With experience comes wisdom, right? Well, we can always hope our writing stumbles at least lead to greater awareness if not exactly wisdom. I shake my head and sigh in sympathy when I talk to eager newbies these days, because I’ve been where they are – believing I’m only one lucky break away from the ivory-tower writing career I’ve always dreamed of.
Naïve: For several years after I first started taking my writing seriously – working on novels, querying for agents – I attended the local Mad Anthony Writing Conference. At one event (2011, maybe?), I sat in on an agent-led query critique session. We submitted the first few lines, maybe an elevator pitch, of our query and she critiqued aloud them for the entire room of would-be authors. I was devastated when she dismissed my query out of hand, saying (I swear I remember it verbatim!), “A novel can’t be sustained in first person. It’s too confining.” And I believed her.
It took several years before I was confident enough to realize how wrong she was (Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series, anyone?). I keep thinking I’ll go back through my notes to find her name, but what’s the point?
Gullible: I’ve been to any number of workshops in the past ten years, pitched to numerous agents, and had more than a few express interest and ask for a full manuscript. I remember the heart-pounding thrill the first time that happened, positive I’d found my opening to the dreamt-of publishing career. But every time (so far!), I’ve only A) received a polite form-written rejection; or (even worse) B) never heard from them again.
I still attend workshops. I still pitch to agents when I can. But I don’t get nearly so excited these days at the request for a full.
Susceptible: Every time I lose contact with my muse, when the words don’t flow, or worse – when I don’t allow myself time to let the words flow – if I can attend a book launch and hear another author describe their journey from sputtering starts to two-book deals, I come away renewed, energized, and eager to hit the keyboard.
…As long as it’s not someone who wrote one book; landed the first agent they queried; and signed a six-figure, multi-book contract within months. Those tales are too depressing for the easily susceptible who are on book four and have a stack of rejections.
Fortunately, I’ve learned how extremely rare those wonder stories are, and how often they crumble. I approach my write/query/submit/repeat life much more realistically these days. And the ivory-tower dream has been laid to rest.
I’m not that much of a push-over.