I’ve had a file lingering for a while in my blog folder. The title is Disappointment and the page is blank. Somewhere on my messy desk are notes where I fully expected the idea to flourish and mature, with just the right amount of cleverness and humility worthy of the topic.
But I don’t need notes to remember the hours spent writing, revising, editing, critiquing. The joy about an idea or scene I wanted to write and the pain at my inability to get it just so. Who am I to call myself a writer? Dani Shapiro is a writer. Dara Horn is a writer. Kate Morton is a writer.
I’m minutes away from putting my third manuscript in the drawer. Even now, I can't describe my disappointment at this decision. The anguish of leaving behind not only a story I've spent so much time with, but characters I will mourn and a setting that won't fade from my mind, no matter how hard I try. Just the other day I got another Bodleian Friend's Newsletter, and in it, a eulogy on one of the Bodleian's first women librarians, there at just the same time as my character Gigi Dottie.
A recent post by Janet Reid linking to Tawna Fenske’s blog post got me thinking: I’m not alone in my disappointment. And I’m not embarrassed by it either. There are probably thousands of writers just like me, putting endless hours and painstaking devotion into their manuscripts. Honing their prose, chasing the perfect word or phrase. Searching for the perfect agent. Tawna Fenske found hers and so will I.
Some might think I’m wrong to share my stats, but here's how they played out:
Manuscript #3: 104 queries or conference pitches resulting in 11 full and 12 partial requests
Manuscript #2 (co-written with Pamela): 127 queries or pitches resulting in 15 requests (full and partial)
Manuscript #1: 45 queries or pitches resulting in 5 full and 4 partial requests
There were plenty of non-responses to queries, but most disappointing were the non-responses to partial and full submissions, six months, a year, two years later. Like many writers, I’ve moved on to my next project. And although I’m deep into the story, I still hold out hope that I'll get the chance to resurrect one or more of my earlier manuscripts--or that the sole outstanding full submission on #3 will turn into a yes.
Yes, receiving rejections is disappointing, whether they're non-answers, form rejections, or no-thank-yous based on a partial or full. But mostly I’m disappointed in myself. That I sent out my manuscripts before they were ready. Sent them out before they could have been the best that they could be.
Instead of wallowing in my disappointment, though, I’m going to use it. I’m going to harness the negative energy to fire up my current WIP. To take my joy and excitement about number four and make it just so.