Feb 21, 2012
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.