Keep On Keeping On
When I first began writing, there was a little voice that insisted on intruding and whispering: What makes you think you can do this?
Whether you’re just beginning this journey, or like me, you’ve been plugging away for a few years amassing piles of rejections so high you don’t really want to admit how many there are, I’d wager you, too, have felt fear, defeat, self-doubt, or even impostor syndrome. For me, there are times the fear and self-doubt are so strong, I freeze even when my characters are telling me exactly what to write.
It’s important to share your experiences with those negative voices because feeling these things means you care and want to succeed, that you’re willing to fight for it. Use those emotions to help guide you.
Because the fact is, writing is hard. It’s discipline. It’s getting your heart stomped on by rejection. But, it’s also handing a new world over to someone else. It’s finding a way to stand up and dust yourself off…repeatedly. It’s learning to trust, to recognize and appreciate constructive criticism that helps better your craft.
It’s learning to keep on keeping on.
It took almost a year to write, edit, and revise (a billion times) my first novel. And as the rejection pile grew, I researched, studied, and refined. I’d heard it’s rare for a first novel to be published, so I kind of set mine aside, and wrote another. Different genre, different age group. And I queried my heart out, adding to my pile of rejections. But, I’d also heard it could take three, four, or even five novels before one was published. So, I wrote novel number three and spent two years querying it. And even though, for the first time, agents were requesting more material, rejections kept flowing in, each one another stab in the heart.
And, while I didn’t believe Novel #1 would ever see the light of day, every once in a while, I’d dust it off and send it out.
It was during one of those times I ran across other writers talking about this #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group) Twitter event. I’d never heard of this group, so I checked out their website to see what they were all about. And discovered a smorgasbord of well … support! (If you're looking for encouragement, check them out! You won't regret it. It's kind of like cyber cheerleading at its best. http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/)
As for the Twitter event, I almost ignored it because I wasn’t prepared. But, another little voice nudged me, and with a ‘what the hell attitude,” I took bits and pieces from everything I’d learned during past events and sent off pitches for all three novels.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. So, imagine my surprise when I received a coveted ‘favorite’ for… Novel #1. I kept my excitement to a minimum because this was still a long shot…but, at least it meant I was doing something right, and every little bit of encouragement is worth clinging to!
After I researched the publisher, I made sure every ‘i’ was dotted, every ‘t’ crossed. Then, I inhaled deeply and hit send.
And forgot about it.
That’s right. I honestly forgot it was out there. Until one day in March, I opened my email to find a message from Keshini Naidoo at Hera Publishing. I clicked on it, assuming it was another rejection for a different novel, so, it took me a second to realize, “Hey, wait a minute. This is the opposite of a rejection!”
I must have read that email a hundred times. And then I read it to my husband who assured me I wasn’t imagining things. Then, I read it to my son who said, “That sounds promising.”
So, I answered all the questions Keshini asked and hit send again. Even then I didn’t allow myself to become too hopeful. After all, I’d heard stories.
In fact, full-fledged panic with a new set of doubts wiggled in. Did I respond too quickly? Not quickly enough? Did she hate what I said? I made myself sick. My poor husband had no idea what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with me.
Six weeks of correspondence passed between us (and yes, those silent in-between times were difficult (waiting is hard, folks!) before the official offer finally came in May—a three-book deal for a series stemming from my very first novel. I was elated, excited, and absolutely terrified! I thought Holy crap. What if I can’t do this? To which my son said, “You’ve already done it; you’re just going to do it again.” (Isn’t he the best? I'd loan him out, but I kind of need him! )
I’d like to tell you everything has changed, but the truth is, writing is still hard, even with a fantastic editor with crazy good ideas and suggestions, and self-doubt still creeps in sometimes, sabotaging my efforts and holding my brain captive.
What I can say is I’m happy I didn’t give up. And, if I’m being completely honest, if it hadn’t been for my husband, my biggest cheerleader, and my son (who is the world’s best plot-hole finder and fixer-suggestor), I might’ve quit long ago.
As it is, I’m still finding it hard to believe that this is actually going to happen—October 2019, to be exact.
All of this to say: KEEP ON KEEPING ON. And when you have those days when you’re wondering what the heck you think you’re doing, remember, it only takes one. And when the time is right, you and that one will find each other.