Thursday, June 25, 2009

A (Hopeful) Writer's Life

I don't know why I've written a second novel. I have worked and reworked it for several summers. It's much different than my first one and I truly love the characters that came from some mysterious place in my brain. I remember sitting on my deck one July afternoon and the voice of a young girl started speaking through my pen. Then came her mother's story of having her as a teenager and the voice of the gay man that becomes the third member of their loving little family. But the reality is - is it just another novel. The publishing industry has taken a hit just like all the other institutions in this country. I do not think I'm being pessimistic in saying the chances of someone publishing this novel is miniscule. Even before the recession of the American economy it was next to impossible. A writer will get dozens of rejection letters that state that the publisher or literary agency receives something like 12,000 query letters a year and they publish 10 books in that year. You do the math.
I am not a celebrity that can draw attention to a book cover and I do not know anyone in the publishing industry so I am screwed just like thousands of other sincere and hard-working writers of fiction.
Yet, today I spent another entire day of my life printing out query letters with specifications for each publisher or agent. Each one - if you do your "homework" as you are required to do - is different. One agent wants the first 10 pages, one wants the first 3 chapters, another wants a short synopsis, another wants a long synopsis. You must type the cover letter, or query, directly to a specific person who would be extremely interested in your type of book (again, homework ahead of time is key). I have had three agents express interest this past year. One asked me to send her the entire manuscript. I spent about $20 on copying it and another $5 mailing it. I lovingly sent my precious work off to California - and never heard from her. That was a year ago. Another agent actually called me and spent about 45 minutes discussing my first chapter with me. She liked it but required some rewriting. Of course, I immediately got to work. (Ask my writing group - I HATE rewriting!) I sent it off and - you guessed - never heard from her again. Another agent asked to read more, I sent more, but it was a no-go. (At least she responded.)
What is the point of all this whining? I constantly ponder this desire to write and tell stories. This crazy notion that I have something to say in a unique way. Why? When it will probably never amount to anything, compared to the countless hours of work I have put into it. A writer can spend years writing a book and then more years doing what I did today. Now I've discovered that it takes $30 to copy my complete novel. I spent $30 copying chapters to send out to 11 agents/publishers today and another $20 mailing them.
This is my third round for this novel. I've read time and again that PERSEVERENCE is the key to success - but I've done all this so many times - how long is long enough??? I think that if nothing comes of this day of effort I may just suck it up and self-publish again. Of course then there is the problem of marketing your own work, which I suck at. Maybe I'll just order 10 copies and hand them out to passing strangers on the street.
My daughter read my new book and names it as her favorite book. Maybe that's enough.


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Diane, I know exactly what you're going through. I've been through this too. I'm on the verge of shelving my second novel (after 36 rejections) and I'm trying to decide if I have the emotional stamina to try to market my third, which is nearly done. I don't know. One thing that makes it hard is that I do make my living from writing--but it's purely utlitarian--yet spending all day writing makes it's hard at the end of the day to find the energy to write what I want.

I know, whine, whine, whine.

P.S. I never bother to photocopy. I just print off our laser jet printer. It ends up being much cheaper.

Ms Hen said...

Dr Suess got 30 or 40 rejections before he finally convinced someone to publish To Thing I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Where would we all be without Green Eggs and HAM?? or the LORAX(he was way ahead on environmental message).

I wrote a book too. It took so many hours and hours. I finished 2 years ago; and I rewrote half of it and stopped.

Why? Because I know it won't sell. I loved that I wrote it the first time; and yes, I'll someday get back to it. I am not knocking myself down.. I just know it won't sell.

And I am so busy paying a superhigh MORTGAGE and if I write I don't have much of a social life.

Since I was a little girl I wanted to write.

I did start another book.. about my childhood... two chapters almost.. and stopped .

I should do it for ME.. for self-awareness.

I just can't find time. I'm exercising again; and dating; a few dates a weeks; interviewing I call it... and I love spending so much time with my 13 year old son... and I want my house clean and home cook meals and al-anon 3 times a week... Whew.

So I stop writing since it means no social life when I write; had to cut back something. (and on books that won't sell? )

I write poetry and songs too..

You have real talent; and it would be a shame to not pursue it .. (but the money does add up..... I can understand why you might get discourage..

Hugs.. I love reading your blog; it is a gift you give to so many..

Rob-bear said...

Who needs a publisher when you can blog?

John Ettorre said...

I feel your pain, Diane. But hang in there. Keep writing and praying, and let good things happen. Meanwhile, I hope this lively inquiry into inevitable writerly rejection helps, if only a little:

Rob-bear said...

Offering your work -- really, yourself -- to the world and being rejected is pretty tough to take.

Courage and blessings.