“Thanks, but—“

All right, I’ll admit that I, too, am guilty of the odd form of silence that LB discussed on Monday.  Especially considering that I went from unagented to having a book deal in less than a month.  Like LB, I’ve gotten into the habit of filling the space after “Congratulations!” with responses that begin with “Thanks, but—”

All of us EMUs remember what it was like.  None of us want to do or say anything that might inadvertently discourage or bum out someone who’s still working toward where we are now.  We want to assure them that no one waved a magic wand over us, that indeed there are no wands to wave.  We want them to know that we, too, have piles of rejections and revision fatigue and the kind of self-doubt that makes us want to mutter screw it and go back to sleep when the writing-time alarm chips NPR at 4:50 am.

So we say things like, “Thanks, but I queried four books over ten years before this one sold.”

But here’s something I remember from not that long ago, when I was on the other side of sold: under my not-unconsiderable envy was a whisper of hope.  A writer-friend would talk about her book deal and, after the almost-obligatory dart of envy shot through my gut, my very next thought would be and that’ll be me one of these days. An online colleague would post how he sold his trilogy and I’d think so I’d better get that next round of queries out there.

I’d be lying if I never thought geez, J, you’re friggin kidding yourself. But if book deals could happen to people I knew, in person or online, they seemed attainable.  I just needed one more revision.  Clearer motivation.  One more round of feedback.  Sometimes it felt farther away than others, but never out of reach.

That seems to be what we’re saying with our Thanks, buts.  We’re saying I’m not special.  No one sprinkled publishing pixie dust on me.  I studied craft, I busted tail, I wrote a darn good story and you can too.  Don’t give up.

Because, to paraphrase LB, the only way you’re guaranteed never to get there is if you give up.

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7 Comments

Filed under rejection and success

7 responses to ““Thanks, but—“

  1. L.B. Schulman

    J., great post! You reminded me of that little extra edge of push that hearing other’s good news generated…I was like you; it made me send out more query letters and wonder what it would be like when it was my turn. It’s hard to have faith when life is so random but having hope in ourselves is what keeps us moving forward toward our goals.

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  3. J,

    This paragraph:
    “I’d be lying if I never thought geez, J, you’re friggin kidding yourself. But if book deals could happen to people I knew, in person or online, they seemed attainable. I just needed one more revision. Clearer motivation. One more round of feedback. Sometimes it felt farther away than others, but never out of reach.”

    Is absolutely perfect…thanks!

    –Peter

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      It takes a lot of mental energy to be an aspiring writer. You’re always cheering yourself up, giving yourself pep talks, keeping your eyes on the prize.

      Of course, once you sell a book, your mental energy shifts gears and pours into “Crap, how am I ever going to write a book I love as much as the one I just sold?”

      I guess the bottom line is that being a writer takes a lot of mental energy, no matter where you are on the track.

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  4. I’m glad we are discussing this topic this week, because I was in several conversations last week that arose from our “Getting the Call” posts, that were on this very topic. One person said to me that she thought it was a little deceptive to talk about getting the call without talking about what came before, because it made it sound too easy. I don’t think it is necessarily deceptive to talk about that moment without the back story, but I thought the comment was very revealing of what we tend to read into other people’s stories. It is so easy for someone in that wilderness of the submission process, to put that spin on what they hear or read–“Oh, it just happened out of the blue for person X. They didn’t go through all the pain and effort I’m going through.” I don’t think it happens that way for any of us, but it is easy to make that assumption.

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  5. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Yes, I did say that THE CALL happened “Out of the blue,” but that only referred to the actual acquisition. Most writers get updates–know that there is a chance of a sale because, in most cases, you’ve heard the manuscript is loved by an editor, and then you get updates as it progresses through committees, marketing, etc. You are often “prepared” for the call. For me, it really was a surprise, because Erin and I had heard nothing of committees or meetings. There was no warning. I hadn’t steeled myself, waiting for the “No” on this one (like I had for so many others). So…there was nothing but joy. And shock.

    Remember that overnight success usually takes years! Even if a writer garners a contract quickly, writing the book, working on craft, going to conferences, joining writers’ groups, etc., etc. IS the journey! It’s the tenecious that rise to the top! My first book was *terrible.* (I’d never show it to Erin! 😉 So, I put it aside and wrote another one.

    The long road (several years) story…That’s a post in itself! I’ll have to go back and relive all of that and do a piece on it here on the Emus blog. I’d like to do that actually; I’ve learned to rarely take things for granted and revisiting that journey would hold good reminders. And tears. And smiles. I never want to forget that journey. It’s made me the writer I am. Actually, it changed me as a person, as a wife, as a mother–in ways I never thought possible.

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