in Blog, Writing Craft

On writing, rejection, and Pitch Wars (warning: maudlin)

I’ve been writing a lot more lately. You probably noticed.

A funny thing has happened — I’ve turned into one of those people whose happiness seems to be dependent on how well their writing is going. To be fair, I’ve always had a bit of this; it’s just that in the past, there were three states: “not writing,” “writing going well,” and “writing going poorly.” I seem to have collapsed the waveform since VP, for better or worse.

Matt has always pointed out that I have a lot of self-worth tied up in my writing, and it’s true. Probably too much. I don’t feel like I have much value if I’m not writing.

So I end up in these maudlin states where I’ve just gotten the fifth form rejection in as many days and everyone on Twitter is selling stuff except for me, and my non-writer friends are just looking at me like I’m this strange beast who doesn’t want to spend time with them.

I feel alienated from non-writers, and shabby next to writers, and universally unheard. Staring at social media only reminds me of this.

Up until now all my writing struggles have been internal — believing in my ability to tell a story, finishing a novel, editing a novel, etc. Now I am facing external obstacles, and positive attitude can only do so much.

I know I need to keep submitting if I ever want to be published. I know it’s largely a numbers game. I know (thanks, Kameron Hurley), that writing is “persisting in the game after you know what it’s really all about.” I know there are a million reasons why your story might not be accepted, even if it’s good.

And yet every time I wake up to a form rejection sent at 1am, probably from a first reader, I feel like I’m being punched in the gut. I feel like maybe my writing sucks, and no one will tell me straight up.

That’s the acute pain. The chronic, gnawing pain — or worry — is that I’m trying to sell stuff that’s not ready. That I should stop trying to sell it and do more revisions, instead.

I feel this most with Gods & Fathers. (The short stories I have out there, while certainly flawed, are basically to the point where I don’t know what or how to fix — truly they’ve escaped more than being released). I don’t query it much any more, because when you’ve queried something like 25 agents without even a single request for more pages, you begin to feel it has no worth. I know there are things I would do differently if I were writing this novel today; the beginning probably could benefit from some editing along these lines. Hell, it could be completely rewritten.

So I’m stymied, torn between sending out something that I am 90% certain won’t get a response vs. holding onto it for edits/rewrites I might never do. That, honestly, I don’t want to do. I kind of want to trunk it and move on.

And yet… I’m pretty sure that’s fear talking. And the stage of being a writer I’m at is all about feeling the fear and submitting anyways.

Which brings me to Pitch Wars.

You might remember I participated in this last year. My experience was… mixed. I met a lot of really, really cool writers, who I traded critiques with, and thus it was valuable in terms of creating community.

But honestly? I think the mentors didn’t give my MS a fair shake. (To be fair, I really only had about six mentors to pick from who accepted adult SFF; there might have been more appropriate choices if the field were larger). I only received comments from one mentor, and it was pretty clear they didn’t read more than the first page, and misunderstood what I was doing.

And yeah, mentors are busy volunteers, they don’t have to give comments, agents won’t give your MS a second glance, etc, etc. But it rankled. Once again my words had no value, and if they have no value, I have no value.

So Pitch Wars is here again. Despite my qualms, if Lioness were ready, I’d be trying with that, but it’s about 25k from being done. Maybe next year with that one.

A lot more adult mentors have been added this year, though, including at least one who might be a better fit for G&F. It’s tempting to try to go over that first chapter yet again, make it better, and submit.

But. Eh. I feel the same malaise here as when I think about querying. Why should I spend time on this when writing Lioness is so much more pleasurable and rewarding?

At least for now. At least until I try to sell it. At which point I’ll probably also encounter radio silence and realize that this isn’t going to be my breakout piece. I’m probably going to have to do this X more times, where X is a number between 1 and never.

Part of the reason this hurts so badly is because I keep hoping. Hope is a hell of a drug.

Look, I’m going to keep writing. I can’t not. But I often feel like being a successful writer is a game where the house always wins.

  1. Hey Lise! You’re not alone. Don’t know if that helps or not, but I feel similarly all too often. We get just enough approval or acceptance to keep us going, keep us writing. And I think you nailed a big part of the problem, for me, at least: too much self-worth tied up in writing alone. I’m gonna start indulging is some of my other hobbies more often, and try not to feel guilty about “not writing” when I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, Mary ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s good to know other folks feel the same way, even folks who have been published!

      I had a bad day of wallowing there, didn’t I? My new motto is “wallowing is acceptable; giving up is not.”

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