The almost agent bubble has burst.
I use the bubble metaphor a lot when I talk about publishing. It's the perfect analogy. Everyone talks to you in terms of shininess and promise, but until you have something like a contract in your hand, the bubble is a shiny, fragile thing. If you try to grasp it before things are ready, the bubble pops, and all you're left with is pretty much nothing. Well, glycerol. Which isn't much unless you're under the right circumstances.
The Almost Agent passed on Old Nick.
You won't find vitriol under here. Nor will you find unbridled optimism.
It's the usual reasons agents give. He didn't connect with the material. I'm not going to comment on that. That is what it is. You've got to have an agent who's excited about your project to sell it. I won't have anything less. I will continue to wade through a sea of "I like it, but I didn't love it" responses until someone loves something I write. Not only because I don't want a lukewarm agent, but because there's no choice. There are a finite number of agents I want to send to, and a great deal depends on their subjective reaction.
Nor am I ready to beat myself up in some sort of inferiority complex. Old Nick is a good book. It's the purest thing I've written in terms of genre. It is unmistakeably YA.
Is Old Nick the best thing it can be? I can answer yes to that. Will it get better in the future? Yes. If I need to pull it back into the garage, I will find different ways of rebuilding the engine, sure. Right now, given this book, given these circumstances, it's the best I got. And the way I work? There comes a point when I can't get any farther until I get some feedback. This is also a way to get feedback.
What can I do differently? Not a lot. As a matter of fact, I made it easier on myself the first time I tried this, mostly because I didn't have clear ideas of what was available, who was who, and what my goals were. Now I have fairly clear ideas of all three. That means that I will see a lot more rejection before I see success.
Should I quit? I'm not going to dignify this one with much of an answer. If I weren't a good writer, I wouldn't have done what I've already done, and get the kind of feedback I get. I'm 45. I'm not some weepy adolescent whose dreams have been crushed by a publishing industry designed to shut me out unless I have some connections. Talk about fiction.
Should I be dissatisfied? I often compare my writing career and my teacher career. Where was I, year four of my teaching career? Oh yeah. I graduated in 1988 with my MA, thinking I was pretty hot shit, taught for a year longer at ISU as a Tech Writing instructor, and then took up a high school certification. In year 4, I was learning humility, I was fighting my first censorship battle in the little hick burg where I taught (where conservative Lutherans ruled a cancer-tendencied staff who didn't want to make waves about the Chocolate War). I was making a tiny salary, I was the lowest in terms of seniority, and even though I'd taught college composition, the speech teacher who was the head of the department wouldn't let me teach it because he liked to work with the smart kids, albeit he was teaching them a curriculum from 1978.
The point? It was a place to start, but it was also not a place to stay. I am not very far along with my writing year 4 either. I am rejected far more than I am accepted. However, the rejections are more promising now. They are almosts. I am still cuspy, but you know, I'm getting less cuspy.
And the other point? I didn't stay at that tiny school. I decided I would move forward, and I risked a steady income to return to school and get the training and connections to get to where I am now. Ten years into my career, I started at Kirkwood teaching English, an entire universe apart from my hick burg teaching.
What I'm saying is that it's really easy to be demoralized. Frankly, I am. What kind of human being would I be if I weren't? That was a pretty shiny bubble. I did want to hold onto it.
When I left my year 4 teaching job, I did it because I wanted to be more, but I also wanted to do what was true to myself. Writing is true to myself. I write the stories I want to tell. I try to improve them, make them the best I can be. That's the path I'm walking. Regardless of whether I'd gotten my Kirkwood job or not, I would always have been capable of holding my head up and saying I was true to my morals, that I would not have caved in to a bunch of people who wanted to decide what other people's kids could read, and that I'd taught the kids the value of being true to yourself. That money and all the rest were just trappings, really. Food, I'll admit, is a nice trapping, but you get the idea. Integrity is important.
My writing integrity is important. I can't speed up how well I write or how long it takes me to get a piece the best it can be. I can't know if a story is ready or not until I send it out and see what happens. I can't make an agent or an editor feel something about my work that they don't. I have to do this my way. Write, submit, revise. Reevaluate if it's worth spending more time on. Try it again.
I don't feel like ending on that upbeat note today. It'll happen or it won't. When I come to the end of my life, did I tell the stories I wanted to tell, to the best of my ability? That will be my success. I expect some more disappointment from others reading my work. A lot more. More than accolades, I expect.
That doesn't say anything about them, or the industry, or the world's inability to recognize my genius. It doesn't say anything about how hard I'm working, or how good my work is. It doesn't make me a bad writer just because someone won't say I'm a good one.
If I could say anything to someone starting writing, it is this: expect to be rejected. A lot. For a long time. Make peace with the idea that you might never be a published writer. You might not. If you can't do this, get the hell out. Only misery awaits you.
If you can write, polish, embroider, and fall in love with doing something that may take years, or decades, the idea of making a work YOU are proud of as your goal, I guess you're like me. You don't have to be like this to stay. However, I feel more zen this way.
I wish I knew the stories of other writers, how long it took them, and what they realized about themselves during this journey. I would find that interesting and inspiring reading.
I'm going to go play with my new color Nook. My life is not terrible for someone who just burst a bubble.