Note: This is not a pity post. Those are soaked in tears and self-loathing. Easy to spot. This is an update on my last six months.
In the Twitter-verse of writing, we're surrounded by success stories. The six-figure deals. The movie deals. The two or three (or more!) book deals. And success stories are fantastic! They are inspirational, they push us to work harder. But what happens to the failed subs and shelved books swept under the rug? No one likes talking about those stories.
When we exclusively highlight success, it looks as if no one fails. Every query letter is read and replied to. Everyone hits it off with their first agent. All manuscripts sell after only weeks of being on sub. Then there are the foreign rights deals. TV or movie options. That's the projected reality.
If you dig deep enough, you'll find a treasure trove of failure stories.
As of early June 2017, LOOK NO FURTHER officially closed out. In layman's terms, it was pulled off submission with editors at publishing houses. It didn't sell. I never got to second reads or within a mile of acquisitions after six months with editors. It was a harrowing time mentally, mainly during the first few months. I didn't know how to handle the stress, and my inability to write turned me into a monster. For those of you who put up with me during that time, you are saints. (You know who you are.) Sub is an unspoken evil. The Fight Club of the writing world. We're told Not To Talk About Sub while on sub. Unsurprisingly, this can result in a very lonely and isolating journey.
With every month that passed, I became more disconnected from my first manuscript, which was, in hindsight, a very good thing. While LNF will always be a book I love dearly and hold close to my heart, it's one that will never have a traditional audience. And that's okay. Around the time my sub wrapped up, the agent I signed with after Pitch Wars changed agencies, and I had a tough decision to make. For various reasons, I parted ways with my agent, and I'm striking out on my own. Again.
After a year of query letters, full requests, rejections, Pitch Wars, phone calls, an offer, and submissions, I'm back at square one. Well. No. Not really. I've learned so much in the past eighteen months since I first queried. So. Much. I'll never be where I was a year ago. I know heaps more about querying and the sub process. Even though I'm antisocial to the marrow of my bones, I made friends through Pitch Wars 2016. Invaluable ones. You can pry them from my cold dead hands. But one of the most important things I've learned is how to let finished (or shelved) projects go.
See, I really, really didn't want to let go. Not at first.
I've had to come to terms that I'm that person whose first book didn't sell. (There should be a support group, yes?) Among all the Pitch Wars mentees of 2016, I can't help but feel a twinge of shame. My YA contemporary went out with a whisper, not a bang. While I'm at peace with how things turned out, they are not, in any way, ideal. But when I realized, or forced myself to realize and accept, that LNF was unlikely to sell, I dove into a new project I kept close to my chest. I told no one about it and wrote. The haphazard "draft zero" of my new manuscript is nearing completion. I'll move on. Not only because I have to, but because I want to.
I think, in a way, failure stories can be more important than success stories. While success stories are uplifting, they can lead you astray. They make you think fast offers, auctions, splashy deals, and Insta-Success are normal. Nothing in my life I consider an accomplishment has come easily to me. Not my schooling or degrees. Not my relationships. Not my mental health. I fought tooth and nail for it all. Now, this is just me, but failing makes me respect success when it does come. Because that's the mindset you need to have: success will happen if you let it. If you give it time. Trust your gut instincts and choose the best path for yourself. Even if it means taking a momentary step backwards.
While isolating, I didn't survive these last six months completely alone. Endless thanks to my fantastic mentor, Emily Martin, for being my anchor and beacon of sanity, my loyal writing-buddies, and all involved in Pitch Wars.
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