The next leg of the journey

I know it’s a cliche to compare producing a novel to having a baby, but bear with me for a moment.

I am gearing up to start sending query letters out into the world for Novel Project #1. I’ve spent a lot of time researching how you’re supposed to go about this, finding likely agents and preparing my stuff.

Night CircusAs I was doing my last minute ‘am-I-really-ready-for-this’ checks this morning, I found this blog post from Erin Morgenstern  (The Night Circus) and a whole  new aspect of the novel-as-baby comparison occurred to me.

I’ve got two kids (they’re gorgeous, don’t get me started, we’ll be here forever.) I worked as a nanny for a couple of years in my 20s, for a number of different families with children aged from 3 months to 9 years old. So, even before I had my own, I was better prepared than most. I thought had a fair idea of what having my own kids would be like.

I had no idea. There’s no way you can. Every now and then you will find something that gives you a little window into what parenthood will actually be like. But nothing can really prepare you for the amount of work it takes, the impact on how you live your life, the sudden lack of control and complete inability to set your own timetable for anything. (There are, I should add, many indescribably wonderful things about parenthood, too.)

Reading Erin Morgenstern’s post about her novel’s journey from when she started sending out query letters to when she accepted her agent’s offer of representation gave me one of those worrying little windows on the journey to novel publication. (And, I note, Erin kinda had a dream run.) I’m not completely new to this writing gig. I’ve got a few short story sales under my belt now and I’ve spent the last few years learning as much as I can about the publishing industry. I feel like I’ve done what I can to understand what the next stage of the journey will be like.

Even so, when I read Erin’s blog post I thought “Oh God, am I really ready for this?”

Probably not. But, like parenthood, I don’t know if you can be, so maybe that’s not the question to ask.

Maybe the question is: how much do I want this?

A lot. Really, really a lot.

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Torn

I sent my most recent story out a couple of weeks ago. I’m really happy with it, and I wrote it for an anthology being put together by a publisher whose work I admire. It’s a great concept for an antho, and I’d love to be involved. However, I have found myself a little torn.

A nice, cryptic reference to my latest story.  Image courtesy of Black-HardArtstudio from FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A nice, cryptic reference to my latest story.
Image courtesy of Black-HardArtstudio from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You see, being a realist, I have to acknowledge that, despite the clear genius of this particular story, and my brilliant interpretation of the anthology theme, this publisher may reject it. There’s a smorgasbord of reasons why this might happen (including that my estimation of this story’s awesomeness may be wildly subjective). So, being an optimist, I have had a bit of a think about where else I might send it, if it bounces, and now I’ve come up with some ideas that I’m really quite excited about.

So, now I’m feeling torn!

It would be just as awesome to be picked up by Publisher B as it would be by Publisher A. C, D, E & F aren’t bad either.

I have to say, this is a preferable situation to be in, than having to face the inevitable despondency that comes with rejection cold. At least now I’ve got a backup plan.

One of the most useful things my writing group, the CSFG, has kicked off in recent times (probably about a year and a half ago), is a thing we affectionately call ‘Rejectomancy’. I think Ian McHugh coined that title. The idea that is that those of us participating set ourselves a submission goal for the year, acknowledging that rejection is the norm, and we’ll probably rack up a fair few. You might go with a formula something like: 5 submissions per story before it gets picked up. If you have 3 stories in your trunk, and you reckon you might write another 4 that year, that would give you a goal of 35 submissions. Of course, if that seems overwhelming, you can adjust it up or down.

We then report back to the group on the number of rejections we’ve had to date. It’s actually kinda fun & takes the sting out of every ‘thanks but no thanks’ email.

(I set myself a goal of 25, and I’m failing miserably, having made only 10 subs and it’s August already. However, I’ve got the best excuse ever, being that I sold 3 stories early on and much, much quicker than I’d anticipated.)

Rejectomancy has given me several things.

  1. I feel much more OK about rejections now. It’s no longer soul-destroying (well, not always, shall we say) and I’m much better able to just see it as part of the professional process.
  2. It makes me put together a bit of a submission plan for each story. If I’m going to do 5 subs on Story X, where are those subs going to be? I make a list of the markets I think will suit it best, and go from the top down. (That’s another bit of advice from Ian McHugh. Start at the top. Always.)
  3. It means I almost always have a few out there, doing the rounds. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. Your chances of winning are small, but they’re non-existent if you don’t buy a ticket. As long as I’ve got the story out there, in some editor/slush-wrangler’s in-box, my dream of it being published is still alive.