The query process is tormenting. Hours, months, years, spent pouring your heart and soul into a novel and then comes the time to send it out in the world. Sure, friends and family say it’s great. But, you don’t know if they would tell you if it wasn’t. Your critique group is supportive but maybe they don’t want to dash your hopes. We build ourselves up to believe the true test of our writing merit comes when we query.
After the first batch of queries is sent, waiting becomes an obsession. Every time your email alert sounds, you pull out your phone. You wait weeks and months. When you receive one of those form rejection letters you’ve heard so much about, your emotions go crazy. First, you think your writing stinks. Then, you tell yourself the agent didn’t really give you a chance. Maybe you need to work on your query more. Maybe the writing isn’t “there” yet. You revise, resend, and start waiting all over again. Another form rejection. Repeat the process. Finally, you come to the realization that all the blog posts and tweets you read were true. The business really is subjective.
Subjective. I can’t decide if I love or hate the word. It really depends on the day. How can it be that not everyone loves this book containing my heart, soul, hopes, fears and tears? My baby. The book I believe so strongly needs to be unleashed on the world? Oh wait, email alert. Nevermind, only an advertisement. The anxiety of waiting comes in waves and you must find a way to ride them out. Because all successful writers say you have to.
Okay. I can do it, but help me! You scour the internet for days and days searching for ways to cope. Eventually, you recognize a common thread. All the posts give the exact same advice, worded and presented differently. Keep writing. Begin work on a new project. Writing more will help provide the patience you need to make it as a writer. What? I’m still waiting to find out if I’m wasting my time with this silly dream. Somebody, please tell me if I’m good enough!
I hate to break it to you. YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO FEEL LIKE IT’S GOOD ENOUGH. So, how do you keep writing when you haven’t decided if it’s worth the effort? You’ve done it once already. You know exactly how much work it entails. How many nights away from friends and family you sacrificed for this dream. How do you bring yourself to take on this monumental task again when you are still waiting for some kind of confirmation?
I’ve heard many writers who say they write because they have to. They can’t stay away from it. Well, I can. My day job is demanding. I love what I do and I’m good at it. To write, I must fight for time in my busy schedule. Sometimes, this means turning down overtime I actually get paid for. So not writing is easy. I immerse myself in the other thing I love.
The most helpful piece of advice to keep me focused on my writing career came out of the blue. A writer friend told me I needed to build an inventory. Huh? I walked away wondering about the strange word he chose. Inventory? I never thought of it that way. For some reason, I put all my hopes and dreams into this ONE manuscript. I was judging my whole career as a writer based solely on the success or failure of one book.
Don’t get me wrong. The book I’m querying now is the manuscript I really want to debut with. I dream of the moment an agent, then a publisher, then readers see the things I tried so hard to convey in my writing. But what if now isn’t the right time for this manuscript? Remember, the business is subjective. So many factors play a part in the success or failure of a book and often it has nothing to do with the writing itself. Facing the very real possibility that my book may not break me into the business, I couldn’t fathom wasting all the time, effort, and love I put into it. That’s when the idea of having an inventory struck home. If I keep moving forward and creating new stories, I’m not losing a thing. I believe in this manuscript, but the industry may not be ready for it. That’s okay. It will be here when the industry changes. Keep creating. Continue working on my craft. Push through the anxiety and fears. Add more to my collection of wares.
I never imagined I would feel as strongly about a manuscript as I did the first one. To my surprise, I do. My second novel holds just as much of my heart, although it is quite different from the first. I’d almost forgotten how much fun it was to start at the beginning. My life revolved so much around editing, the joy of giving life to fresh ideas was lost. Research, learning new things, meeting new people, traveling to far off places, imagining new characters who will become my best friends; all of it is worth riding the emotional roller coaster. Now, as I dig deep into the craft, always learning and improving, I understand why other writers advise you to get working on another project. As I forge ahead with querying, the patience has come. I’m in this for the long haul. It’s only a waste of time if I give up.
The querying continues but the anxiety gone. Everything has slowed down and I’m not in a hurry to get answers. Instead, I’m happily lost in my projects. As long as I keep working, the career will happen. Someday, when my work makes the magical connection between author and agent, I’m ready to answer the question they all ask. What else do you have?
Well, let me tell you about . . .