Saturday, June 7, 2014


           I’ve been in the query trenches for eight years. I’ve queried and shelved several books in that time because of the market. My latest book, a romance with paranormal elements is still being considered but it’s not looking good. It’s got a ghost in it and some believe that makes it paranormal but it’s a retelling of Phantom of the Opera with a real ghost and the protagonist is a male opera singer.

            But I digress. I’ve had several Twitter and Facebook friends get agents this past month (yay for them!) Back in January when I started querying my phantom book (and entering it into online contests) I was sure I’d have an agent by June. I loved writing this book and felt like it was “the one.” The one what, you ask? The one to get me to the coveted realm of agented authors so my book can go on submission and sell a gazillion copies and be made into a movie and I can go on a book tour…I digress again.

            It’s June and no agent for me. The market is tight for paranormal right now. I don’t write for the market because the market changes. I write what I want to write. Fantasy, paranormal, zombies, dystopian. See a trend here? All glutted in the market. Okay, so now I’m trying my hand at a YA dark contemporary thriller and boy, has it been hard to write. First of all, it’s a subject not many want to deal with in YA (rape, sexual abuse, serial killers, violence, cutting, suicide) and second of all, I’m slightly out of my element here. But it’s a book I felt needed to be written. Will this one be “the one?” I have no clue but I keep going. And that’s what I wanted to talk about today.

            Did I feel like I wanted to quit this week? Yes. Did I quit? Sort of. I declared to my family that I was “done with writing forever.” I do this periodically and I’m like the boy who cried wolf because they nod and say things like, we know and it’s okay and you’ll figure it out. But this time it felt more real than it ever had. I thought long and hard about why I write. Did I only write to get published? Well, I’ve done that with two small presses and Kindle/Nook. So what keeps me writing? One of my family members said, “What would you do if you didn’t write? It’s part of your identify as a person. You are a writer. It’s not what you do,  it’s who you are.”

            And you know? That’s true. I went ONE WHOLE DAY without writing anything. I stayed off social media, I didn’t check email, and I stopped looking at Querytracker (great site BTW for keeping track of queries). What did I do? I read. I watched TV. I applied for jobs (because you know…writer and I need to pay rent). The next day I woke up sad. I had nothing to look forward to. No writing to do. I did have three plots I was tinkering with (one was the dark YA) but I reminded myself that since I was no longer writing, it didn’t matter. I could still do things. I went for a walk. I read some more. I talked to family. I brushed my cats and played with them. I did the dishes, the laundry and all the while, in the back of mind was a tiny, little voice that said. “What about me? My story is waiting to be told. Tell it!” So, I sat down and wrote just a few words about my main character. Not the story itself, just a snapshot of what she looked like, her goal and then I wrote one for the love interest and one for the antagonist. By then I was hooked and in the past four days I’ve written half of the story.

            So, what’s the point of all this, you might ask? Yes, you’ll have down days, days when it feels like no one is willing to take a chance on you, days when you’re so low, even the floor looks like it’s too high to climb up to . But those days pass. And it’s important to ask yourself, why you write and why you keep writing. If it’s part of your DNA, like it is in mine, then you’ll keep writing, even if no one but your cat hears your words. Is it a compulsion? Probably. Will I stop? Nope. And the next time I am upset or down on myself about a rejection or whatever and I tell everyone within hearing distance, I’M DONE. I QUIT. I know exactly what their response will be.


            So that’s my advice to you. Write something. And keep writing. And to quote one of my favorite movies:


Kathleen S. Allen

Find Kathleen here:  

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Unknown said...

Holy crap can I relate COMPLETELY to this. Well, everything except petting the cat, but really. I'm right there with you. I'm querying my fifth. I have watched many of my good writer friends get agents and get book deals and I have even seen some of them depart from their agents and snag new ones. I have shared my writing with them and they tell me, this is "the one". And then it's not. It's so hard and totally sole sucking and I have mentally quit many times, but like you, the stories hit my brain and won't shut off and I realize that the only way to heal the rejected, dejected hurt is to WRITE. They say not to write to the market. Write what you love. But then you do and it's like, "Sorry but this is not for me." Sigh. I've written a paranormal thriller, an urban fantasy thriller, (though technically this one could be labeled paranormal thriller) dystopian thriller, and 2 straight up thrillers (one I'm querying now and that I was told by two published authors/beta readers that it is incredibly good and they can't believe nothing but R's are pouring in). Now I'm writing a straight-up dark, gritty Contemporary (which is totally new for me) Will anything happen with it? Who knows? But what I do know is that rejection hurts. Period. I keep asking myself, aren't I getting any better? From novel to novel my writing has improved dramatically. I learn so much with each one I write, but why do I stand against the wall feeling like the kid in gym getting picked last for a dodgeball team.

Anyway, my point to all this is that I'm RIGHT there with you. And I get it wholeheartedly. We just need to stay strong and keep writing those stories that need to be told. Because it's not a story until I get it written down on paper (well, on my laptop, anyway). If it stays in my head forever, it dies with me. Getting it out and down allows my stories to enter the world. Even if only in a small part of it. ;-)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Excellent post. I shared it to FB. It seems like several of my writer friends are *this close* to quitting again. (Not me. Mine was back in April.) And what you said here is something we all need to remember. Thanks for reminding us.

Unknown said...

"sole sucking" haha. all-body encompassing. ;-)

Kimber Leigh said...

Wonderful post. I've been there several times over the last few years. But in the end, what really matters is that you're doing what you love. Even after publication, writing is full of ups and downs. It's important to focus on the positive and sweep the negative under the rug. Easier said than done, and my rug is looking rather lumpy...

So keep writing, keep moving forward. Your day will come!

Kathleea said...

Are you looking for a beta/CP/ I'd be on board. And maybe it's your query letter that needs work, not your novel. Are you getting requests then rejects? If no requests after sending out 10 queries=redo query. If requests for PR or F and no offers=rework first chapter/mss. That's how I do it. I belong to a FB group only for querying authors, we critique queries/pitches. Interested? Let me know and I'll add you. (this goes for anyone looking for support). Thanks for the reply!

Kathleea said...

Thanks for sharing it!

Kathleea said...

I agree! Yours too!

Kristin Lenz said...

Hang in there, Kathleen. I've been there, and even though I have an agent now, the next step of finding the right editor is extremely challenging too. Right now I'm at that point where it feels daunting to revise yet again or start a brand new novel. It usually helps if I take a break from novel writing and focus on smaller pieces for awhile. Fingers crossed for you!

Emily Skrutskie said...

Never give up! Never surrender! I've been querying since I was fifteen years old (five years ago as of June 1st!) and I know the feeling of "This /has/ to be the one" all too well. I just finished a manuscript that feels like my best yet, and it's taking so much self control to sit down and edit it thoughtfully rather than rush to get it in front of agent eyes. Your journey so far is really inspiring, and if there's anything I've learned in the past five years, it's that the querying process has so much value outside of getting a literary agent. Writing all of those letters, fixing up your manuscripts, getting the courage to repeatedly put yourself out there - it's all stuff that really /grows/ you. Keep at it!

Kathleea said...

Thanks! I hope you find an editor soon!

Kathleea said...

Yes, I've come a long way since my first query letter, that's for sure. And I have to hold myself back too from sending out a manuscript too soon. Thanks for saying my journey is inspiring. :) Good luck to you too!

J Lenni Dorner said...

I think we all go through this. I fight it by writing a letter to myself. (
Sometimes we just need to smack the muse around so it knows that this is a symbiotic relationship!

Unknown said...

I think a lot of us can relate to this post, even if we didn't realize we could. Thanks for sharing!