Monday, November 28, 2011

ThankFAIL

I am thankful that it took me 15 years and 10 manuscripts to get published. In other words, I am thankful for all my failures.

No, really!

Now, admittedly, part of this is self-preservation, making myself feel better. I am a master of this. If one of my books wins an award, I say to myself, "This award is very important and means a lot!" If, the next year, another of my books does not win the same award, I say to myself, "Nobody has ever heard of that award anyway, and it means nothing." Attitude is everything in this business. You have a boss, sort of, in your editor, but you might not hear from her but twice a year, if that. If you miss a deadline, it's nobody's fault but yours. Your only co-workers are other writers--in my case, writers I communicate with online but hardly ever see. If you let yourself get depressed about anything related to your career, who is going to fix that for you? Rose-colored glasses are your friend, I say.

So when I encounter someone who wrote a book in six weeks, got an agent in two, and sold it in another two--and these people are out there, believe me--of course there is part of me that seethes a little bit and then keels over with an aneurysm. But the other, better part, the part that knows I need to maintain a falsely elevated mood in order to stay motivated to get my writing done, feels sorry for this hot shot, and here's why.

I have bags of rejection letters for my first nine novels. BAGS OF THEM. Manuscript #10 sold, but manuscript #11 did not initially. It was not what my editor wanted. Hot Shot might have put it in a drawer. I did not. I shook my bags of rejection letters at everybody and sold it to somebody else, and it is called Going Too Far.

In my six-year career, I've had lots of lulls. I still have two completed manuscripts that I wrote AFTER I finally sold a book that have never found a home and probably never will, but it never occurred to me to quit writing.

I've endured lots of editorial changes. As Joy says below, staff changes at your publishing house are generally not your friend. But I have not let this very common occurrence in my writing career get me down. I have tried to make my own opportunities, and when that has not worked, I have played with the hand that I have been dealt. I am very happy to report that my eighth novel for Simon & Schuster, The One That I Want, is coming out on Tuesday.

In short, I do sometimes wish that I'd been on the fast track to publication. I think my 20s and the first half of my 30s would have been a lot happier that way. But oh, when it finally happened for me, it was so, so sweet--a lot sweeter than it would have been if publication had come easily. I truly am thankful for this career, and that in itself is a blessing.

5 comments:

  1. Cheers to The One that I Want. Quite the appropriate name for the nature of this month's blog posts. I laughed my butt off (if only) over "seethes a little bit then keels over with an aneurysm" then maintain "falsely elevated mood." Yup. That about covers it. It's what I do, too. I blame this on my mom who always always said, "It'll be okay." Eventually I asked her, "Did you really believe that?" "Hell no," she said. "But I wanted you to."

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  2. I completely relate to this, Jennifer. I don't think I would have been prepared in any way for a writing career without a long climb--those pre-publication years taught me to hone the craft!

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  3. I'm glad (now) that it took me a while to sell a book, because I don't think I was emotionally ready at 20 to handle the ups and downs that come with publication. This is just me, of course. I've seen other writers around that age who are mature and do seem to handle themselves very well, and I admire them for it. But I wasn't ready back then.

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  4. I absolutely love this post! It's so nice to know that even published authors struggle with writing and even turn out unwanted work...but the difference between those people and the ones unpublished is that "never quit" attitude. Thanks for the reminder, and congrats on The One That I Want! (oh, and I can't believe someone didn't want Going Too Far...THE HORROR!!!)

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