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 And sometimes they say that aloud, and the unpublished want to hurl sticks at them.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.