I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. What I didn’t know was that, when it comes to having a career, writing would be but a small part of the arduous journey.
(how I feel)
If you’ve been following me for a while and have wondered what the heck I’ve been up to all these years…or perhaps this is the first you’ve seen of me… here’s a (very much abridged version of) my writing journey up to this point.
If you’ve been querying agents, or considering delving into traditional publishing, this post may be of interest to you.
When I was seventeen, I had begun brainstorming a story into which I could pour every ounce of humanity I possessed. Every pain, every joy, every love, and every loss would see itself into the characters and their lives. It would be my masterpiece. I would study literature and mold this story into what I considered to be absolute gold, and what became of that story over the years was an intricate fantasy tale, winding itself through generations, centuries, and diverse worlds and cultures—with many a horrifying twist and theme relevant to the issues of today; exploring the trials of womanhood, motherhood, love, and the duality of good and evil.
It was not until I was twenty five, when I had moved to the forest and lived remotely—without electricity, internet, or even plumbing for that matter—that I began to write this epic tale, inspired so by my vivid surroundings and my feral life that was so similar to that of my characters. Three years and 260,000 words later, I was ready to birth this child of mine into the world. I was ready for my life to begin. I was simply glowing with intention as I sent out my query letters and sample pages to literary agents. But within a matter of weeks the rejection letters started coming into my email inbox, and little by little, that molten glow faded into something that felt like cold stone.
11 years of my life…rejected.
I sent out more queries. I was determined to not let this affect me; to not feel the choke of despair. So many authors have been rejected in the beginning…
But the rejection letters only continued.
Finally, I had received a letter that WAS a rejection, albeit a helpful one. It suggested that my word count was far too high to be considered (though the agent found the story intriguing) and that, if I made a series of this one story, I might be more successful in my endeavors.
So that is what I did. In a matter of months, I wrought my 260,000-word novel into three separate novels. A trilogy. Then I continued to query…and was met with still more rejections.
(Almost 12 years of my life now.)
As I continued to query agents, I began writing short stories on the side to keep my writing fresh and ever-growing. I decided I would attempt contests for these short stories, and maybe then, my desire to be published would be satiated. But even those were met with rejection.
I didn’t understand. I knew I wasn’t a poor writer. I knew I had stories to be enjoyed by a broad audience; by readers who need my characters to relate with. So why then was no one willing to publish my work? I became bitter…then I became discouraged…then I became defeated. Maybe I wasn’t the writer I’d always thought. Maybe my story was enjoyable only to me.
And writing books was the only thing I have ever really, truly, wanted to do with my life. I was utterly depressed that my dreams should remain so far out of my reach, even when I have worked so hard for them.
The publishing industry is highly subjective…as any agent will tell you in their form letters. Each agent’s list is almost as specific as a set of fingerprints—at least, to the billions of potential stories out there. And beyond the agent, the publishing houses are even more severe. What is popular RIGHT NOW? What is going to sell millions of copies? What will Karen want to buy little Timmy for Christmas? Sometimes it isn’t about the story, necessarily. I’m sure we all can think of a famous book that’s out there that makes us cringe. Right now, you could write a perfectly amazing, breathtaking, slow-to-digest literary fiction and the publishing industry would yawn because it wouldn’t be able to be made into a high-grossing movie. When I came to realize all of this, how it all works, I understood that this was going to be much more difficult than I thought.
But what finish line is worth reaching if you haven’t crawled there upon crumbled knees?
Now I realize I haven’t been querying nearly enough agents as I should be. I haven’t bled for this enough. I still know my audience is out there. I still know that, one day, my book-baby will have found its home, and that it will be much-needed and loved by its readers. Even if I pursue other stories in the meantime, I will never give up on the greatest novel I may ever write. And pursuing other stories is just what I have decided to do.
I may have given everything I have to this one story, but I am not just this story. I am a multiverse of tales waiting to be told, and I have already begun to bring them into our world. One, in particular. And I’m quite fond of it.
In my next post, I will be sharing with you all this new story I have finished. I have a good feeling about it. It’s a project which feels ‘right’ for me at the moment.
I hope you stay tuned for my reveal!
Now I’m curious if anyone who read this relates in any way. Have you been lost in the query trenches? Have you been rejected more times than feels fair? Please let me know in the comments. I would also love your comments through email or social media, where I am most active! There are many of us literary rejects (though it may not feel that way), so we oughtn’t feel alone.