Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Self-Doubt of Writing

I don't know if there's another avocation as demoralizing as being a writer. I post on a couple writer-y forums, and the desperation is - at times - like a needle to the eye ball.

All kinds of Pain and Suffering.

Until now, I've never really paid attention to many of the 'woe-is-me, my teenage vampire book can't find a home....' I'd get all uppity about saying stuff like, "I write to for the words, man. I don't need not stinking agent!" (And then a chorus of deep-voiced dudes would yell something like, "YEAH!" just after I finished. You know, whatever.)

Then came last January, when I get this E-mail about somebody being interested in my book. Until that point, the only person who ever said anything good about my writing was my mom. And she's not exactly a good critique partner. Hell, I'm her first born.....

Still, that E-mail got a couple bubbles of excitement floating inside me.

But, then I started playing World of Warcraft and - just like one of the magical things that happens inside that game - KA-BLAM!, I hit a major bout of writer's block.

Fast-forward a couple months, and I find myself getting ready to move to Oregon.

Another month and I'm in Oregon.

Of course, I needed to take a month to get everything together (in Oregon).

Eventually, I returned to my book, The Legendary Days of My 17th Year. And I was a bit surprised by what I read....

I liked it. I actually thought it was good. Unlike so many people, I have no misconceptions that I'm some amazing wordsmith. In my daydreams, I'm just a few steps above totally sucking - despite the almost continual reassurances from my various writer friends (and, of course, my mom) that my writing was 'very good'.

The point?

Well, I've entered the "woe-is-me" zone. Thankfully I'm not pitching a vampire book, so we can all be spared that melodramatic part of this story.

I began querying agents - tentatively - this week. I was full of self-doubt, full of anxiety - full of walls being erected (just in case I got rejected, which is more than a possibility as a writer - it's a straight up fact, sucka.) That was Saturday night.

Sunday morning, I raced downstairs like it was Christmas and checked my E-mail.


So I got on Facebook, waiting to hear that bing! from my E-mail.


As I was eating breakfast, I checked my E-mail and......

There it sat, a response from my first-ever queried agent requesting a full submission.

That night, I sent out a couple more. The next day, I didn't even have to wait - 2 more requests for submissions.

So, I sent out a couple more and consulted some successful writer friends.

Two more requests for full submissions.

The way this story SHOULD end is with me winning the National Book Award, having people be all weepy whenever I'm around, and generally living the life of a literary Rock Star, right?

Of course.

But, surprise!

I got rejected.

And for some reason it just demoralized me. I started thinking, "Yeah, it's not that good..." Even though this specific agent (who I'm told is fairly picky in what she likes) personally replied saying, "You are a powerful writer, but something is holding me back." She went on to compliment the book, too.

So, total craziness happening here. And the craziest part? I'm waaaayyy ahead of the traditional publishing curve here....I should be on cloud-9. I think, because the writing is so important to me and I desperately want it to find a person who thinks, "Man, this is exactly what I am about..." Because so many books have done that for me, you know? Like when I read Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - it just blew my mind. I want somebody who really champions something that I've written.

I don't necessarily care about a big advance, or some huge Twilight-esque sales record. Honestly, I don't. It would be nice, but I really am interested in becoming a better writer and working with an agent (and editor, ultimately) who loves what I'm doing and is a collaborator in all my madness....

So, time to do the inevitable and check my E-mail....I'm beginning to realize that an agents idea of "getting back soon" is vastly different than my own.



  1. I think I'm just about where you are in the publishing race right now.
    Out of my first 5 or so queries, I got 3 quick requests to see the whole book... and then a big long wait. Sigh.
    I really surprised myself with how exciting that first "I would love to read the full manuscript" message was. I acutally woke my husband up to come read it.
    And then I realized that this may be the best I do, and the farthest I ever get. Bumm-er.

    And then I got back to writing! Because when I was just writing for myself, it really was fun.
    And all those people who "want to write a book" hey, I wish them well, but if they knew how many hours over how many years I actually sat at this computer... they might reconsider. There's nothing very glamourous about it.

  2. I totally. understand. your. pain.


    I'd love to hear more about your book (and your query experience....)

    I'm getting ready to start on my next book, too. While I can't say it here, I have reason to believe I'll hear something soon from these agents...(E-mail me and I'll fill you in, if you're interested...)

    So, thanks! Glad to know I'm not the only crazy-feeling one out here.

  3. Hey, Bryan B, I found out about your blog via Big Plain V's. I too had early excitement with querying. My very first query to Jodi Reamer garnered a full request, a long/super-good telephone conversation with her and then a 14 months of waiting in limbo, ultimately ending in a form rejection from her assistant. Brutal. I did get 12 other requests though and 4 are still out. Wait, wait, wait.

    Did you ever read The Alchemist? If not, you must. It's a novel with a message and the message is: the universe wants you to live your dream and it gets you really excited at first to bait you, then, it makes you work for it. It is one cool book. I blogged about it a few weeks back actually.

  4. "My very first query to Jodi Reamer garnered a full request, a long/super-good telephone conversation with her and then a 14 months of waiting in limbo, ultimately ending in a form rejection from her assistant."

    Oh, no....that's awful. I feel like I need some sort of medication after reading that!