I consider myself brave, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. There are too many things that I hold back from doing to be truly brave.
If I were brave, I would take chances when I don’t know the outcome. Or I wouldn’t hold myself back from doing something I want to do just because it’s not an ideal situation. Or because I’m not sure about cost. Or because I’m worried. Or because I’d probably be doing this alone. Or any number of other things.
Sometimes I play around on Google Flights. I found a really good flight deal to London for several dates this fall. I hesitated. Could I buy a flight, go to London, plan a trip? Could I do this on my own? Do I have enough money, vacation time, will to do this?
Other people travel all the time. I see my friends on Snapchat, instagram, Facebook – traveling alone, visiting a place for a second (or third) time. And every time I ask myself, why aren’t I doing this? Why am I stuck in a rut? Why haven’t I been out of the country in years? Why can’t I even just take a long weekend and drive to Canada and eat some food and relax and enjoy myself in a new place?
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I’m not writing (much of anything). I don’t even want to. Both the idea of revising my latest novel and starting something new makes my stomach twist. It makes me lightheaded and weary. The very thought causes my palms to sweat and my head to ache. The sight of a blank page, paper or computer screen, turns me off. Stringing even these words together is ten times more difficult than it has ever been for me before.
I could go on and on about what writing means to me, about how people tell me that being a writer doesn’t mean being published, that some writers never get published, that I ought to just write for fun, that I should – I should – I should love writing for writing’s sake.
I don’t. I want to be published. I want a book on the library shelf and the bookstore shelf. I could do that. I have the skill set to self publish. I wouldn’t make any money but it would look good. I could probably even market it a little bit, get a few people to buy it, to read it. But I don’t want to do that.
I want validation. And I’m not talking about from friends and family. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to connect with an agent, then an editor, then a sales team, then a marketing team – to have a group of people I don’t know rally behind my writing. It’s not unreasonable because there are thousands of people who have that happen to them all the time. I’m just not one of them.
I wish I could say that I was okay with that. I wish I could say that I just love writing so much that it doesn’t matter if people ever read it. That it doesn’t matter if all my stories and novels remain on my hard drive for the rest of my life. I envy people who write for themselves. If I could change that about myself, I would. But I can’t.
And the very fact that it’s out of my control (and don’t tell me that “it’ll happen next time” or “just keep writing” or “you just need to write another novel”) is maddening. It has sucked all the joy I have ever felt at writing right out of me.
And it bothers me.
I’ve been writing Young Adult fiction for years and, of late, growing more and more frustrated with it and the genre as a whole. I know my frustration stems more from a frustration with myself, with being stuck as an unpublished writer, but it’s not only that. It’s also the fact that I read a lot of YA fiction. Honestly, I read a lot of bad YA fiction. It just to make me feel better, that if these books were published, it would only be a matter of time before mine were too. The problem is that now it’s less likely to make me feel better and more likely to make me angry. I’ve moved on to, if these books were published, then why isn’t mine?!
With that in mind and also the fact that querying and getting no after no completely squashes any desire for me to write, I’ve started to wonder just what it is I should write next.
A long time ago, I didn’t write YA fiction. I used to write short fiction, dabble in (bad) poetry. I wrote literary fiction in college. I completed a Regency romance for my first NaNoWRiMo attempt. I used to love writing for the story, and the story would just come to me. I didn’t think about if what I was writing was sellable or ready for the market or even something that would fit into the YA world. I just wrote.
So now I’m done with my latest YA novel. I’m querying it to absolutely zero success. I’m frustrated and I’m angry and I feel like I don’t even want to bother with it anymore. And by ‘it’ I mean writing. I hate that but it’s the truth.
I don’t want to want to write. Yes, you read that correctly. I want to write, but I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t because I don’t know what to write.
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I’m usually pretty good at writing query letters. I have a fairly good track record with them, meaning that I have a decent enough percentage of getting full manuscript requests from a query letter. The last two novels that I queried had a 35% and a 27% manuscript request rate, which I consider pretty dang good. None of those full requests have translated into an offer of representation, however.
So I felt pretty good when I finally sat down to write the query letter for my most recently completed novel. But then I ran into a block. This query letter was harder than previous ones. Which then made me question what that means.
And then a whole host of other questions came to mind …
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1. Finish your novel.
2. Revise your novel.
3. Re-read your novel.
4. Decide your novel is awful and should never see the light of day again.
5. Revise your novel again.
6. Form a love/hate relationship with your novel. One day you love it; the next day you hate it.
7. Show it to some people you trust.
8. Cringe and cry at their feedback.
9. Revise your novel again
10. Think your novel is the best thing ever and everyone wants to read it.
11. Write a query letter.
12. Send your query letter out to agents.
13. Get a rejection.
14. Get another rejection.
15. Hate your novel more than ever.
16. Send out more queries.
17. Get rejected again.
18. Decide this one just clearly isn’t going to be your big break.
19. Send out a few more queries – just in case.
20. Start another novel.