A few weeks ago, my wife and I saw the film Authors Anonymous. As budding authors ourselves, we weren’t sure if the story was cute, fascinating or just plain sad (I voted for sad). If you’re a writer, this is one of those “inside baseball” type movies you totally will understand. If you aren’t a writer, you might not get why we put ourselves through all this torture.
Don’t worry — I often wonder that myself.
For those of us who haven’t yet established a beachhead in the land of literary success, the challenge is that our writing careers tend to bob among the waves of a very large and seemingly solitary ocean. We sometimes find fellow travelers who are treading water in the same seas and share with them hopeful tales of those who have reached the shore and are exploring this wondrous land of opportunity (When you’re a not-yet-successful writer, you tend to spend weekend mornings coming up with over-extended metaphors while waiting to hear back from editors, agents or your friends on social media).
Recently, I had a solid lead on getting a dust jacket blurb from a highly successful author in my genre. Having laid the ground work over several months, I shipped out a copy of my work with eager anticipation.
The author, a very kind and gracious soul whose writing I absolutely adore, was so generous in declining to endorse my work that I felt uplifted by the rejection. He spoke of his own struggles in getting published and how he took these early challenges as an admonition to improve his craft. In closing, he said the following: “I implore you to look beyond the one story, and strive forward towards greatness. Our community needs writers like you.”
Some might reasonably argue that he was trying to let me down gently, knowing that it's bad form to be mean to under-performing kid in class.
But instead of being cynical, I decided to take his counsel at face value. So I sent portions of two manuscripts to contacts who might be able to help me out and spent the next Saturday starting the arduous process of looking for agents in preparation for when the next edit of my manuscript is complete.
In my home office I have a file with at least 50 rejection letters in it. On the bookshelf about a foot and a half away sits my first novel. Am I willing to go through the cycle of eagerness, hope and rejection all over again for the possibility of publishing the sequel to the manuscript that took 15 years to get into print?
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.