Miracles Won’t Happen

There’s a type of cognitive bias that’s studied in psychology called the “optimism bias”. It basically says that people tend to believe they are more likely to have good things happen to them than the average person is, and less likely to have bad things happen to them. Clearly, that’s impossible, but too many of us had our moms tell us how special and unique we are.

Today I went to my second workshop for writers on how to get an agent and/or get published. The first was two years ago right after I powered through writing an 80,000-word manuscript in 3 weeks. I knew less than nothing about the publishing industry at that time, so I figured a workshop called “How to Get Published” was a good starting point. It was, in that it taught me all my instincts were wrong and I needed to do a lot more work. My secret hope that I’d get signed by an agent and sell my book that day was crushed.

The workshop today taught me that I know what I need to know, but now I just need to do it. So that raises the question: what is my problem (or, what am I waiting for)?

My main problem is my tendency to avoid anything that could lead to failure or rejection, which is 99% likely to happen in some form or another when trying to get a book published. It just is. Anyone with a laptop or a piece of charcoal and a sidewalk can write a story, and a good proportion of those stories are going to be utter lunatic garbage. So I believe the agents and publishers when they say they need something spectacular to grab their attention out of the slush pile. (Google slush pile if you don’t know what that is, but it’s pretty self-explanatory). 

My second problem is that once I’ve experienced failure or rejection even a tiny bit, my instinct is to give up that activity entirely. See playing the guitar, karate, knitting and, what should have been a no-brainer, dating guys named “Chad”. Querying agents is like tweeting at your favourite celebrity over and over again hoping they’ll notice you and be your best friend. After hearing no, or worse, radio silence from a few agents, I had to put my book away for a while to protect my delicate ego. 

But. Unlike my knitting needles, that manuscript stayed pretty fresh in my mind almost every day that it sat collecting cyber-dust in my computer files. My characters kept speaking to me, and I also kept getting new ideas for new stories. Somewhere along the line, writing became something I wanted to do regardless of whether anyone else agrees I’m good or not.

SO. Time to get on with it and start applying what I’ve learned to for reals try to become an author. Follow along to find out if I can do it or to witness me crash and burn. 

Published by Rita

I like to write things.

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4 Comments

  1. I absolutely love this! You write well and with great humor about your situation.

    I think you make some good points here too. Writing takes hard work, a lot of it.

    I also made some serious mistakes when I first started out. I went to a conference, got rejected by a couple of editors, and decided to self-publish a manuscript because I met a cool person who owned a printing company. That was an expensive mistake!

    Anyway, I think it’s awesome that you’re taking the first step towards overcoming fear of failure. I’m looking forward to following your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jack. Part of the reason I’m connecting with other writers today is to try to learn/avoid mistakes!! I have been sitting on my first manuscript for almost two years because I don’t know what to do with it… I queried 8 agents and then gave up, even though I’m quite sure that’s too soon. I’ve also heard you should usually leave your first MS under the bed collecting dust!

      Like

  2. Rejection is a good thing. It means you’re trying, putting yourself out there and taking a chance. Don’t let it scare you off.

    That said, if it does scare you off, then you’re too high maintenance for an agent to want to spend their precious time coddling. In an agent you’re not getting a wizard waving a magical publishing-success wand. Nor are you getting a hand-holder or substitute mommy. You’re getting a business partner. So ask yourself: would I want to go into business with me? Do I have what it takes to stick it out through hard work, rejection, failure, and – hopefully, finally – success? If not, then you’re not ready to query. Go back to work and whip that novel into shape.

    Speaking of which, have you worked with critique partners on your manuscript, either in a writing group or online (Critique Circle, Scribophile, etc.)? After that stage, have you revised again, and again? Then, have you found a great team of beta readers to provide feedback? And revised again? If so, you may be ready to finally query.

    And when that time is upon you, are you querying a select group of agents who are interested in what you have to offer? Are you querying the right agents? Have you honed your pitch, synopsis, and hook? Have you gotten feedback on these things from your critique partners or online groups? If so, congratulations! You’re ready to add to your pile of rejections, as the Universe moves you closer to connection with the one best agent for your book.

    See, rejection is a good thing. It makes us stronger, and wiser, and leads us closer to success.Enjoy the ride!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments, they’ve got me thinking!
      These are all very helpful questions, and for the most part I can answer yes to them. Despite being an entitled millennial, I’m no stranger to hard work and doing my research. I think rejection is hard for me, not because of a need to be babied, but because it’s a negative response to uncharacteristic vulnerability. I’m a perfectionist, and when I’ve finally put myself out there and I’m still not good enough, it hits me right in the ego.
      You’re right though, accessing outside input and (objective) critiques is critical, and I’m casting a wider net this time, with a story that I think is more compelling than my first one. I still love my first ms and am proud of it, but I also know I can do better.
      All the best!

      Like

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