Chinese Water Torture

It’s maddening. It truly is. The slow yet constant drip of rejections, coming at an unpredictable rate. I never know when I’m going to open my mailbox to find a letter from an agency I queried. I got one Sunday morning, when I wouldn’t have expected agents were responding to queries. Then I got one last night before bed. Sweet dreams.

Without even opening these emails, I immediately feel defeated somehow knowing it’s a rejection. Lately I try to pause and allow myself the sliver of hope that it might be a request for my manuscript. I remind myself that things can change any second. It only takes one yes. The results haven’t been any better.

Then I read a tweet from an author saying, “My lifelong dream to be a published author is finally coming true.” I clicked on her profile.

She’s 24. Her lifelong dream has maybe been ten years.

As someone who is susceptible to insecurity and a lack of confidence, the battle to keep going is requiring more energy than I expected. I’ve decided I need to do two things. First, I need to look at the first five pages, which is pretty much all they allow you to send them. When I wrote this chapter, it was in chronological order, and my editor snatched it from the middle of the book and made it my prologue. I’ve realized there are things discussed in that chapter that would be familiar to the reader by the time they got to the middle, but would have no meaning whatsoever to someone not yet immersed in this world. I need to look at this chapter with fresh eyes and see what can be improved. The difficulty with that is that my prologue is already at 5 pages, and if I expand on description, I will not be able to send the entire prologue as my sample.

After I’ve improved those first five pages, I need to read the entire manuscript. I’m beginning to doubt my story, my writing, my characters, and pretty much everything else. I know when I’ve read it before, I’ve gotten sucked in and kept turning the pages. I need to remind myself of that. It’s been long enough since I read it that it might even feel a little fresher. I need to regain my confidence that someone will recognize the value in the story I’m telling, and I just need to keep looking for them.

So many agents are looking for books with a quick hook, and I’ve read those books. They’re fun. But a year later, I couldn’t tell you the plot or characters of most of them. I might remember the stunning location where it was set or maybe a scene that was impactful but the rest fades away. They’re fast food fiction. Really enjoyable in the moment, but not really sustaining.

My story doesn’t have such a quick hook. I’d like to think it’s intriguing, but I take my time introducing characters and unwinding the story at a comfortable pace. As the book moves along, and the conflict builds, so does the pace. So is it going to grab you by the throat right away? Probably not. It’s why I’m so frustrated that the entire book is judged by the first few pages. Not only can you not judge a book by it’s cover, you can’t truly judge a book by it’s first few pages.

Now, I get it. Agents are buried under queries and manuscripts. One agency responded in their rejection letter that they get 500 queries a week. One agency – 500 queries in a week. How could anyone possibly keep up with that? There has to be a quick way to weed through and focus on the best choices, so they’ve decided the first five pages and a snappy query letter are the way to do it. I wonder how many quality novels have slipped through the cracks because of it.

There’s nothing to do about it, but keep searching for an agent that will give it a read. I’ve also found two publishers that will accept hardcopy manuscript submissions without an agent, so I intend to print one out and get that in the mail soon. And of course the final option will be to self-publish and let the public decide. The amount of marketing I’ll have to do is daunting, but hopefully I’ll have book two finished by then and in the editing process (if I can afford it) so can focus more on marketing.

Until then I will reread, perhaps rewrite, and try to keep my sanity and hope under the drip, drip, drip of rejections.

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Life on a Budget

Small confession. I’m not terribly inspired to write a post today. I’ve had several topics rolling around in my head, but none are fully formed. I’ll do my best to put a few words together.

I’m adjusting to life on a budget. When I was poor, I simply didn’t spend more than I had in my account. Because I have simple wants, once I was making more money, I didn’t have to worry about what I spent. There was always enough.

Now I am making less than I spend and relying on my savings account to fill in the gap. While there is a good chunk of money left from my house sale, it won’t last forever. It won’t even last that many years unless I am careful. Thus, I must learn to live on a budget. I’ve just completed my first month in my house and am learning what my monthly bills will be.

So far my biggest struggle is groceries. If I’m going to eat meat, I want to eat grass-fed, or free-range, hormone-free meat. That adds a huge chunk to my grocery bill. I love avocados and in the past have found the organic avocados are a better quality. However, in the Midwest, it’s harder to find good avocados and they are more expensive. I’ve had to downgrade to the standard version.

There are lots of other little things I used to buy without thinking. I want to put up some solar-powered yard lights. Maybe get a hammock. And a daybed for my guest room. But now those things must be saved for. Whatever I don’t spend from my montly allowance will be tallied and used to buy those things when I’ve saved enough.

It’s a new way of living and one that’s not really terrible Things are just things. I love this new life so much, and am willing to do what is necessary to keep it going, even if that involves living without things I want. I work a few more hours a week than I used to work, but now only make in a month what I used to make in a week. Still, at the end of each work day I go home far more satisfied. I’m doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I’m no longer being paid a ridiculous wage for something I could do in my sleep, and benefited no one but those above me to become even more wealthy. I’m more than fine with the pay cut.

However, in an attempt to supplement my part-time job, I intend to look for freelance writing work. One site that I signed up for 2 years ago, when I had no time to take any freelance work, was E-lance. It was touted by other writers as a great place to earn some money. I know the market has changed in recent years, and I’m guessing that’s what I’m seeing now that I’m back on the E-lance site. Most jobs pay next to nothing for a great deal of words. Writing, never a good paying gig, has gotten even worse. One job offer was to write 2, 10,000 word e-books a week for $50. Uh… yeah… why? If I wanted to do that, I’d just write them for myself and take the money earned from their online sales. Many other jobs are simply writing articles to help companies sell products. I’m done letting corporate America take advantage of my skills.

I subscribe to Writer’s Digets and Poets & Writers. I will start searching them a bit more diligently to find paying contests and freelance work. Again, I will do what it takes to make this life last as long as possible, if not forever.

Tonight I will go to my first writer’s group meeting. We’re discussing two manuscripts written by members. I went in with some skepticism, based on my previous two years at an online university. So many marginal writers would introduce themselves in class by talking of their dreams of becoming novelists. However, these writers seem to be truly talented. One book is something I would never pick up in a store, and I was starting on chapter 12. Despite this, by the end of that portion, I was fully invested. Would the protagonist rescue the love of his life? I was frustrated when I ran out of story. Now I will have to wait until the author gets more written.

Nothing has gotten me writing more than the idea that I’m going to be submitting pages to these talented people for feedback. It’s intimidating. I want to give them a good read, too.

So that is all for today. No insights or wisdom, just me figuring out this new life – learning to live in a budget, finding paying writing work, and getting inspired by other writers. That’s really a pretty good week.

 

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