The First Five Pages

To all writers: Help.

For those of you who stop by my page infrequently, you will know that I am attempting to find an agent for my third manuscript. I knew going in that I would receive rejection and I had/have every intention of building as thick a skin as possible. The more honest part of me knows it is highly possible that this novel will have to be shelved and labeled as my first real attempt, but a failed one. I am not there yet, but I know it’s something that might come to pass.

I came across something this week that should have felt good. I received a response back from an agent, though I won’t name names, requesting the first five pages of my manuscript. Euphoria is not a good enough word to describe my response. Receiving something, anything, back that was not a form or polite letter saying the agency would pass felt amazing.

Sending in the pages within hours, I spent time online researching this agent even more than I already had originally. While googling, I found something that made me cringe and drain any excitement I felt at getting my first request.

Apparently, she always requests the first five pages. From everyone. Though Submissions on the agency site only requests a query, her individual requests are a query and the first five. Even worse, I found the exact response she had sent me, on another individual’s blog. Exact. Response. My theory? She sends a form email requesting the material not included.

Now, this is by no way a cap on the agent or agency. I think it’s amazing and wonderful that she always takes a deeper look into the slush pile and goes out of her way to make sure she sees exactly what she needs to make a decent decision.

But…bummer. For me. I tried to justify it by saying that if my query really sucked she wouldn’t have sent the request, but the form letter was the kicker. I am frustrated that I got my hopes up. I am frustrated that I have no idea what buttons to push to get the right response. I am frustrated that I can’t maintain a “Can Do” attitude.

I need a win.
Fellow writers, if you have any encouragement, I would appreciate some right about now.

okay thats cool

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Failure: One who sucks at life

Failure feels bad. Really bad.
Like when you take a bite of a juicy Granny Smith apple only to realize that it already houses a rotten core, worms and all. They slither near your mouth before you jerk the thing away and toss it.
That’s what failure feels like. The tightening of everything before all your innards start to drop to your toes.

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Failure is the worst and it is not a fickle emotion. It can hop to anyone trying to achieve something. It bounces from CEO’s to librarians, to stay at home moms, to part time workers, to writers.
Most definitely writers.

Recently, I have failed a lot. My husband tells me it’s good. It means I am putting myself out there. But as with all sympathy, we can tell it’s coming from someone who hasn’t ever gone through our particular failure or loss. And it is a loss. It’s a loss of pride, of confidence. Even if you can boost it all right back up in seconds, for that instant in life, it is a loss of all hope.

I love to write. I just finished my fourth manuscript and am working to get an agent for my third. Everyone
thought it was a phase because, as many artistic individuals, I filtered through a lot of jobs/ideas before sighing in resignation and stating that yes, I really was going to settle for little to no income in a career that might not ever be a success. Because I love to write.
Some people got it. Some people gave me that look. You know, that nodding look with the plastered on smile and the slightly condescending tilt in the eyes while an imaginary hand pats your head like a puppy. I took all the good advice, ignored all the looks, and forged onward.

I knew that in order to get where I wanted a few things needed to happen.
1. I needed a job that could get me through the first, rough years that could last anywhere from two-ten.
2. I needed to dedicate time to an online persona.
3. I needed to write.
4. I needed harder skin to accept rejection with grace.

At first, it all went according to plan. I had a job where I could write. Score! All the time I had at home that I didn’t have to write (Because I could write at work.) I filled up with online work, building a platform, connecting. The one thing I had issues with were the rejections letters that came in like the plague. But I handled it. Not with as much grace as I imagined, but I didn’t curse EVERY agency.

Then, out of nowhere, life hit me right in my lady balls. Like all hits to the lady balls, it knocked me to the ground in a silent scream.

My husband and I decided to get a house, we were living with family, housing prices sky rocketed, a time sensitive offer put us back thousands and thousands of dollars way before schedule. Not to mention all the little things first time buyers forget about. Like a fridge and washer and dryer and a couch, oh yeah and all those miniscule closing costs.

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My balanced scales, my list for success, sat on a tiny marble. I had every minute of my day planned out for writing, or online work, or my actual job, or my husband, or family, or editing, or sending out queries, or planning the next story, or birthday parties (because there are ALWAYS birthday parties).

So when that scale tipped, due to the extra stressors. Everything fell apart. I could not maintain a single piece of my scheduled life.

I started to fail and have continued to fail consistently over the last two months. This week I have received three rejection letters from agents and one rejection from a separate job that has no connection with writing.
It hurts. It makes my chest ache and my stomach quiver in dread, in trepidation that it will always be this way.

But then through sheer determination, the moment passes and the stress gets shoved back into the compartment it escaped from, and I remember the movie The Robinsons. “Keep moving forward.”

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It will hurt again, I’m sure. But that will not stop me from getting up the next morning and trying again. And Again. And again. Because eventually, I’ll feel success, and every failure up to that point will make it all sweeter.

If you’re going through a rough time, you keep getting those rejection letters, you just can’t seem to find the time for anything or you just failed at life and it hurts. Use it. Hone it. Toughen your skin so that next time, it won’t take as long to recover. It’s going to hurt, so start building callouses. Toughen up.

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