December 7th, 2010

YOU WISH

On Learning, Growing...and surviving....


Last week, Natalie Whipple posted this amazing blog post. In it, she bares her soul and shows a rare bit of honesty for an on-submission writer. She admits that rejection sucks. That she's frustrated. Disenchanted. But like any writer who has what it takes to make it, she's also determined.

It' rare to see such honesty in the publishing world. We all "know" writers and authors online, but I've seen time and time again that what looks awesome and rosy on the outside rarely is. Debut authors are terrified they won't be stocked in chains, because many aren't. Someone announces a second printing but they don't mention that their next royalty statement shows a massive amount of returns. Someone gets a gigantic mid-six figure deal and hits the NYT list-- but they're spinnning wheels on the second book in the trilogy and their publisher just keeps putting them through more revisions. The first book did well, so the second has to be better.  

That's why jealousy and envy are such a dangerous thing for a writer to have. We *ALL* have times we seethe with envy-- its hard not to when we only need to look as far as Publisher's Marketplace for a six figure debut deal, or to the New York Times for a list which gives every author the stamp of approval they've always wanted.

That's why I applaud those who are willing to share a shred of honesty. That's why I've been so open with the rejections and challenges I've faced. Because unpublished writers aren't the only ones toiling in the trenches. The published are right there with you, pushing themselves to be better, bigger, to break out.

This industry is one big rejection machine. If its not the agents, its the editors, the readers, the besteller lists, the reviewers, the movie studios... the INSERT NAME HERE.

And *that* is why I try so very hard to focus on the only thing I can control: the writing.

While I was on submission through out late 2006, all of 2007, and half of 2008, racking up the rejections, I did the only thing I could do: I wrote. And wrote. My agent didn't even like most of what I wrote. She constantly sent things back to me saying, "You can do better." So I tried. And Tried. And again, "You can do better."

There were times publishing felt more like a dizzying merry-go-round, and I wanted off. For some people that means quitting. But I knew the only way I'd leave was when someone told me I had done better. That my book was going to hit shelves. That I'd have readers. That every stupid, stubborn thing I'd done for the last several years was worth it. Maybe it was just yet *another* form of my stubbornness that I refused to admit defeat. But for whatever reason it just... never occured to me to quit.

At the time of the never-ending-merry go round, it all seemed rather fruitless and maddening and just freaking a big-fat-waste-of-time. It was like... a perpetual waiting room with nothing to read and nothing to do but just WAIT.

It took a long time to realize that wasn't the case. Those years I spent revising and rewriting Prada & Prejudice, those years I spent being rejected by my own agent, those years I spent reading and critiquing other people's work, those years I spend reading and re-reading my rejections...

They made me a better writer. If a fairy godmother stood in front of me right now and offered to go back and wave her magic wand and launch my career in 2006-- so that I'd be three+ years post debut instead of just one, I'd say no.

If my original drafts-- or if my fifth draft-- of P&P had been published, I dont think readers would have liked it. i dont think it would have gotten good reviews. And I don't think I would have been ready to write a book like YOU WISH as a follow up. Becuase I struggled mightily to write that book in 2009, after three extra years of learning. I could not have written it in 2006 or 2007.

I know so, so many authors whose debut novel came out a year, two, three years ago, and they haven't had a sale since. Because their debut novel sold relatively easily, and they never had to push to dig deeper. To develop and hone their skills.

As much as everyone hates rejection, and as often as it seems unfair or unjust, sometimes... it works. Sometimes... it makes you a better writer. I hate to go all cheesey with "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger..."

But....

Whatever rejection you may face, it will only make your writing stronger. If you have the hunger to be published and can take those and turn it around-- if you can take what they say is "wrong" with your mansucript and figure out how to make it your strength...

Then when someone says yes, You'll be ready.

To repeat what i said on Natalie's blog, "It can be a shitty silver lining when you're still standing on the wrong side of the great publishing divide." But it's still a silver lining. It's still something to be thankful for.

Even as you get dizzier and dizzier from that damn merry-go-round.