Saturday, July 3, 2010

Does It Get Any Better?

Over at Bookends, Jessica Faust was answering a question a reader had sent in about rejections and if it ever gets any easier to handle. I know I've talked about rejection on here many times, but after reading the words of a new author receiving rejections for the very first time, it made me reflect on my journey as a whole.
Its been almost ten years now since I first sat down in front of the computer at my parent's house (because I was only 18 and still living at home) and decided I wanted to see if I could write a book. I had characters, I had a story idea, but the prospect of writing something almost 100,000 words long was daunting and I wasn't sure I could do it. A few months later, I'd proven I could with a complete manuscript. During that time, I decided I was way out of my depth and needed some help, so enrolled to study a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. I remember being daunted by this prospect as well. The writing course was highly sort after, one of the only ones in my entire state and obviously there were only so many places. To get in, I had to be interviewed and present a portfolio of my writing. If I'd had anything published, it was an almost guaranteed entry. But I'd had nothing published and still wasn't even sure if I was doing the right thing or not. Sure, writing was fun, but did I really have the drive to make a career out of it? The only way I would get into that course was if I interviewed well and my portfolio looked promising. I took the first page of my manuscript (which I shudder to think about now) and some pieces I'd written for high school assignments the year before. I thought I totally stuffed up the interview and didn't know how my portfolio would stack up in the eyes of journalists and published authors. I walked away convinced I wouldn't get in and wondering what I should do with my life instead. I could do casual night classes they offered which would guarantee me a place the following year, but I didn't want to waste another year of my life without any real direction.
The day I received a letter saying I'd gotten into the program was about the most excited I could remember being in a long time. I think that was about the point I decided that, no matter what, I would make something out of my writing. I started studying and soon realized I had a passion and drive few others in my classes had. I could sit down and type out a few thousand words no sweat while others spent days labouring over a page or two. I also came to realize that my raw talent had something that others didn't. The teachers took an interest in me, a couple in particular became friends and mentors, telling me that it was rare to find someone who had what I did and they had no doubt that one day I would make it. Of course, finding my place as I did, cruising through the assignments and workload without a hitch didn't earn me many friends.
In the first two years I had a couple of friends who I still talk to occasionally now, but in the last two years, and the very last in particular, there were some people who were downright mean to me, bitching about me in classes I didn't attend and even going so far as to leave an abusive letter in my pigeon hole (used for teachers returning assignments, etc). I guess by that fourth year I knew who I was and what I wanted to do. I wasn't going to apologize for my talent, for my drive, for the fact that maybe it did look like one or two of the teachers favoured me. I didn't go out of my way to make friends, I was only there part time anyway. But neither did I act unkindly towards them or snob them or do anything to deserve the apparent strong dislike a few of the other students had for me. Anyway, that's all in the past now, I'd actually forgotten about it until I started this trip down memory lane.
During those years studying, I joined Romance Writers Australia and quickly came to realize the first manuscript I'd written probably wasn't going to get me very far. It had many, many problems so I decided to start fresh with a new story. If you read this blog regularly, then you know me and know that I'm always in big favour of the re-write. I'd rather re-start something from scratch than try to fix what's already there. So I wrote another manuscript. Followed by a couple more. I started submitting to publishers and then started querying agents. The first ever request for a partial came from Jessica Faust at Bookends for a paranormal I'd written. Obviously nothing came of it, but that small step forward renewed my drive. I wrote my first SOAP manuscript, started entering competitions. Jessica Faust also request that first SOAP novel after I queried her about it, but again, I didn't get far. SOAP brought me a few other requests from other agents, so I knew I was onto something.
I started getting to know a couple of people through RWA and met my CP, who just over a year ago now, offered to start working with me. In the last twelve months, I think I've come further than I had in all the past three years since I finished studying put together.
When I first started submitting and querying, I told myself I wasn't going to take rejections personally, because they were part of the ride and it wasn't a personal comment on me or my work, it all just came down to business. So I didn't take any personally, but I still took some of them to heart. I think I can see now that I wasn't ready. I've had to take baby steps on this road when I all wanted to do was fly. But I wouldn't be the writer I am today if it wasn't for all those little, tiny, frustrating baby steps. I stopped counting a long time ago the number of rejections I'd received, like days scratched into the wall of a prison. I'd rather view them as mile markers on my road to publication, and I can't imagine many of us count how many mile markers we've passed when driving our car on a long journey.
With this round of revisions I'm doing with an agent's help, I really feel I'm coming to the end of this leg of the trip. But of course, an entirely new road is about to be opened up. I know now that no matter how many books I write, how many years I publish for, I'll always me learning, changing, honing my craft.
So to answer the original question myself, I don't know that it does get any better in terms of rejection. I think its more a question of when and if we get to a point where we can view things differently.

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