Monday, August 13, 2018

In Search of 100 Rejections by Dec. 31

Y'all remember way back in early March when I publicly declared I was striving for 100 rejections in 2018?

Well. That has gone...not swimmingly. As it turns out, not writing anything for three months actually decreases the number of projects you can have rejected! Who would have thought, am I right?

On a serious note, I have counted only eight (8) rejections so far this year. Which isn't to say I haven't had more, because I'm sure a few slipped through the cracks of my depression during the last few months. All that number really proves is that I haven't been submitting and pitching like I had planned.

Of course, one drawback is the fact that my novel progress has been, how to put this nicely...painstakingly slow. I wrote a combined 3,000 words for June and July combined. None so far in August. A handful more in May.

You can't query an unfinished manuscript, and seeing as I was already nearing 20,000 words in a re-written but fairly polished draft by mid-March, I was filled to the brim with confidence that I would finish it off and be able to begin querying by mid-summer.

Maybe there's something in here about "the best laid plans," or whatever, but that feels more pontificatory than anything, and I'm...not in the mood to lecture myself. Or you.

I actually think my slow progress on the novel is due to a few factors, including the "middle slump," the fact that I'm suddenly working full-time again, and the freezing nature of fear.

Which is what I want to explore here: fear, and how it freezes us. And this time, not the fear of failure.

The thing is, as a writer, I'm used to "failure." I've been submitting my writing since early 2014, and had the bulk of it rejected until late 2015. Since then, I've been active as a freelance essayist, and while I've had multiple acceptances, I still regularly get rejected, both from new publications and from ones I have a relationship with already.

I queried my first novel beginning in January 2015, and out of 30+ queries, I received two partial requests. Neither went anywhere.

Failure, as a writer, is an intimate acquaintance of mine.

I'm not afraid to query ALLIE MAE DOESN'T GET THE GUY because I don't want to look its failure in the face.

I'm afraid to query this book because I believe in it. Because I have hope and faith and belief that maybe, just maybe...this will be the one to succeed.

I had that belief in my first book (hence, why I queried it) but it turns out it was massively misplaced. The next two books I wrote and edited never reached a place, plot-wise or writing-wise, where I was confident in querying them.

But this one? This one I believe in. I believe in the story itself; I believe in the characters; I believe in the themes and motifs and the small yet defining personality traits of my protagonist; I believe in the writing.

I also definitely believe in pretty aesthetics!
And I'm terrified of being proven wrong. Terrified that I'll finish it, that my critique partners and beta readers will love it and promise that it will snag me an agent. Terrified that I'll send it out to agents and nothing will come of it.

That I'll be disappointed. And that I'll turn that disappointment upon myself, shape it into a knife pointed directly at my heart.

You idiot. I can't believe you thought you were good enough. I can't believe you thought you would ever be good enough.

I swear, I can already hear the mocking words, reverberating in my brain, if I send this book out, heart high, and my hopes are dashed.

So, yes. I'm 25,000 words into my novel, and I'm frozen with fear. I've spent the past few months telling myself I needed to finish the book because maybe, just maybe, this would be the one. And all that pressure has me caving.

But.

But what if, instead, I don't finish the book because it will get me an agent. What if I flip the narrative (again). What if I finish the book because it will help me reach my goal: 100 rejections by December 31.

Again I find that looking at rejections as notches in a shield and not "the worst possible outcome" helps. I don't know how or why. I just know that it reframes the issue, and suddenly I'm not afraid of them.

Each rejection is a sign that I tried. That I flung myself out there, vulnerable and unafraid, and yes, I was turned down, but you know what?

I tried. I faced my fears. And even if they think they won, I know they're wrong. Because the way you defeat fears isn't by proving they were unfounded. It's by proving they can't hold you back.

What is something you're afraid of in your writing journey...and what steps, small or not, can you take to try to prove your fears won't hold you back?

1 comment:

  1. Fear of success can be just as paralyzing as fear of failure. I kind of know exactly how your feel, Karis. My WiP is The One, I know it! But I sent it to betas in a state of badly undercooked and now I'm working on it and progressing with the speed of a tortoise on Quaaludes. My hopes of having it out to an agent by the end of August? Hah. In the end, I know I will get over this hump: I want this book to get published, and the only way to do that is to finish. Hang in there, and keep plugging!

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