Well, friends, the weekend was good (family here, unbelievably cold Ice Festival, lots and lots of Australian Open matches, crosswords & coffee) but a bit overshadowed by yet another rejection letter on Friday.
Got to admit: this one was more disappointing than usual.
Probably because it’s the first time I thought I had a pretty decent chance of getting picked up. The book is my best work by far. The agent initially sounded warm.
There’s a certain sense of whiplash about this one too. The last book had structural flaws, but every agent complimented me on some aspect of the writing. This time around, my plot is apparently just peachy. This time it’s the characters who are unacceptably “flat.”
After enough rejection, you can’t help but notice the pattern that emerges. First the disappointment, maybe a little annoyance—how can it possibly take an agent nine weeks to flip through a book and write a 3 sentence rejection letter? This is, of course, just an emotional buffer so you don’t have to think about what the rejection means. At least for a few hours.
Eventually, though, you have to go through the second part: the enormous, nagging sense that this one agent and this one letter represents some sort of Great and Unalterable Truth about your value as a human being and your potential for success over the course of the next 30-50 years.
But, yes, it will feel legitimately scary.
I usually start thinking about finding a job that pays slightly better than zero an hour. Sometimes I even look for one. This part used to last for days—after going through this a bunch of times, I’m pretty sure how long this period lasts is just a gauge to let me know how insecure I’m feeling about myself. The more I care what other people think about me, the more I feel my value depends on my success, the worse this part feels.
In the end, who am I kidding?
Whatever happens I’m going to keep writing. Carl says the only way he would feel happy about me quitting is when I’ve written a book I feel is perfect. If I write a book I’m 100% happy about and it doesn’t sell no matter what I do, then I can quit without regrets. The whole “other job” thing is an emotional clutch. I understand that, but I also always feel it—for anywhere between a few hours or a few days.
After that comes the slow thawing out. The brain starts turning. You start trying to figure out how a dried out little sentence like “the characters are a bit too flat” can be juiced into providing a roadmap for the next draft. What does that mean? Which characters? Does it mean they aren’t complex enough, aren’t motivated enough, or aren’t flamboyant enough? Because those are all pretty different things.
That’s when you go back and start playing the mental tapes of what your other, more verbally voluminous, readers have said, trying to match up both perspectives and get a little depth in the picture.
And finally, you pull out your rough draft calendar of the year and try to figure out where to pencil in the 4-6 week revision period you now need. It’s looking like late April in my case. Am 60 pages into the new book, and I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve got going there. I should have a rough draft finished by mid-April. Execution‘s 2D population will have to chill for a couple months.
So, no, this never feels good. But it is what it is, and I do what I do, and I guess the only thing you can really do is shrug and move on.
Maybe watch some tennis. Maybe make a chocolate cream pie. Maybe jot down some notes on that crazy fantasy storyline I’ve dreamed two nights running.
It’s all good.