Not that kind of swinging. (Sorry.)
I’ve been a bad blogger.
Which is kind of funny, because I know all the dire stats behind blogs. The reality is most blogs fail—mostly because people abandon them shortly after launching them.
This is why a lot of companies hire copywriters (like me!) to research and write blog posts for them.
And that’s partly behind my lackluster blogging habits. After a full day of writing copy, I scramble for a couple hours to work on whatever manuscript I’m trying to finish. That doesn’t leave much time—or willpower—for blogging. Everything I do involves words. So, at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is wrestle yet more words into a blog post.
The other reason I’ve been quiet is because I just spent a little over three months getting very, very, oh-so-very close to a publishing deal with my dream publisher.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen.
I don’t often see writers talk about their near-misses. It’s easy to find “how I got published” or “how I found my agent” stories. But stories about the “almosts” seem to be rare. Maybe it’s because, as writers, we have to guard our hearts. It’s hard enough to accept rejection; sharing it with the world makes it worse. I also don’t want to indulge in sour grapes or give the impression that I’m whining. It’s one thing to fling oneself onto a fainting couch and declare, “No one understands my genius!” It’s quite another to blare your heartbreak to the universe.
After all, the universe is a mostly indifferent audience.
On the other hand, it’s sometimes nice to know you’re not alone. Writing is already an intensely private exercise. Unless you belong to an authors’ group, or you have a writing battle buddy, you spend hours each day all by yourself as you write. And when you submit your manuscript to agents or publishers, you have to tamp down all your misgivings and anxiety and project confidence that your work is good and worthy and marketable.
(Even if you really just want to write in your query letter: “Love me! I need love so badly!”)
If you’re a fledgling author, and you submit a book to agents or publishers (which means you actually send the manuscript to editors), you’re probably going to receive a lot of no and perhaps a little bit of maybe. Sometimes, though—and this is rare enough to be remarkable—you get a yes.
I got the closest thing to a yes in early November. It wasn’t a deal, but it was close enough to make me leap up from my computer, fly down the stairs, and tell everyone in the house I’d just landed what might be a three-book contract. I think I might have levitated at some point.
I was so happy—happier than happy. My work was good and worthy! I filled out some paperwork—a sort of package to go along with the manuscript. More levitating! It was on its way up the chain, and it was destined to get the big, fat YES from the folks in charge of sealing deals.
About a week later, it didn’t. It didn’t get the big, fat YES. The person on the next rung up the acquisition ladder wanted to see a couple changes.
Changes? I can do changes! Absolutely, I can do changes. So I worked for a little over a week, adding new chapters and thousands of words. My husband cleared the house and gave me hours to myself. The manuscript had to be perfect. It would be perfect. I was so close, you know? I could do this!
I turned it in.
Then Thanksgiving came.
Then Christmas came.
I want to say my advice is to never submit a manuscript before the holidays, but don’t do that to yourself. It’s not unusual to wait six months or more before hearing back on a submission. You should submit a manuscript whenever it’s ready.
I am not a patient person, but I’ve had to force myself to be when it comes to all things writing. If you’re going to be in this business, if you’re going to really step up to that plate and keep swinging and swinging and swinging and swinging, you have got to learn patience. Otherwise, you’ll die of stress. Like, your cortisol levels will explode and you’ll just expire from anxiety.
Over that long holiday break, while I was waiting to hear back, I
struggled to write didn’t write. I’d sit down to write, and I’d just end up refreshing my email. Or looking at Twitter. Or re-reading my manuscript. Or rearranging the stuff on my desk. And those curtains need washing, don’t they? Also, maybe we should re-grout all the tile. Does anyone need to go to the store? Because I am totally available.
Also during this time? The publishing company that published my first book announced its closure, meaning my first book will go “out of print” in 2018. Poof. No more book. The rights revert to me, which means I either have to find a new publisher or publish it myself.
So these revisions had to work. This contract had to come through. It had to, didn’t it? It would. Of course it would. Right now, someone was reading it, and they were nodding, thinking, Okay…that’s good. Nice! She fixed all the problems! Also, I bet she’s really smart and pretty.
Yeah, none of that happened. A little bit into January, I got a lovely email from the person who had initially accepted the book, letting me know the next person up the rung hadn’t liked it enough to send it on to the deal-sealing folks.
And that was that.
The email wasn’t mean. Quite the opposite. It encouraged me to write and submit something a little different, and I agree with that. Someone I respect championed my book—and was willing to fight for it. But publishing is a business. If a publishing house doesn’t think a manuscript will sell, it can’t afford to buy it just because it will make the author really, really happy.
I won’t lie and pretend I said “aw, shucks” and moved on to the next thing. This one hurt. It seemed like it was going to happen. It would have seriously boosted my writing career. For a little while, I had made it.
And then I didn’t. Not this time.
Who knows, maybe that manuscript will sell somewhere else.
I’m already writing the next one. Swinging and swinging and swinging and all that.
“There were times when I was afraid I would never sell another book, but I never doubted I’d write another book.” — George R.R. Martin