by Heather Moore
I literally gained ten pounds writing my most recent book. It wasn’t really that I ate more chocolate (although that could be true), or ate more fast food to cut back on shopping or cooking time (although that might be true as well), but as I became so caught up in finishing the project, it seemed that every spare moment was be used in writing, not exercising.
This week, I managed to go running (30% running/ 70% walking) three times. This is a record since probably, oh, August. Because it’s freezing in my city, I dragged my 12 year old with me to the local rec center to run the track. Monday was quiet there, Tuesday was busier, and by Thursday it was packed.
As we maneuvered ourselves in and out of other eager runners, I told my daughter, “It will stay packed like this through January, then by the first week of February only a few will remain.”
Ah, the New Year’s Resolutions, and the initial burst of energy and determination that fades almost as quickly as it starts. I have seen this lately with many writer friends. Queries have been sent out in a flurry in November and December, many times unpolished. Rejections have already filtered in, and discouragement has set in. One of my friends, after four rejections in just a few weeks, completely gave up.
It’s hard to stay motivated and positive as we write and submit. We might spend a weekend researching agents and by Monday morning we have submitted to six or eight of them. But in a recent WD article, agent Ann Rittenberg says she receives 3,000 queries per year, and 75% are for novels. Of that, 90% are for first novels, meaning 2,000 queries are for first novels. Ann says that “80 percent of those query letters about first novels never should have been sent” (“Submitting Your Novel: Basics of a Solid 3-Paragraph Query,” Writer’s Digest, January 2010, 62). Ann also says that many of those queries are for types of books that she doesn’t represent, or it’s obvious that the writers “were not ready to be published and the books were not ready to be agented.” (ibid)
But what if we are ready? We’ve finished the book, gone through revisions with trusted editors, written a powerful query, and we are still receiving rejections? Do we stop going to the track? Stop running altogether?
Looking forward to 2010, my advice is:
1. Use rejections to improve your work. Slow down a little and put in the right effort to submit to the right agent. Researching agents and/or publishers will be worth your time.
2. Understand that the submitting process is a waiting game, which means that you need to have more than just one writing goal.
3. Stay open to ideas and options. There are many genres and avenues you can get published through.
4. Don’t just set "be all, end all" writing goals, but set back-up goals when you reach that left turn.
5. As we know, writing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s wonderful to create, but there will come a point when you feel as if you are slugging through the muddy marshes of revising.
James Michener said, “Being goal-oriented instead of self-oriented is crucial. I know many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really don’t want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don’t want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference.” (as quoted in WD, Jan 2010, 46)
Will you still be “running” in February? I hope so!