The Success in the Failure

My Facebook friends and Twitter followers already know about this, but I thought that, considering the subject matter, it bore repeating as a blog post.

Yesterday morning, a little less than one month since I sent out my first real manuscript submission to a publisher, I received an email back from said publisher.

It was a big, fat rejection letter.

And it wasn’t even an overly impressive rejection. It basically read, “Ms Tobin, sorry, but your story isn’t for us, good luck in the future.”

Now, here’s the thing. I’ve been expecting this since the second I hit the “send” button on my submission. While I wanted to have a glimmer of hope, I had a dozen voices shouting pessimism (reason?) at me. I thought, “It’s my first submission, and who the hell ever gets published on their first submission?” and, “You don’t even read romance novels, so what makes you think you would be able to write a decent one?” I wasn’t terribly hard on myself, I was just trying to be reasonable. I didn’t want to get my hopes up when the chances are so terribly low of getting a deal with a publisher these days, particularly on your first try.

But, here’s the other thing: I’d be a dirty, dirty liar if I said the rejection didn’t sting. Despite my 99.99% certainty that nothing good would come of my submission, there was still that tiny little glimmer in the back of my mind, holding out hope. And that glimmer imploded in upon itself when I read the words “your project isn’t right for us”. I had a wave of disappointment, followed by a wave of anger, followed by a wave of almost physical pain – all this within a 30 second span.

But then something wonderful happened. It was over. After weeks of checking my email fifty times a day, wondering if I would get a response today or not for months, telling myself that it was going to be a rejection but also praying for it to be an acceptance, it was over. My story was rejected. Submission saga complete. Nothing left to worry about.

I learned several things about myself and about the system by submitting that manuscript…

For one thing, I learned that I hate the traditional publishing process, not because it rejected me, but because of the time and waiting required. I only had to wait a month to get that rejection letter, and the waiting drove me right up the wall. Most big publishers quote up to 6 months or more, and many of them make it very clear that they expect to be the only one looking at your manuscript at any given time (if they find out you’ve submitted to multiple publishers at once it’s an automatic rejection). So say for a moment that I start submitting my zombie apocalypse novel and that it takes 5 publishers before one says yes (which is generous, as some people submit to dozens of publishers before hitting pay dirt). Now say that each of those publishers requires that you can’t submit to anyone else until they’re done with you, and say that each one of them quotes a 6 month waiting period, which they dutifully use every second of. That means that it would be two and a half years before that fifth publisher decided to take a chance, and that’s before the long process of contracts, cover design, copyediting, etc that can also take years. In other words, by the time my zombie apocalypse novel was actually in print people might not give a flying rat’s tail about zombies anymore, and my sales might be abysmal. Alternately, I could self-publish the book by the end of this year if I put my heart in it…I’d have to do all the cover/editing/marketing work myself, but it would be out years earlier, during a time when there are tons of zombie movies and games around because zombies are in right now.

Another thing I learned is that I’m not nearly as delicate as I thought I was. Sure I had my moment of depression that sparked anger and frustration as well, but it was all over in less than a minute. I didn’t mope or tell myself that I got rejected because my story was crap. I didn’t turn into a miserable ball of self-loathing. I had a burst of emotion, and then it was over. I’ve moved on. Back on the road and heading into the great beyond. No turning back now.

And another thing that I learned is that I’ve gathered a great community of family, friends, and fellow writers around me over the past months. When I took to Facebook and Twitter to announce my first official rejection letter, the response I got was just wonderful. Amongst the messages I got were:

“Some day your writing will pay off for you. You love it too much for it not to!” – my father

“Just save it for when you do sell your book. You can frame it next to a glowing review.” – @writerreese

“Celebrate! It means you’re a dedicated, professional writer!” @SaraMThorn

There were many others, and it really gave me a burst of confidence, an invaluable thing to me. So I want to say thank you. Thank you to the people who rallied around me to make sure that I knew this wasn’t the end of the world (or, at least, my writing career), thank you to all the writers and references that have let me know what I can expect from both traditional publishing methods and self-publishing methods, and thank you to the editor who gave my manuscript a chance and was relatively quick in letting me know that it wasn’t what they were looking for. Now I can move forward, which is the direction that one definitely wants to be headed in.

Categorizing Yourself

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

82. Why you write in your category or genre.

A long time ago I read a bit of advice that has been repeated many, many times: write what you know. While that’s a bit of an oversimplification, it is still pretty good advice. Why write what you don’t know? If I were to write a mystery, for example, it would be truly awful because I don’t know mysteries. I don’t read them, I’ve watched very few movies or shows on the topic, and while my brain has occasionally aided me in solving an average mystery or two, it is ill equipped for constructing them.

I try to write what I know, which is closely related to what I enjoy. A few years back my husband began to introduce me to classic zombie cinema. Before I knew it I was hooked. I wanted to watch all of the zombie movies, began playing zombie-based video games, and (of course) read some excellent zombie literature. It was after reading several of these zombie novels (most notably The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks) that I began to think, “You know what? I can totally do this.” That year for NaNoWriMo a brand new zombie novel was born, and someday I hope for it to reach adulthood, leave the nest, and support me in my old age.

Ha!

It’s the same with fantasy. I write fantasy because I read fantasy, I enjoy fantasy, and I feel that I know enough about the fantasy genre to write it without sounding like I’m forcing it. I am able to produce something that, at the very least, has the proper basics. Conversely, when I try to write romances I find I come off sounding a bit like a pent-up teenager. I just don’t have the background in romance to lean on when I write, so it’s like I’m a grade school student writing their first original story and I have no idea what it should sound like.

“Write what you know” is also the reason I enjoy writing fanfiction. The world and the characters are already created for you and as long as you know enough about them to write without destroying the pre-established conventions, you can create a fun and enjoyable story with relative ease. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more you know about something, the easier and/or more enjoyable it will be to write.

So the short answer is that I write in the genres I chose because they are genres that I enjoy and that I know enough about to write with a decent level of intelligence.