Here is my monthly contribution to The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you haven’t heard of this yet, be sure to check out the NinjaCaptain, hop on the Linky, and go say hi to the Co-hosts Misha and Joylene.
This month, I have a confession. Most of you already know that I spent a ton of time working on a story that wasn’t exactly the book of my heart. I enjoyed the story. It was fun, it was—well, lighthearted isn’t the word for it—not as intense from an emotional stand point.
I should preface with: it was a NOVEL. I wrote the bloody thing, poured my heart and soul into it (like you do with all novels). I worked; I revised; I rewrote, and I rerevised. In short, I didn’t give that novel a half attempt. I Worked. Hard. I polished it up and got it all spiffy and clean.
Still, it was not the novel of my heart. Not even close. In fact, I sort of felt like it was a bit of a throw away project because of some feedback I’d gotten from agents. So, expectations low, I sent that novel out to go collect me some rejections. It would be practice, I told myself. Everyone needs practice. It would help me develop a thick skin.
I didn’t query widely, in fact, it sort of went to the usual suspects as far as agents go. I was pleased that it got a number of partial requests (that was much better than I’d expected frankly). Mostly it got form rejection and silence.
In the mean time, I did what you’re supposed to do: I moved on. I had just finished a first draft, and while that stewed, I wrote another first draft. Then I went back and started working on the previous first draft. I fell absolutely in love with that book all over again. I mean head over heels, laughing out loud at my own work (I’m such a dork!) in love. Rapturous love. I want to grab people on the sidewalk and shake them until they go read my book (I should probably come up with a better market strategy).
Then something happened that I didn’t expect: I got a rejection letter for the practice novel. Not just any rejection letter: the last. The last rejection letter for the practice book.
I hadn’t cried at a rejection letter in over a year, and I cried.
Not because I was weeping for the practice novel, oh no. That novel I’d already called it quits on twice. No, I was crying because the book I love is now my query bait. This book could break my heart. I kid you not, this book is me laid bare (why yes, I do fight space pirates in my spare time, why do you ask?). There are moments in that book that are so raw for me that I had to put it away because just the idea of it getting a rejection sends me into fits of chocolate.
In short, despite practicing, I have no skin at all, thick or otherwise. The notion of having a thick skin has always been false. No one can. The only things you can do are learn how to deal with it better, or fall into apathy.
I’ll admit, I was pretty apathetic with the practice novel. It was an easy place to be. The novel was born out of a joke. Yes it was great fun to write, and the story was awesome, but It wasn’t something near and dear to my heart. It cost me nothing to query it. Nothing. There was nothing important to me in that book. Good story, lots of fun, but I didn’t feel naked for having it out there.
This new book is different. It costs me something very deep to let people read it, and at the same time, I’m aching to just print off copies and go sell it on the street corner because I think the rest of the world will love it as much as I do (no, I don’t really think that; I know that there are plenty of people who won’t love it).
So yeah, thick skin? I think you only get that with numbness or apathy, and I don’t think good stories come from either of those places. So if you’re in the query trenches, and you’re wondering why rejections still hurt and sting, just remember, that’s a sign that you’re doing it right. Have some chocolate and take a deep breath.
Good luck in the trenches. I’ll be joining you soon.