OK. The book is finished, complete with The End right where it belongs. Now what? Go directly to a publisher in a kamikaze all-or-nothing move? Write to the lone agent I’ve met and beg for mercy? Surreptitiously print the book out in hard copy and file it under “Fugeddaboudit?” Wait! Why am I panicking? Let me just look long and hard at the product.
The first question that comes to mind is, “Is this novel really ready to publish?” That is quickly followed by, “How would I know? I’ve never published a book before.” After all the work I’ve put into it, I’m not about to relegate it to the never-to-be-seen again bin, but it seems a bad idea to put it out there before it is ready. Once I submit to agents or publishers, I can’t revisit those same folks, saying I fixed it and would they look at it again, please. Bad form and unlikely to succeed. This put me in mind of what one of the agents at the San Francisco Writers Conference said so emphatically. “Before you present your novel for publication, get it professionally edited.”
That sounds to me like wise counsel. I had briefly searched for an editor at an earlier juncture, before the latest rewrite. I learned that practically all editors are seeking clients and some will pursue you like a hound dog once they are on to your scent. But, as in all fields of endeavor, the range of capability and experience is vast. And guess what. Those who have the enviable experience of having worked for publishers are very much in demand and must be courted just like agents. They have no interest in working on a book that will end up in the drawer. They want to have their efforts published and successful. And they want to be interested in the subjects they edit.
So what? So, I’ll just do the work to find a few editors with book publishing experience and write to them. They can’'t bite me. The worst they could do is say no. What followed that internal dialogue was an exquisitely crafted letter to four editors asking if they would consider editing my novel. No one could turn it down, I was positive. Two wrote back immediately, asking for samples and yesterday, the first response arrived to the 20 pages I sent. I noticed the email on my iPhone while I tooled around the island shopping for Christmas. No, I wanted to read this on my computer in a chair, not on the fly, so, with great discipline, I averted my eyes from the phone and spent my heart out in the stores. When I got home, I opened my computer, peeking at Mail through one eye. There it was, in no uncertain terms, my first rejection.
Until you receive a rejection of your novel, you cannot truly appreciate the sinking feeling of remorse. Worse than the experience of having your desperation shot blocked in the final seconds of a nail biter basketball game. Worse even than getting turned down when you ask that irresistible object of your desire for a night on the town. Why? Why do I find the rejection of my art so elemental? It’s just words on the paper. It’s not me. Or is it?
This work was years in the making. It is the very best I could do. And dammit, you better like it or I’m going to be upset. Tight throat, ragged breathing, pain in the belly. It is me. I’m not good enough. What ever gave me the idea that I could write a book? I should have stuck with my first draft. Maybe my dad was right. I should have been a janitor.
But after seconds (well maybe hours) of reflection, I realized the shortcomings of that line of thinking. Sure, I was experiencing honest and authentic emotions and feelings. But they were not going to bear fruit. Going in that direction might be emotionally therapeutic, but it will not bring me closer to publication. So, what to do?
I decided to leave my pity party in the domain of feeling and step into a different mind set. I decided to examine the realm of “being.” So I asked myself a simple question. “In this situation, who am I being?” I want to know, am I being someone who will give up and be discouraged at anyone else’s opinion? Am I being someone who is lost in my own self-concern to the point that I lose my way? Am I being someone who lacks the courage to follow my dream? Or conversely, does my clarity come from within me and not from others. Can I take constructive criticism and use it to better my book rather than destroy myself. Am I being the kind of person who follows my vision through until it is manifested? Am I being a writer who will soon be an author? And if I am, what does that look like in my behavior?
It looked like not ignoring my feelings, but instead, setting them aside to deal with at a later date.
I did not write a book in order to process my feelings or for my drawer to enjoy. I wrote it to experience writing it and for others to savor. It’s my intention that it will, in some way enrich their lives. I won’t allow rejection to take me out of my game. I will use it to add fuel to the fire of my vision until I have a blaze. At least one great editor is bound to be drawn to the flames.
So, when the Kauai Writers Conference comes around in May, I will be there and will be prepared. I am an author in the seed. Editors, agents and publishers take your best shot. You may say no, but I will not be rejected.