“It’s not you. It’s me.”

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A couple days ago, my mom sent me the link to a wonderful article entitled, “How I’ve learned to embrace rejection,” which you can find here.

It was a wonderful reminder of one very simple fact: art, of every kind, is completely subjective. This, of course, includes writing. I’ve recently begun querying my latest manuscript, and I sent out my first batch of five in November. Of those five, I received a request to read the full manuscript. When I sent the file to this agent, I remained both optimistic and realistic while I waited for her response. What I mean is, I was hopeful and tried to be positive about the possibility this might be it for me — that this could’ve been the agent who would welcome my duology idea with open arms. But at the same time, I reminded myself this might not be the right fit for my novel. And, unfortunately, it wasn’t. However, when she rejected me, she began the email with this: “While I do think you’re a skilled writer…” I know what you’re probably thinking; she might say that to everyone she rejects. She goes on to say she liked the story, but didn’t connect with it enough to take it on.

But at the end of the email, she said, “Of course, publishing is a very subjective business — you’re clearly talented, and I think it’s likely another agent will snap this up.” After the initial read-over of the email and the initial onset of pessimistic feelings and thoughts, I reread it a few hours later, stopping on this last sentence. I’ve been rejected before, but never had I received one that was this positive. She basically gave me the agent/writer equivalent of, “it’s not you, it’s me.” Although, in this case, I think she was being sincere in her break-up line. She thought my project has the potential to get “snapped up” by someone else, it just wasn’t meant to be with her.

No matter if you’re a writer, artist, sculptor, or anything else along those lines, you’ll run into those who just don’t get your art. It’s not for them. But that doesn’t mean someone else won’t come along and think, “this is amazing!”

Sure, you can be realistic like me and understand it might take time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be optimistic as well.

The article I mentioned above reminded me of one very important fact: to find an agent to believe in my story, I have to first believe in it myself.

And I do. I really, really do.

So, cheers to you other “starving” artists out there. May your wine glass always be at least half full.

Mine, on the other hand? From now on, I’m going to keep mine filled to the brim.*

*(This is a metaphor. I promise I’m not an alcoholic.)

“Every Baby is Different.”

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this saying (or how many times I’ve found myself uttering these words since my daughter was born). And it’s very true – every baby is different.

The same, I’ve come to find, can be said about manuscripts as well. Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted that she participated in a NaNoWriMo challenge and had passed her goal of writing 60,000 words in a month’s time. My first thought was, WOW, that’s amazing! My second was, Oh, Dear God. I’ve been working on the same manuscript, in some form or another, for two years. But then I had to remind myself that completing a first draft, while it’s an awesome accomplishment in and of itself, isn’t the end of the road trip. It’s actually just the beginning. Sort of like after you haven’t been in the car that long and you can’t hold your pee in any longer. You have to stop somewhere, and then hop right back on the road again. To me, that’s the same with finishing a first draft and then working on your second. (And then third…and then fourth…let’s just say this is a cross-country road trip.)  And just like with driving, each of us moves at our own speed. Some will make it to their destination faster, and that’s a-okay.

Some babies crawl first, walk first, talk first, you name it. But guess what? In the end, all babies will catch up with each other.

I believe the same goes for us writers out there. We all have the same goal in mind. We can ALL do this! But even if you cross the finish line and complete your editing rounds last, you still made it. In sum, keep on truckin’. Full steam ahead. Keep on keepin’ on.

And any other corny saying to encourage you to stay on course.

But if you need to take a pit stop every now and then, be my guest. Speaking of which…

 

The Survival Guide to Editing

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Writing a first draft of a novel is what I would deem the honeymoon period. Everything is great, wonderful, and spectacular, not to mention you are positive you are writing the next great American novel. Or at least one of the next great American novels. (Or at least a novel.)

But once the dust settles and the newness wears off and you have to actually reread and then revise the extraordinary piece of literature you created… well, let’s just say you might not feel so strongly about it anymore. Which leads me to the point of this blog entry: every writer needs her own personalized survival guide to editing to keep her sanity (and optimism) intact.

If you don’t have your own just yet, feel free to borrow from mine.

1. First, above all else, a writer needs motivators, aka, a cheering section. You know, the kind of person that constantly asks, “Did you edit today?” and stays on you. The kind of person that reminds you if getting published is going to happen for you, then you have to work at it and never stop! I saw a meme the other day that changed the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” to a much more appropriate, “Good things come to those who work hard.” To be a successful writer, if you can’t give it your all, there’s no point in trying. Thankfully, I have two motivators in my corner, cheering me on daily – my mom and my husband. I’m more grateful for their constant support and encouragement than I could probably ever express.

2. I get by with a little help from my friends. To be more accurate, my writing weasels, Jess & Rach. When you’re a writer, it pays to be friends with other writers who will read your work and give you honest feedback. Both of these fabulous ladies do this for me, and thank God, because having not one, but two extra pairs of eyes reading over my stories helps me tremendously. You see, they’re able to pick up on issues that, a lot of times, I don’t even notice are there. In other words, they’re awesome, which means my stories become more awesome by proximity.

3. Every girl needs her accessories. Pretty sure that’s a random quote from a Katherine Heigl movie, but let’s move on. For me, the accessories I need to edit are pictured below:

I know what you’re thinking. This girl needs a few more pens. I know, right? Anyway, besides my collection of colorful writing utensils (and believe it or not, I use different colors to distinguish categories of revision), also pictured is a copy of my manuscript (I cannot edit well just staring at my computer screen), “Hold that thought” stickies (which are also color-coded), a colorful pencil case, and a fun Vera Bradley notebook gifted by Jess, which I use to record what revisions I make when and what needs to be done next.

Wow, I’m a nerd.

4. Treat yo’ self. I find that rewarding myself with sweets or wine (or both!) at the end of a successful day of revising really helps motivate me. Today’s treat: cinnamon rolls.*

But anyway, there you have it – my survival guide to the dreaded task of editing a manuscript. If you’re about to embark on your own editing adventure, make up your own. It may seem like colorful pens and stickies won’t make it any less daunting, but I assure you, they will! (And if not, you can always skip to #4 and try again tomorrow.)

*Cinnamon rolls aren’t pictured because I ate them.

Quickly.

 

“Love What You Sow.”

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Last week, I talked to my grandmother on the phone. She recently had her second shoulder replacement surgery and I called to see how she was doing. After we talked about that, she then proceeded to dive into other topics, and one in particular really struck a chord with me. I can’t remember exactly how we got on the topic, but she started talking about sewing. More specifically, she told me how when you sew something, you have to love it. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly relate, because I don’t know how to sew (or cross-stitch or anything else of the sort). But then she said the same thing should go for my writing – that everything I write – every story, every character, every setting, hell every word – I have to love it. Because if I don’t love it, what’s the point? Which in turn got me thinking about everything I don’t love about my current manuscript: the ending mostly, but other aspects as well, even the nit-picky things that shouldn’t bother me but still do.

But oddly enough, I started realizing after I talked to her that one of the reasons I constantly insult my manuscript to myself while editing is because I do love it. And I really do – so very much.

It isn’t perfect by any means. And like I said, it needs work. And honestly, no matter how long I spend editing it, I know I won’t ever be 100% satisfied with it. But that doesn’t change the love I have for it and the potential I truly believe it has.

Before I started this entry, I googled the definition of the word “sow.” The first that came up was, “to plant seed by scattering it on or in the earth.” Replace the word “seed” with “stories,” and you have one of my biggest goals.

The take-away from my conversation with my grandmother was to love what I “sow” – every single part of it, even the shoddy ending, because I can fix it. I know I can.

And so can you. So love what you sow – or sew or write or whatever else it is you do with your time. Because life is way too short not to.