah, I think it takes a while for most people to develop the kind of thick skin we need as writers, but once you do, THEN you'll really start to move forward with your writing.

jonyangorg said...

Great and honest post, thank you.

Laura Barnes said...

Excellent post. There is another side too: when you are a very open and honest beta and the writer doesn't believe you because all of her other betas "loved!" it. It does make it hard to want to be honest.