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On "Treasuring" being unpublished....


Michael Bourret, of Dystel & Goderich literary agency, has a rather interesting post up on his blog, about how writers should enjoy the time that they have before they get a book deal, that is is a "very special time in their career."

Go read it.

Then come back.

I think Michael is brilliant. I met him at a conference a couple months ago, and the dude knows his stuff. And he makes a lot of really, really great points. There IS a certain amount of freedom in writing before you're published. It's certainly  nice to write without deadlines. To write whatever you feel like writing next, because you're the one in control. Once you get a book deal, so many things get heaped on top of you-- time constraints (marketing your book on shelves, signings, events, maintaining your website, anwering emails) but beyond that, your publisher will have certain ideas and expectations of what you'll write next.

If you debut as a paranormal romance, chances are, they'll want another. You'll have to conform to their expectations, to an extent. (Obviously, Prada & Prejudice and RIPPLE are quite different, but that was a slow evolution in discussing things with Razorbill.... )

But despite all that-- despite all the very, very good points Michael makes, most of them totally correct-- there's no way in hell I can blog and tell you to be grateful for where you're at, and see it as a good thing.

Becuase I was there too, and I remember how much it sucked. To work, work, work and work some more, only to be rejected. By everyone. To feel like I was pounding on a door and no one heard me, and I didn't know if they ever would.

To wonder just what the hell these people want, anyway.

Some authors say they look back on those days before they are published and they're a little nostalgic, and wish they could go back to those days. And sometimes they say that aloud, and the unpublished want to hurl sticks at them. I was once one of those people, that wanted to hurl sticks, because I wanted it so bad I could taste it, and here was this person who was taking it for granted.

I can't say I've ever felt nostalgic or wished for a day I could be that free-floating writer again. Maybe it's too early in my career. But all I remember is how angsty and frustrated I was, and how I wanted to rip my own hair out half the time, or at least chuck my laptop out the window of my truck while going down the freeway.

So, I guess my point here is that you should read Michael's post-- understand all the virtues of being unpublished and remind yourself of those--but if you still feel angsty and frustrated, it's okay.

It's normal. It's what most writers feel. You're not alone in this. Find a few writer friends, becuase those people will get it when you need to email them and rant for sixteen paragraphs about the one paragraph rejection you just received.

It's okay to hate being unpublished, even if someone tells you it's really a good thing.

The point is to use that to fuel you to further your career, to do whatever it takes. Get more crtiques, read more blogs, go to conferences.

Maybe someday you'll be the nostalgic, multi-published author that others want to hurl sticks at. But maybe you'll be the one that doesn't take a single moment of it for granted.





Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
mindiscott
Jun. 25th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
I read Michael's post the other day and I totally think he makes good points. But I know that if I'd read it back when I was prepublished, it wouldn't have made a difference in my feelings. It just wouldn't have.

For me, there was so much doubt and uncertainty and frustration in those years of collecting agent rejections. And even now, I can't really look back and see that I was the one in control because I never felt that way at the time.
ex_fashioni
Jun. 25th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
I remember how hard it was for you and to this day, I admire the hell out of you for persevering through so much crap and also how amazingly fortunate you are to have an agent who didn't drift away after the first attempts didn't sell right off the bat, but instead stuck with you through every revision and hasn't tried to stifle you in terms of what you want to write.

However, you've also had the extraordinary good fortune to be able to write outside of where you initially published very early in your career. You've got writing credits for category romance, for light paranormal YA, and now for the darker, edgier stuff. I wonder if that's not where a lot of the nostalgia stems from. It's so hard to feel as if you're being boxed into a prescribed slot when you want to be spreading your wings and I can certainly understand wanting to go back to the days when you could just write, when there were no expectations.

But definitely, it's okay to hate being unpublished too-- there are aspects of it that suck monumentally. Just as there are aspects of being published that suck monumentally.

mandyhubbard
Jun. 25th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, you do have an excellent point. I had to go to a pen-name for the darker stuff, but I was still able to write it, becuase we were so careful about the contract being for "Mandy Hubbard." And I know sometimes publishers won't do that. They want everything you write, period. And sometimes that means you're stuck writing one kind of book.

I did go through that frustration writing YOU WISH. We went through so many ideas and partials and pitches it was ridiculous. They were very clear Book 2 needed to be the P&P brand.

In the end I'm very proud of that book and SO happy they pushed so hard, becuase I think I wrote a damn good book. BUT, I understand the frustration of being boxed in, too. We spent the better part of 6 months going in circles to come up with a 'brand' book. And meanwhile I had books like SHATTERED (now BUT I LOVE HIM) that were 100% complete and just sitting there.

I'm not saying some authors should NOT feel nostalgic for simpler times. Just that if I ever say that aloud to unpublished writers, I expect rocks to be hurled. ;-)
maggie_writes
Jun. 25th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
I read the post but found myself agreeing with the anonymous commenter who said that you shouldn't be happy. Honestly, I want to make writing my career, I want it to be how I make my living so not being published for me is like graduating college and not finding a job. Read: extremely frustrating and disheartening. I love writing and it's fun for me, but I definitely want to share it with the world and have it published. This isn't just a hobby for me, it's for real. If I'm ever published, I highly doubt I will want to go back to my pre-published days. And if being published is so much work that I DO want to go back, then I'll just quit.
sachaw
Jun. 25th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
I can totally see the point of freedom, etc. but seriously, I wanna throw a few sticks. *grin* There comes a point when it just gets to be too LONG! Way too long.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 25th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
I read that post, but I have to agree more with you. I can't imagine ever taking being a published author for granted. I stalk my email inbox, write and read as much as I possibly can, participate in a critique group, attend conferences, read blogs and tweets, and enter writing contests. It's all great, but it's completely frustrating at the same time because I haven't found an agent yet. I'm dying to move forward and get closer to having my novel published. I'm doing all I can to make that happen. It's nice to see an agent who understands it from a writer's point of view. Thanks for sharing your opinions.
brian_ohio
Jun. 25th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
Man! Reading Michael's post just made my blood boil Honestly. I hated ever word of it. The ONLY people who can look back on their pre-published days fondly are.... the published. Right? No?

Tell you what... if I'm told what day I WILL finally get published... I'll begin to let go of the frustration and anxiety and stess and depression and hopelessness I feel nearly everyday. There's no guarantee for us... the unpublished. I may spend the rest of my life unpublished... and that's a fact.

It's not like I'm hoping to be a doctor and trying to enjoy my time at med-school and interning and all of that... there's really nothing stopping me from being a doctor, so I CAN enjoy that time KNOWING the only thing stopping me from reaching my goal is ME.

With publishing... no such luck. If I ever get published... and I say, "Boy... wish I could go back to those pre-published days," anyone within hearing range can punch me in the face. Hard.

I love writing... I do. Otherwise I wouldnt' have spent the last *mumbling* years doing it. But I do it in the hopes that I'll one day have a book on the shelves, that's the part that sucks the life out of me.

Sadly, after this rant, I don't feel any better. Bah!
mandyhubbard
Jun. 25th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
Brian, you totally nailed it. The angst is fueld by the fact that you have NO IDEA if it will EVER happen.

It's easy to see those days as "special" if you know, somehow, that they will end. But you don't.

Hard to treasure the days if... they may be all you ever have.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 25th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
I LOVE that you've been there. I know when you say, "I understand" you really do understand that soul numbing frustration that eats away at you, R after R.

I actually think it would be easier after you're published, simply because you know you can do it. Up to that point, you're still banging on the door hoping someone lets you in and worrying that you are wasting your time and everyone else's. That dreaded "Am I good enough?" welcome mat under your feet.

When you know you are, that type of pressure lifts (And a new ones set in of course) but you did it. I hope I look back someday and wistfully sigh about the days when no one expected anything of me except for me.

But when you earn it, you should get to enjoy it too.

-Lee

katrinangel
Jun. 25th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
It's kinda like childbirth
It's great to get your perspective on this, esp. since I know you experienced rejection as much as I have (major brownie points with unpublished authors everywhere).

I read Michael's post yesterday and really appreciated the sunny-side approach. Yes, it sucks to have so much to share with the world and to be unable to share it...yet. But as long as you know where you're going and you have faith that you'll get there eventually, why not enjoy the ride? His article reminded me that I'm absolutely free to experiment right now, and that put a smile on my face.

I still hate rejection and waiting--it's excruciating--but when I'm writing, I don't feel as angsty about it. <--why doesn't google chrome recognized angsty as a word. It SO is!

I just mean, his advice to enjoy the process is kinda like when natural birth advocates say to relax and enjoy the process of birth. When somebody says that, there are violent reactions, but the truth is that there ARE parts to treasure, and there are parts that are just necessary work that are no fun at all. The end result makes it all worthwhile. We have to go through labor to get the baby. It doesn't have to be excruciating if we educate ourselves, keep practicing and visualizing, and relax (as much as possible while contracting/reloading the inbox). End Disturbing Metaphor.
mandyhubbard
Jun. 25th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
Re: It's kinda like childbirth
Oh, I don't mean to knock anyone who *DOES* see it in a positive/helpful way. If you can be that zen, well, dang, kudos. :-)

I'm not saying *NOT* To look at the bright side, or *NOT* to enjoy this time.

I'm just saying, it's kind of unrealistic to tell writers they should try and enjoy being unpublished. Pointing out a few bright sides is awesome. But for a lot of pepole, that's not going to change the angst-wagon.

And FWIW, I was the kind of mom-to-be that didn't enjoy/treasure a single second of labor, and only enjoyed about 5% of being pregnant. I jsut wanted my daughter and that was that. Maybe that's my personality, ha.
katrinangel
Jun. 25th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
Re: It's kinda like childbirth
Oh, I understood that you weren't knocking anybody. You're too sweet to do that! I just wanted to offer an opinion that looked like it was missing from the comments. :-)

I hope I didn't frighten anybody.

And I will definitely still have the angst-wagon trailing behind me. (Can't count how many times I've refreshed my inbox [thank you for being one of those awesome agents who gets back so fast!]) I just might be skipping and whistling a little more as I go.

-Hopeless optimist
katywriter
Jun. 25th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
I read the post and have noticed that he does have some good points, but as a "pre-published, non-agented" author it's frustrating when you write a manuscript that you love/ believe in and nobody else will look at it. I started querying agents in 08 and after countless rejections, some partials/fulls I've gotten very frustrated. I've two finished novels, four starts and many ideas in my head. Is it bad that I want to be published, but I don't want to write right now?
kbaccellia
Jun. 25th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with it sucks not knowing if you'll ever get picked up. My problem is I tend to compare myself to other writers who seem to get that fab agent(I get the rejection--even if it's a personal one), mega book deals, big advances, and other things that seem to just slip by me.

Then I talk to those authors I envy and find out that the journey wasn't overnight. They had mega suckage days too, wondering if it would ever happen to them.

I guess I still feel this way with getting an agent. But on the other hand I think I'm finally getting what one UCI writing professor told me, "Don't be in such a rush to get published." I guess she was saying the same thing Michael talked about.



mandyhubbard
Jun. 25th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
The "comparing yourself" thing, though, won't ever end. Well, unless you're JK or Steph Meyer. Then you probably are just fine. Unless Stephanie Meyer is waiting for her theme park.

All it takes is one look at the New York Times list or your publisher's catalog (where you may have a very nicie page but someone else has a 3 page spread toting the publicity campaign and the national author tour.....)

I've gotten mostly better at the comparison thing, just focusing on my own work.

I think. *grin*
kimmiepoppins
Jun. 25th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
I feel silly saying it because it sounds like I don't want to be published as much as someone else (totally not true) but I completely get what Michael says. It works for me to spend more time being present in my here in now than it does to be wrestling with my future. I've kind of learned a little bit about my own personality over the years too...I have a tendency to be really hard on myself and writing can either be another stressor or an antidote. I guess, I've just decided that in my heart of hearts I believe I will make it when I'm ready, so I'm just going to enjoy the journey. As for you stick throwers...I completely get it...we've all got to free that inner person who does the best writing...whoever they are. *grins and ducks*
(Anonymous)
Jun. 27th, 2010 05:12 am (UTC)
Great post
Thanks for the shout out to the unpublished. It does suck because of the big unknown, the feeling of rejection, of worthlessness. I look forward to being nostalgic over these days. Ha!

Cyndi Tefft
ctefft.blogspot.com
(Anonymous)
Jun. 27th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
Great post!!! Sometimes I think it's difficult for those who are well established to remember how hard it is for the aspiring writer. And while I feel some of the points made are valid, and there's a lot of freedom with this stage of the process, it's hard to look on it and be grateful. I plan on being one of those writers who'll never take a single moment for granted.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 28th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
Totally agree with you
Thanks, Mandy for your take on Michael's blog. I've totally agreed with the things you are saying. Although I have published two non-fiction books now with niche publishers, my love is still MG/YA fiction, but trying to find just the right way of enticing an agent or editor with my query to request pages hasn't yet happened for me. It all feels like a game of darts and sometimes I wonder if I'm even in the right room to play the game.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
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