Submission Blues

When it comes to writing, I tend to see goals as the bare minimum. So when NaNoWriMo comes around, I don’t want to just write 50k. It has to be at least 60k. When I set myself a hefty goal of revising the first 30k of Hero of Darkwood last month, I knew I wanted to push past that number as well. One of my goals for February was to send queries to at least ten agents. Today, as five to eight inches of snow came down outside, I managed to get the eight, nine, and ten queried.

And that’s where it ends for February.

When it comes to writing, there’s the thrill of creating something new. With revisions, it’s all about transformation. Even if I had a bad day, there’s still the feeling that I accomplished something, even if it was pretty tiny.

I don’t feel that at all when it comes to the submission process. In fact, it makes me grumpy. Sure, I’ll fill out another row in my agent spreadsheet with all of the necessary information, comb through the internet for potential matches, and meticulously format my submission emails. But damn, for whatever reason it doesn’t really feel like I’m doing all that much. It probably has a lot to do with the possibility (okay, it’s more than a possibility) of being rejected by all ten, then coming back to the topic in a couple months and having to do it all again. Of course, I know it’s worth it, but it doesn’t change a fact that it makes me feel a little bit like that girl who couldn’t get a prom date again.

Recently, Kameron Hurley had a post up on Chuck Wendig’s blog (seriously, it’s great. You need to read it). In it, she talks about her long journey to becoming published, and the importance of persistence in the life of a writer. Reading this, combined with my current submission blues, has really made me realize something important. I remember being a kid and feeling that the process of just finishing a writing project longer than a short story was an impossible task. Then I finished a few (the first two “novels” in an epic trilogy that blatantly ripped off both Redwall and The Secret of NIMH when I was 11-12, a book about werewolves that blatantly ripped off Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was 13-14, and, when I was 16, a book called Masked that didn’t rip anything off, but was still pretty awful. This would eventually be transformed to Lady of Darkwood, which is much better), and the impossible task became revision. Then it was letting other people see my work. Then it was figuring out writing every day. And now it’s submitting to agents.

This really drives home one impossible truth: there is no “easy” part of the writing process. No matter how many impossible mountains you climb, you always have another one in front of you (and of course, you need to go back and climb those old mountains again and again, and figure out how to do it better. The process is never easy, but there is some comfort knowing that at least you’ve done it once before). Even people at th top of their game, the Gerorge R.R. Martin’s of the world, have to deal with their own impossible mountains. It’s kind of disheartening to realize this, but at least it lets you know that you’re not alone. It seems to me like struggling with one’s craft is something that everyone has to deal with, just in different ways.

Even so, I’ll be happy to head back to revisions tomorrow. I have a bit of a snarl I need to deal with (during NaNoWriMo I decided to completely mess with my timetables about 30k in, and then I dropped a character from the manuscript without warning. What else do you do during NaNo?), but at least I know that it’s a mountain I’ve tackled before.

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