Fear and Loathing…

The artists’ bread and butter, right?

That and alcoholism, depression, and the inevitable night-terrors…

Well, let me just tell you that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Ya, okay. Fine. It sounds shitty when I put it like that. But I’m not the only weirdo out there who read William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, and Hunter S. Thompson and felt inspired instead of horrified. Right? Please tell me there are others other there!

Never mind then.

Regardless of one’s aspirations, for those of us who are new to the writing profession (or new to trying to be professional about it), there is something wholly soul-crushing about these first steps into realm of writerdom. The great cliched emotional roller-coaster of first novels, query letters, submissions and rejections is something impossible to understand without having been there yourself. Really. I thought I knew, until I submitted my first query letter, what that fear would be like. I really did.

But the truth is, until you do it, you don’t know. That looming cloud of impending doom that settles over you once your story–your baby–is out there, a veritable child in the woods… It is so unimaginable that there’s really no point in trying to describe it. You either know or you don’t. And now I know.

I haven’t even gotten my first rejection letter yet.

Right now, I almost feel like rejection would be a welcome, concrete island in this void of “unknown”. Almost. Except really, rejection will crush me. I know it will. I try to pretend that it won’t, but it will.

I have had my manuscript out to my beta-readers, those poor unsuspecting family members and friends who suddenly found themselves in the unhappy position of having to bullshit me for the sake of my fragile “artist” ego. They all came through for me. I have been able to sustain my self-delusion just a little bit longer.

Still. I vacillate, daily, between the two inevitable extremes: “This is going to be the next big SF bestseller, bitches, move the fuck over!” and “How did this POS ever escape my brain and manifest itself on the electronic page before me?!?”

You know what I mean. Some of you.

The point is, the waiting is the worst. Even if the next couple of months have nothing for me but rejection after rejection, at least then I’ll have something to go on. I can decide that the problem is my query letter, or those first five pages, or something else… anything! Anything except my baby.

In the meantime, I’m distracting myself with another attempt at writing some short fiction. I have just submitted my folk-inspired ghost story “Dreaming in Red” to Strange Horizons. And I’m working on another for submission… somewhere else.

Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted. Well, I’ll keep you posted whether you wish me luck or not. The onus is on you to check in on me. Drop me a word of encouragement in the comments below. Please! I’d love to hear from anyone who has gone through this before, regardless of the outcome. Also, those who just want to cheer me on. I could use it. Really, I could.

8 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing…

  1. Been there 6 years ago – that dreaded letter or email, typically “…not quite what we’re looking for”. I’m about to risk going through it again (after
    finishing that troublesome synopsis).

    There’s always the worry that something wasn’t done right, that crucial careless error. But perhaps a novel – like any work of art – is never truly finished, only abandoned (to the wider world).

    It may not be any consolation but i’ve heard tales of many bestselling authors who’ve had numerous rejections, to the point of despair. So the moral is: keep at it.

    1. Thanks for the supportive words, Adrian!

      Coincidentally (or not… who knows how these things work) I received my first “official” rejection letter approximately six minutes before your note. Good timing! Unnamed agency is “not enthusiastic enough about [my] query to pursue it further”. Which is maybe not surprising, since I have no idea how to write a query letter in the first place. If all of my initial queries come back the same I’m going to have to rethink my approach, I guess.

      I do know that the endless sea of rejections is just part of territory. I have steeled myself for them… I think. I would actually be excited if I got something other than a form rejection, at this point. At least then I’d have some idea that I was on the right track–or some indication of which way I need to point myself.

      1. Sorry about the bad (rejection) news (and the curious timing). With me they would happen at the most inopportune time: if a letter – when i was tired from a day’s work and least able to deal with it; or email when i ended up in an argument with one agent (don’t even go there!). Sometimes the stock replies are the worst, but you just never know the real reasons. You’ve may’ve heard about 99.9 to 1 depressing stat. Well, that’s the UK rejection rate.

        Anyway, I’ve been reading all kinds of advice from websites about query letters, though they vary according to agent or country. Worth checking though.

        Better luck (as sometimes that really can come into it) next time.

        1. I think the stats are about the same in Canada too. Definitely depressing. But I have another 4 of my initial queries out right now. I’m thinking about them as practice queries. If I get form rejections from all of them, I know it’s the query itself that is the problem. If I get requests for partials or fulls, and still get rejections, then I guess it’s the manuscript that still needs work.

          I’ve only had my first batch of queries out for about a week, so the promptness of this denial stung a little. But I guess it’s good to get the first one out of the way quickly!

          I’ve been reading so many different bits of advice on the query letter that I feel less confident than ever that I know what I’m doing! There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of contradictory advice too. It’s hard to sort through as a query-newb.

          But I’ll stick to it. Good luck with your own submissions once you get there (again). I think it’s very brave to get back on the horse a second time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that if this round doesn’t go well for me!

  2. This reminds of when I was looking for a new job. It took about 2 years of steady applications and mostly being ignored and rejected. But, in the end, it did pay off. Not exactly in the way I originally anticipated but life continues to unfold in an interesting way. Job fullfillment is now truly mine.
    So, I suspect that your process will be similar. Keep believing in yourself. We all do.

  3. I took my first writing class more than 20 years ago now. My book of poetry — my first book — was published two years ago. My second, a YA novel, is ready to be sent out, I think. I’m working on a creative nonfiction project, another collection of poetry and an adult novel. It has been a long haul, but persistence and the great support of the Saskatchewan writing community through the programs and services of the SK Writers Guild, the Sage Hill Writing Experience and various writing groups and individuals helped a lot along the way!

    Good luck in your journey!

    PS: I know your mom.

    1. Thank you, Bernadette! It’s good to know that there is a solid community here in SK; I just submitted an online application for the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild. I noticed they offer a mentorship program and professional editing services, as well as workshops. If I am not successful on this round of queries, I’ll definitely be looking into that! Well, I’ll be looking into the workshops regardless. I’ll google Sage Hill as well. Good luck with your YA novel! I’ve started one of those as well. It’s a very different experience so far than adult specfic, although I’ve taken a SF turn in it as well. I’m also trying to get some short fiction under my belt, though I find it hard to resist novelizing them. That’s something I could stand to do a workshop on. Thanks, again!

      PS I’ll have to check out this hot place, will they have it at McNally Robinson?

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