oh ye of little faith. . .
I’m knee-deep in my WIP and querying my last novel, CHERRY. Both endeavors have been a challenge, nothing new for writers. Trying to write the next great novel whilst trying to sell the last tends to weigh on a writer’s mind. Personally, it’s been tough for me to keep my mind on anything else and with that came a sense of foreboding and panic; wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into, this perpetual mobius strip of writing and querying and waiting and wondering and worrying. Especially, worrying. Is it good? Is it good enough?
I mentioned the agent who took a pass on CHERRY and my subsequent . . . what? Loss of confidence, maybe. Loss of hope. Which, in retrospect, is silly. He’s a great agent but as I’ve said, he’s just one agent. And waiting to hear back from agents or publishers is part of the game. I know that intellectually but emotionally, that agent’s pass threw me for a loop. I found myself wondering if I was fooling myself. I’m not talking about getting published. I’m referring to the caliber of my writing, the caliber of my novels, specifically CHERRY.
People who read CHERRY told me it’s good. This was after I implemented changes suggested by such phenomenal betas at AbsoluteWrite. I agreed with most of what they said and even though it was difficult to cut some of the narrative, move text around, add new chapters, I listened because it made sense. My novel was the better for it and when I finally proclaimed it ‘done’–as done as an unpublished novel can be–I was satisfied with it.
Truth is, I was more than satisfied. I thought it was good. Really good. Should I be humble and say, I thought it was okay, hoping. . . No, I think the first champion of a writer’s work should be the writer. How do you sell your work if you don’t believe in it, right?
And I did believe in it, swear to god. I sent the query and sample pages to those few indie publishers and my dream agent–that’s what I called him in my heart of hearts–and dared imagine best case scenerios. I actually pictured the agent writing me an email: I’m liking it, kk. A lot. Send me the rest. Then a week went by, and another, and another, and I felt my confidence wane, and then I started doubting myself, doubting my work, wondering, What was I thinking?
My WIP suffered for it. Doubt begats doubt and squelches creativity. And I found myself dreading the prospect of opening my emails and seeing a message from one of those publishers or that agent. And then, there it was. I clicked open the agent’s email with trepidation. Truth is, my heart was hammering. I was expecting the worst and he delivered, giving validation to every crud thought I’d had those last two weeks. He didn’t want to read the rest; ergo, my writing sucks, my story sucks, I suck and I’m fooling myself to think I wrote anything good, anything worthwhile.
Not a good place to be, so what did I do about it?
I mentioned the disappointing news on my query thread at AW. Some really, really nice people wrote to me, offering their support, saying kind things which I truly appreciated. Then I wrote a blog about it, which helped. Then I spent a really nice evening with my husband at a metropark by our house. We saw some deer and a pair of nesting ospreys. We shared a bottle of cheap wine. He listened as I lamented and told me not to be disheartened. Doesn’t matter if the damn thing never gets published, he said.
But it does. I decided I was going to start querying again and I shall do so, next week. Then, yesterday, I grabbed a blanket, beer and my laptop and headed out back. Spread the blanket beneath our apple tree and opened my WIP, and started to write. I’d been at an impasse but the words came easier for some reason. Then I sat back and enjoyed the evening and thought about CHERRY. Was it good?
I used to think so.
This a.m. there was an email in my inbox from a certain individual who’s read another one of my novels. He’s an award-winning author, an excellent writer, very generous of his time and expertise. He gave me me great advice which I kept in mind when writing CHERRY. I’d sent the ms to him a while back but he got caught up in all of his own stuff, he has a new book coming out and other wonderful things going on. Anyway, he wrote to me early this a.m., telling me he was finally able to get back to reading my manuscript. And I started wondering, oh man, what have I done? Sent this guy my novel, my God, is it a pile of crap? I opened the file this morning and started reading the thing, and I didn’t stop until I was done.
I finished reading CHERRY a little while ago. It made me cry, just like it did the first time I read it. I love the characters and the story. I think the dialogue’s good. I can’t believe I wrote it, to tell you the truth. I feel like it’s a gift given to me and I shall not squander that, I won’t belittle that, I won’t discount that. I wrote a good book. I know I did.
I just forgot.