Friday, June 17, 2011

A Writer's Continuing Education, Part 2: Reject Me, Baby! I Can Take It!

Those following this blog know of my recent pitch to a New York Publishing house.  Now, a note: I'm not trying to be all mysterious by not naming the house or talking about my pitch.  I'm just so new at this, I don't really know what I should or shouldn't be blogging about when it comes to this whole process, just want to play it safe. Why blog about it at all, then?

Well, as I've also said repeatedly, I'm in the midst of this huge learning period, and I want to share as much of that as possible.  When I first started out WAY back in high school, before the internet was widespread and accessible, I lived in a little town near a small city with very little in the way of literary outlets.  No access to the info I wanted about writing and publishing, which left me COMPLETELY in the dark.

And even after I got "serious" five years ago, I made lots of dumb mistakes and missed many opportunities.  So I figure if anything I share along the way can help someone, I've done what I can to "pay it forward."

In any case, long story short: through some delightfully unexpected connections, I found myself pitching a dark fantasy series to a senior acquisitions agent at a New York House.  A phone interview ensued, during which the positives and pitfalls of my pitch were discussed.  I was asked to then expand on said pitch, get back with the agent in a few months.

What resulted was an unprecedented burst of productivity.  I banged out a synopsis not only for the whole series, (a first!),  and not only a synopsis for the first novel, (another first!), but for the next two books, also.  I also wrote the first three chapters of Book One and Two.  I sent them in, and waited with bated breath.

A few days ago I got my response.  Now, this whole time I've been hoping and praying for one of the following three responses:

1. they'd love it and want to buy it
2. they'd be interested and would move to the next step
3. they'd at least like my writing, and would want to see more of something else

I got #3.  The insightful critique the editor offered spawned a whole series I could write  TOMORROW, but it also, unfortunately, moved it far away from the original concept, which the editor had liked better.  He/She said very nice things about my writing, going so far as to even say "really impressed".  

Like before, he/she pointed out the high and low points, and added that he/she'd love to see more from me.  When I shared my news with a much more experienced writer I've been communicating with on this, he said the letter sounded remarkably forthright, personal and genuine, then he gave me this advice:

"Now, here's what you do next.  Give them what they want.  Retool the original proposal."

The editor responded to this very favorably, sounding excited.  Right away, my little brain started working overtime.  Retooled the original idea.  Of COURSE, being the weirdo I am, I worked in this cool angle that I just loved.  

So did the editor.  He/she even used the words "really really cool", but cautioned he/she had to run it past his/her boss first. 

"Wait a minute," you ask.  "Why wait on this editor's approval?  Why let HER dictate YOUR story? Why not just self-publish your story on Kindle and Createspace, be the master of your own publishing destiny?"

For many reasons, the biggest of which is this: this whole situation has, once again, reaffirmed in my mind that rejection or at the very least critique PUSHES US TO WRITE BETTER.  In my mind, this new angle is WAY cool. 

But I'm a no name.  A virtual nobody on the Big Boy & Girl Playground.  If this editor isn't confident of the story itself gaining traction, I have to roll with that.   SO, another "no" in this instance is only going to push me to retool the story and refine my focus even more.

See, this whole thing is SUPPOSED to be hard.  You're supposed to wait, have patience.   If not, what's the point?  Yeah, yeah, self-publishing and self-editing and doing graphic design yourself and self-marketing is hard work, no doubt - but where's the mental, emotional blood, sweat, and tears?  Where's the angst over delivering a well written and told story?  Where's the drive to be better, better, BEST, instead of caving to the self-indulgent instant gratification that's offered by self-publishing?

You're supposed to get rejected.  Bottom line. What separates garbage from gold.  And that's the downside to self-publishing, both electronic and print.  Lets the garbage mingle with the gold.  Yeah, if you've got a name and a following, maybe self-publishing is okay....but here's a radical thought, maybe once you've established a following and name, you need rejection EVEN MORE, just to keep you fresh and honest, not resting on your name to carry the day.

And you know what, don't even mention how much more money I'll make self-publishing electronically.  BS.  And geez.  I'm so poor right now, I have no concept of that sort of thing, anyway.  Any measly advance would seem like a lot of money, right now.

Recently, a good writer friend of mine - and much, MUCH better writer than me - confided in me that he and his agent have received nearly 50 rejections for his newest novel.

50.  And he's way better than me.  And he's also willing to wait and run the course. 

That's what it's supposed to be aboutWhat gives the whole pursuit value in the first place.

And maybe you can't even count what I've received as an out and out rejection, because the editor's still willing work with me.  But still.  Reject me, baby.  Reject me.

I can take it.