Last week I posted some tools to help writers embarking on the search for an agent to represent their work. Today, I’d like to make a sort of addendum to that post, because over my years in the writing community, I’ve seen a lot of people struggling to cope when the agent search or the publisher search doesn’t go as well as they hoped.
I think it’s easy to put a lot of expectations and dreams on one book, the most recent book you’ve written, maybe your first book, maybe your fifth. But to stay sane in this business, you can never forget that this book might not be THE book.
And that’s okay.
GIVE UP THE GHOST was my first published novel; it was also the tenth I’d completed. (I posted the full list of my completed novels pre-GHOST a few years back, for those interested.) Which isn’t including the many unfinished novels I had to abandon along the way. I queried agents with two books before GHOST: one only a few before I decided the hook wasn’t strong enough; one quite widely, and ultimately realized based on agent feedback that it wasn’t working and I didn’t know how to fix it. I could have queried for the earlier books, but each of them, for whatever reason, I felt wasn’t strong enough before I got to that point.
The only reason I’m now a published author is that, when I got those agent rejections, when I decided a book wasn’t ready, I accepted it as part of my learning process as a writer, and went on to write the next book.
As Lisa Schroeder explained so well a few days ago, “Oh well” should be a writer’s favorite words. Not everything will work out the way you’d like. Most likely, most things won’t work out the way you’d like. Whether you cope well enough to continue working toward your dreams will be determined by your ability to roll with the punches, shrug it off, and keep going.
So I wish the best of luck to everyone planning on seeking publication this year. But I also wish you the ability to accept both the successes and failures along the way, and the knowledge that if this book isn’t THE book, there’s still the next book. And the one after that. And the one after that.
The dream only dies when you give up and stop writing.