UGH…Another Difficult Gift

A big fat chunk of November has passed us by and, once again, here I am apologizing for not blogging.  Bleh.  I’ll do better.  I swear.

About 10 days ago, I received the toughest emotional blow since I started submitting my novel to agents and editors. Another nice rejection. This one turned me into a weepy pile of goo for days.  My poor sweetheart!  He had to endure evenings with me curled up into a damp comma on the couch.  The dear lovely man cooked my dinners, rubbed my back and tried to soothe my hurt feelings.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t really understand the whole writer seeking traditional publishing for her first novel thing.  Here’s an example:

ME:  I feel so hopeless.  I feel like everyone tells me I’m a talented writer, but I’ve written the wrong story.

HIM:  But you’re writing a new book. Maybe that one will have a better chance of getting published.

ME:  Holy crap!  That’s like telling the mother of a murdered child she should cheer up because she’s pregnant for another child.

HIM:  Want me to pour you a glass of wine?

I guess this rejection was so hard because it felt like I was very CLOSE this time.  I was invited to submit my full manuscript to a medium-sized publishing house after pitching my novel to one of their editors at a writing conference back in May.  Even though he wasn’t the editor for their YA list, he was very encouraging and seemed to fully appreciate the 1977 Star Wars element in my story.  Two months later, at another writing conference, I met a lovely author who is published by the same house and she emailed the editor to endorse my book.  After waiting the full ten weeks (as recommended in their submission guidelines) I sent a quick follow-up email and got back an encouraging response.  They needed more time to consider my manuscript.

Which means that they were actually reading and considering my work.  Suddenly my expectations went from a dim glimmer of distant hope to WOO HOO!!

Then came the final email last week.  And you know before you open it that an email can’t be good news.  They actually CALL authors when they want to offer a publishing contract.  So I opened the email with a dull throbbing pain in my chest.  It was the nicest rejection so far.  The assistant editor told me they enjoyed my story and my narrative voice, they just thought the novel would be a “tough sell” in today’s YA market.  Seriously?  How is it that none of these publishing folk seem to understand the Star Wars fan base?  Star Wars fans are LEGION.  And there’s a huge chunk of them who are Star Wars geek girls.  Trust me.  With the right (fairly inexpensive) social marketing strategy, it is NOT a tough sell.

But you can’t argue with a rejection.  You can just keep submitting and hoping and wishing and praying.

Last weekend we volunteered/attended the Dahlonega Literary Festival.  It was an amazing weekend!  Helped me get some of the wind back in my sails.  More on that later.

In the meantime, here’s a Longfellow poem I read over and over whenever I’m feeling discouraged about the whole writing process:


O ye dead Poets, who are living still
Immortal in your verse, though life be fled,
And ye, O living Poets, who are dead
Though ye are living, if neglect can kill,
Tell me if in the darkest hours of ill,
With drops of anguish falling fast and red
From the sharp crown of thorns upon your head,
Ye were not glad your errand to fulfil?
Yes; for the gift and ministry of Song
Have something in them so divinely sweet,
It can assuage the bitterness of wrong;
Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

November is National Novel Writing Month…

…and I’m too busy to come out and play.  BOO HOO!!

Okay, actually, I take back the sadness.  I refuse to be sad.  I am too busy because I have some amazing opportunities to enjoy and develop my literary mojo this month.  There is absolutely no reason to be sad.  I’m just feeling a wee bit nostalgic.  Uhhhhh, JOYFULLY nostalgic.  Yeah, that’s it.

Before I start waxing nostalgic about previous Novembers, I should probably explain the whole National Novel Writing Month thing (affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo by anyone even slightly familiar with the concept).

NaNoWriMo is not really a writing contest, it’s more of a writing challenge.  It’s all about quantity, not quality.  When people sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo, they are saying to the world, “Hey everybody!  I am going to write at least 50,000 words of a brand new fiction novel within the 30 days of November.”

And if a NaNo writer truly embraces the spirit of the event, that writer is also choosing to ignore silly little details like plot, characterization, continuity, readability and just about every other storytelling element known to mankind.  ANYTHING can be fixed during the rewriting process (also known as the other 11 months of the year).

NaNoWriMo is like Weight Watchers for writers.  It’s Write Watchers.  Back in 2003, I came up with a writing support group idea called Write Watchers that was loosely based on this quantity over quality writing concept, but I was too lazy and chicken sh*t to take any steps to make it happen…such as recruiting other members, starting a website or coming up with a clear set of rules and/or guidelines.  Luckily, one man had already done all of that work for me (and so much more).

Way back in 1999, Chris Baty organized a group of 21 people living in the San Francisco Bay Area to stop talking about writing a novel and just do it….within 30 days.  They enjoyed the process so much, they decided to create a website and do it again the following year.  By year three, NaNoWriMo had outgrown all of its founder’s expectations with 5000 participants.  In 2004, the first modern NaNoWriMo website was launched, with its glorious word count progress tracking whatsit, vast forums of time-wastery and the automated word count validation thingy.

I discovered NaNoWriMo in late September 2004 through the Writer’s Digest “Best Websites for Writers” list. I registered the very first day the website went live for that year’s event, but then was faced with waiting a whole month before I could actually start writing my fabulous new novel.

Shortly thereafter, something very exciting happened. My company sent me to the Philippines to train new employees for most of October.  On one hand, I was training people to do my job for a fraction of my salary.  On the other had, it was a free, all-expense-paid trip to the Philippines for three weeks.  Woo hoo!  On the other (third?) hand, I was on the opposite side of the planet, but still required to work the standard U.S. work week so I had to go in around 10:00 pm local time Mon – Fri and leave around dawn the next morning.  On weekends, I was afraid to get off that topsy-turvy schedule….which meant I spent quite a lot of quality time in my hotel suite (1) watching sumo wrestling matches and “classic” (read as bad 1980’s) anime, (2) drinking cans of San Miguel (approx $.49 USD) out of the minibar fridge, and (3) reading No Plot No Problem and jotting down ideas for my first NaNoWriMo endeavor.

Ahhhhhh….that first NaNoWriMo.  It was all so exhilarating and magical.  I hate to be a San Francisco Bay Area snob, but I just can’t explain how wonderful it was to participate as a SoBaNaNo (South Bay region) where we could easily drive or take a train up to San Francisco to hear Chris Baty give hilarious pep talks.  There were crazy Write In events where we all huddled around power outlets in various coffee shops or independent bookstores and typed like….well, like people with a whole bunch of words to type.  I completed 50,000 words and got my certificate, but I didn’t bring my story home to an ending (or even beyond the middle).  Still, there is NOTHING to compare to the first time you manage to produce over 50,000 words of fiction.

In 2005, I went into the challenge assured of my second victory.  Yeah.  Didn’t happen.

Typing with wild abandon during the first 5 minutes of November 2005. Sadly, I didn't write 50,000 words on my sophomore effort.

In 2006, I used NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words toward my first draft of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away.

SHAZAAM!  2006 was my greatest NaNoWriMo accomplishment.  It took another two years to shape that incomplete first draft into a novel that I would actually allow another human being to read, but, overall, 2006 was an excellent year in my personal NaNo history.

Then came 2007.  I’d just lost quite a bit of weight and discovered a new enthusiasm for jogging 3-5 miles every morning (an enthusiasm I’ve managed to un-discover here in Georgia).  An hour of daily exercise was fabulous for my heart and my figure, but ruined my NaNo efforts.

At the 2007 SoBaNaNo pre-party...after losing 40 lbs with Weight Watchers. Holy wholesomeness Batman, I was looking healthy.

When I moved to Georgia in 2008, I drifted away from the November NaNo tradition….partly because I missed my SoBaNaNo group so much and partly because I needed to focus on getting NSLA, NSFA ready for submission.  Irregular work hours made 2009 NaNoWriMo impossible.  Last year I was in love.  This year I’m still in love and about twice as busy.  Sigh.

[Shhhh….listen.  Do you hear that?  Is that the sound of a beautiful thing being snuffed out?  Or the sound of windows opening to reveal a glorious new beginning?]