If you were around the Twitterverse last night, you might have noticed my tweet about writing today’s post about my green melon Powerade.
Fear not, gentle viewers. I won’t subject you to 800 words about that.
But the title popped into my head anyway, and any of you writery types out there know that when something pops into your head, you go with it. Today’s prompt on WordPress was to write your own eulogy, and so you get to see me combine green Powerade, musings on life, and self-eulogizing all in one splendiferous post. You’re welcome.
It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green
I’m not really talking about color here. Or Kermit, though he’s lovely, and I’d go all fangirl in a hot second if I got to meet him.
No, the green I’m talking about is the kind when you’re just plain new at something. It’s that just-starting-out sort of green that I mean. The problem with that sort of green is that you never really get over it. Sure, you can gain experience at fixing toilet drains or whatever endeavor it is that you undertake, but there’s always going to be something new to learn.
Especially in the publishing industry. I remember four years ago when I was just coming off the high of finishing my first novel. I took the first couple chapters to a writing group, and they got shredded.
And I mean…shredded.
I was green. I was new. This was the first thing I’d ever finished, and I’d written that first chapter about two or three years earlier, when I was even greener.
They did the right thing in shredding it.
Fast forward a few years to last January. I went to the Writer’s Digest Conference and pitched my novel in person to agents. And again, I was green. But I had spent four years learning about the industry and How This Thing Worked. On the top of a long list of things to expect is one word in all caps:
I got my first rejections that day, face to face with agents. Very nice agents who probably don’t remember me now, but someday I’ll tell them they were my first and grin and laugh about it. I was green. I thought my manuscript was pretty good. (It wasn’t great.)
Fast forward nine months when I started querying SHRIKE in earnest. I wrote a query letter that I thought was pretty good. (It wasn’t.) I sent it to some agents. I started getting form rejections. So I asked someone for help (the lovely Julie Kenner, who I mentioned yesterday), and she helped me (along with Amanda Gardner and Kristin McFarland and many others). With them, we shined it up and I threw it back out there, and BAM. The next morning I had a request.
Four-ish months later, I’m still green. I’m still new at this. I can’t tell you how to write the perfect query because though mine works okay, it kind of works like a speedboat with a broken rudder. Sometimes it went straight where it was supposed to go, and other times it went round and round in circles.
The best part? Once I do move on to that next step, the agent-having step, I’ll be back to a very bright shade of green again.
And again when I get my first editor. And again when I try and do revisions for her. And again when I have to market my book. And again and again forever ad infinitum.
But that’s the beauty of life. There’s always something to learn.
The Sappy Bit
No matter where this post was headed, it was bound to have a sappy bit to it, and here it is.
If I had to write my own eulogy, it might go something like this (but please, universe, don’t smite me yet, because I’ve been a very good girl):
Emmie spent her life being green.
From the time she was four years old and debating the merits of becoming an astronaut or a professional hang glider, she wanted to learn. Her mother taught her how to read at that young age, and in doing so gave her the power to learn just about anything that could be found on this planet. Emmie wanted to explore new worlds, both on our planet and beyond. She spent her life starting fresh and learning things from scratch. Like how to read. How to write. How to love. How to speak Polish and make tiramisu from scratch.
Emmie never minded being green, because being green led to new places where there was new life and magic. Being green meant she had to step out of her comfort zone and move beyond what she knew, what was safe, and what would remain. Being green meant that sometimes she tried new things and got hurt. But it also meant sometimes she tried new things and got life’s most beautiful gems in return.
And passing on from one stage of being green to another might not be easy, but it’s an adventure. Passing on from this life is easier to take when it’s just another new experience and a return to the green of the earth.
It ain’t easy bein’ green, but it sure makes life more interesting.
So, gentle viewers. What do you think about being green? In what ways are you still green? In what ways are you becoming green all over again?
It’s no secret that rejection is a big part of any author’s path to publication. Nathaniel Hawthorne reportedly burned the occasional manuscript after getting rejected. Jack London used his rejections to paper his walls. Stephen King impaled his on a railroad spike.
In the digital age, they’re not as tangible anymore. They arrive electronically for the most part these days, and unless you’re some metaphysical doohickey who can Neo your way through the Matrix, you probably can’t touch them.
So far, I’ve dealt with them pretty well. No tears (well, maybe two), no tantrums, no giant red poofs imprinted on the wall where my head exploded from grief.
But from six o’clock on Sunday (Happy Birthday, Emmie….) until eleven last night, I got six.
I hadn’t planned to check my inbox at all on Sunday. But my phone betrayed me, and there it was. I went to bed with a screeching (non-rejection-related) migraine, and woke up in the morning with another in the inbox. Then when I got off work I had two more. A couple hours later I had another and was sputtering DMs and IMs to a couple of Query Trenches Comrades, and then right before bed, I got the final one. It felt like a kick to the bollocks.
And here’s the thing — I still haven’t gotten as many rejections as say, J.K. Rowling did on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. So it’s likely to just keep on happening for a while. However, what I do know is that agents who have read the full manuscript have been extremely positive about it.
Which leads me to believe this deluge is a sign that my query letter needs some work, because for the last two days my inbox has looked like this:
Which has caused me to look like this:
So if something about my query letter is making agents do this:
Then I have a drawing board to get back to. But not this week.
Rejection sucks. It sucked when it was Josh W. in seventh grade, it sucked when it was physical education and everyone knew I was total crap at everything, it sucks now when I know my novel isn’t total crap. However, it’s led me to the knowledge that A: something’s not working, and B: I can probably fix it.
It’s up to me to write a query letter that makes agents want to do this (I’m Jim):
I shall get back to that. But for this week of Thanksgiving, I’m going to cool it a bit. And I’m going to do what I do best, which is write.
Oddly, after a couple days of taking a serious ego-lashing, I feel hopeful.
Does rejection ever have that effect on you? I feel like something better has to be coming. Has to be.
- Rejection! Rejection! Rejection! – Guest Post by AJ Myers (paigenolley.wordpress.com)
- Part of Your World (emmiemears.com)
Sunday is for writers around these parts!
Wow. Yesterday was a bit of a trip, to channel 1975.
I discovered that my iPod has been stolen, along with seven years of painstakingly organised music and some favourites I suppose I can buy again someday when disposable income isn’t just for Mitt Romney. Until then, I have literally nothing. This right here is the major bummer of the digital age — you lose an iPod or a Kindle, and FIZZLE-FIZZLE-POOF.
Backtrack to yesterday morning, and sometime around 8:30 I had a dream that I got a rejection on my full manuscript from an agent I really like. Are you right now thinking to yourself that I was a bit precognitive? Well, upgrade it to psychic, because I got home last night after a very long work shift to find said rejection in my inbox. As far as rejections go, it was about as nice as humanly possible. She took the time to write me a personal letter instead of sending a form (which is her norm). She said some very, very nice things about my writing and my concept, but said she didn’t click with the voice.
This is the part where all writers learn The Big Subjectivity Lesson. And it gives me hope for a number of reasons.
You can have a killer concept, great writing, and a snazzy personality and still get many, many rejections. Look how many Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone garnered — I believe it was upwards of 40. This isn’t to say Shrike is the next one of those, because saying that would be like saying my little apple is the next pomegranate, but it’s true that many successful books (most) slice through hordes of agents and editors before finding publication.
The second hopeful bit was that this particular agent said she would love to consider my next project if Shrike doesn’t land me an agent. This is twofold hopeful. One, she thought my writing was strong enough that she would actively welcome reading my work again — and agents don’t throw that around willy-nilly. Two, she’s certainly not rejecting me. She’s passing on a particular project.
And the third hopeful bit — yes, I managed to scrape a bunch of hope out of a rather short, two paragraph email — is that this is just one opinion. I had this weird thought last week that I was out of agents to query. I don’t know where that delusion came from, but it’s silly-wrong. I still have a few killer agents considering my full manuscript. One asked for revisions last month, which is not only a very good sign, but her suggestions were helpful and spot on.
I guess it’s easy-ish to be hopeful when it’s the first pass on a full manuscript. It will probably get a lot less easy when that number gets bigger and time just starts slipping away. But for now, I’ll hold onto Mama Hope’s apron strings. Both agents to finish reading my full manuscript have seen the potential in it. Both loved the concept and the writing. That is something to celebrate.
Look out, New York. I’m coming for you. In a loving, fangirly sort of way.
No Sunday would be complete without ending with a sappy song.
So here it is, my love song to New York publishing: