Overcoming disappointment: when writing goals don’t go according to plan

Dear blogosphere,

I’m having a tough time writing this post because I don’t want to say the words aloud. After nine months querying The Trouble with Twenty-Two, I think it’s time to set my project aside.

I know– I’ve spent two and a half years writing and revising this novel, and I still believe my story is special and worthy of publication. But  though I’ve gotten close to landing an agent, it hasn’t happened yet.  I think I’ll be better off focusing my efforts on my second novel rather than continuing to query the first. I’m grateful for the partial and full requests I received, along with agent feedback which helped me improve my manuscript. I refuse to think of my novel as a wasted effort.

And I’m not calling it a ‘drawer novel’  either. One way or another, I believe it will eventually find a home. This could be through a small press, or maybe in the future I’ll want to explore the option of self publishing. But right now, that isn’t my goal. Traditional publication is still my main objective, no matter how difficult it will be to achieve.  I’ve had my fair share of tears with every setback on this journey, but I’ve got to keep trying.  One New York agent wrote me, “You are a lovely writer and this is a polished and accessible read and I don’t  doubt there is an audience for this book.”

I’m sure many of us writers have received similar praise, without an offer of representation. But that’s okay, it shows us we’ve taken a step in the right direction. Earlier drafts of my novel didn’t get personalized rejection letters. Through multiple revisions, I took a rough story and polished it into something I’m proud of.

Now it’s time to set that story aside, take everything I’ve learned and apply my knowledge to book number two. Some things I loved about my first novel made it a tough sell. I won’t have two narrators this time, or an international setting (which is sad, because I’m a complete europhile). But, I will have a strong character arc, a tight plot and a more commercial story line.

And I stumbled across this post by Shannon Messenger at just the right time. She talks about how to know when your project is “the one.” Shannon writes, ” So if the project you’re working on is the very first thing you’ve ever written–EVER? There’s a really good chance it’s not, “the one.” AND THAT IS NOT MEANT TO BE DISCOURAGING. No writing is ever wasted. You never know what you might do with it. ”

I feel like that’s where I am now. And as the wonderful Tahereh Mafi writes:

“you can’t be afraid of your own creative efforts. don’t fear failure. don’t be afraid of being the person who needed to write a ton of crappy manuscripts and had to burn through a few agents before landing a book deal. because i’m going to tell you a secret? regardless of how it might seem in and around the blogging world and twitterfeeds and facebook posts and the ever-lovely publishers marketplace, the majority of us (read: the vast, vast majority of us) did not sell the very first thing our eager fingers ever created. many of us had to write not 1, but 2, 3, 15 manuscripts before figuring out what worked. a debut novel just means it’s the first novel an author has ever published — not the first they’ve ever written.”

So with that quote, I’m going to suck it up and get to work on my second project. Because maybe this time it will be “the one”  after all.

14 thoughts on “Overcoming disappointment: when writing goals don’t go according to plan

  1. I think your attitude is great, Meredith! Don’t be discouraged– that feedback you mentioned getting from that one agent is absolutely phenomenal and you should be proud of your hard work. I wish I had a fraction of your drive to move through projects so efficiently. You’ll get published one day, I’m sure of it!

    1. Thank you Kristin! I love the support network I’ve found of writers on twitter because otherwise I don’t think I’d have the stamina to keep going. You ladies rock! You inspire me too with your drive for making a living with your freelance work. I dream of us going to the same writer’s conference some day and getting to hang out! :)

      1. That would be fabulous!! Maybe once we’re both best selling authors rolling in dough, we can plan a mini writing/hang out retreat on some amazing tropical island ;) Or at the very least, we should meet up at a conference! I would love it!

  2. Remember it’s the jouney that is important. It took me even longer to let go of my first book to dive deeply into my next. I’m still editing, going slowly this time and enjoying the creative process, and my family. I still learning and it’s okay. Dreams do come true, some times it just takes a little longer then we planned. Keep the faith. :-)

    1. Thanks Cynthia! I don’t have as much free time to write the second novel, but I know what mistakes to avoid this time (like too many adverbs haha). I appreciate the encouragement and I will keep the faith! You’re so right, we must remember to enjoy the creative process and not become obsessed with the final outcome (publication)

  3. I agree with Kristin. I think you have a great attitude about the process and this doesn’t mean that your first will never see the light of day. It just means the order may be a little shifted. Good luck :) BTW the blog looks great !

    1. Thank you so much! Trust me I had a bad attitude for like a week after my last full rejection. All I did was mope around. And I’m glad you like my new blog theme! I love checking out the free ones and seeing what’s new. So glad I’ve got other writers like you to encourage me through this process :)

  4. Thanks for being so honest and brave Meredith!
    I went to a talk with an agent last night called ‘The Top 10 Mistakes Writers Make’. I am nowhere near the querying stage with my MS (still revising) but it made me feel like I want to start from scratch: all these revisions are killing me! I’m undecided whether to keep working on it or to start novel 2 too: I feel like I could do with the practice and that my writing would only get better. Then, like you, I can figure out what to do with book one later down the line. Well done you for having such a positive outlook, it’s hard but thinking long term helps.

    1. Thanks Laura! Yeah, I know- revisions are so tough. I’m still glad that I spent so much time revising the first manuscript, because it evolved into something better than before. But I understand your dilemma! Do whatever feels right. Whether you spend the time fixing book one or applying what you know to book two, you’ll have a polished product. Good luck and keep writing! :)

  5. so sorry you haven’t found an agent yet. You have the right attitude about moving on. I find my faith and hope in the process is restored when I’m excited about a new project. The rejection phase is just such a horrible phase to be in. And I’ve been in it. A lot. And I’m still in it actually- I just started querying a new MS last month and It’s already gotten five requests- with NO offers. I’m so ready to throw in the towel it’s not even funny and I’m closer now that I probably have ever been. But I won’t give up. i’ll keep querying – whatever project I’m most excited about. I’ll keep writing and keep learning and trying. That’s all we can really do!

    1. Don’t give up!! I know how frustrating it is to receive a “no” after a full request, but you owe it to yourself to keep trying. Especially with your new project! I’m not going to query my first MS anymore because I feel like I’ve run out of agents to query (yeah- that many have rejected me). You only started last month- keep going with it for at least 6 months to a year. :) And thank you so much for stopping by my blog!! You can do it!!

  6. Loved this post! As you probably already know, I’ve been there. Like you, I REALLY like my first book, so even though I’ve set it aside, I don’t consider it a never-will-see-the-light-of-day type of project. I’m determined one way or another to EVENTUALLY find it a home :o)

    Good luck with your second book! I know I had soooo much more enthusiasm with book #2, though the excitement is sort of dying off as the fear of querying it creep in, lol.

    Looking forward to following your journey :o)

    1. Thanks Angela! I actually had more enthusiasm with my first book ( the naivete of having no idea how hard publication would be) but I’m finally starting to get really excited about my second. I really think with hard work the query process will be better for us this time. Here’s to hoping for many full requests and that elusive offer of representation!! :)

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