I have been working on a novel for about eight months. One of my goals this year is to submit a query letter for a book, which I have never done before. Though the book is not finished yet – not even the first draft – I found myself worrying the other day about submitting queries. Not because I don’t know how the process works or because I’m afraid to do it, but because I have yet to write something as long as an 80,000-word novel that I feel confident enough to pitch.
I began to worry that, once again, I would finish my first draft and then let it sit on my computer without looking at it ever again.
Then I thought about it, and I mean really thought about it. I came to two conclusions: one, that I needed to stop worrying about a step that comes along much further down the process when I haven’t even finished writing the book, and two: what is there, really, to be so worried about?
So I’ll finish my first draft and I’ll read through the whole thing. I’ll edit it once, probably twice or three times. I’ll polish and refine it until it’s as ready as it can be for a first-time submission (not as ready as I wish it were, because I am a perfectionist and that is an unachievable goal). Then I’ll do my research and write those queries and I’ll send them out.
The worst thing that can happen is that I either never hear back or I get a formal rejection.
Really, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not so bad.
I’ve submitted pitches and articles to magazines and publications hundreds of times that have either gone untouched or have been formally rejected. I’ve applied to jobs and have never gotten any responses, or have been told I am not the best fit for a particular position.
I can handle rejection. We all can.
There have been points, while writing this novel, when I considered finishing the story and putting it off to the side. It has been in my head for so long that of COURSE it doesn’t seem exciting or intriguing anymore. I already know how the story ends and all its twists and turns. Just because I’m bored, just because I’m doubting myself, does not mean I shouldn’t try. The same goes for you.
Feeling like something we’re writing is “not good enough” is normal. But who are you to judge what’s good enough for someone else? That’s for someone else to decide – not you! The worst thing that will happen if you submit something is that it won’t make it past any barriers. But at least, if you give it a chance, you can say you tried. How are we ever going to increase our chances of getting something published if we never even try?
Of course it’s hard to know when something is “ready” or “unique.” You learn more about those things the more you try and fail and try again. I haven’t touched my last book since finishing for many reasons, but I’ve promised myself this time will be different … because this is something I have wanted to try for YEARS, and I haven’t yet. I knew things weren’t ready and neither was I, even a year ago.
I’ve built up a protective shield; rejection still hurts, but not as much as it did in the beginning. The only way you build up that kind of resistance is to get rejected, over and over again.
Just do it. Be smart about it, and work hard, and strategize, but do it. Make it happen. You don’t know where it might lead. Just submit it. Just try. I’ll do the same, as long as I can get rid of all these distractions on my desk and get back to writing.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.
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