Friday, July 6, 2012

Published Writers Don't Forget

When I was querying and on sub, I remember at times published writers trying to encourage me. "You'll get there," they said. "I know it sucks. I totally understand."

Well, in my weaker moments I actually took great offense to these very kind and well-intentioned people. I would think, "How can you possibly understand? You have a book deal! You are a bestseller! You are everything I want and can't have, so how dare you try and tell me you get what I'm going through?"

Shameful, I know.

I had this idea that getting a book deal somehow made you forget all the pain of having to query and fail on submissions, as if published writers just couldn't comprehend failure anymore because they had succeeded. And how could a successful person understand a perpetually failing loser like me?

Fast forward to me being on the other side of that coin. Now I feel really bad for snapping at good-hearted friends or being majorly cynical in public places. So glad I just stopped going to events before I shot myself in the foot too much with my bad attitude.

Because here's the thing—yeah, I'm getting published, but I haven't forgotten for one second how freaking hard it was to get here. I remember those two years querying, all the rejection and revision that brought me to my knees. And I certainly can't forget the horror of over 18 months on submission with two separate projects, the pain of having to accept that your novel won't sell, the torture of having to rewrite a novel entirely, of having to change agents.

Just because I finally found success doesn't mean that slate was wiped clean and all was happy from there on out. Honestly, I've been digging myself out of depression since 2010—depression that was, sad to say, largely brought on by my attempts to publish. Selling didn't fix my brain. I still have all sorts of issues to deal with, not to mention the scary bits of being a debut author.

But sometimes I feel that thing from writers still in the query/sub trenches. It's a very subtle snick from "I'm listening" to "This person doesn't understand me." You see it in teens most frequently. Sometimes it comes with a barely-veiled eye roll if the person is in a bad mood.

It hurts.

I try not to take offense, of course, because I was so that writer and when you're in that phase you just want to talk to someone who is there with you, going through the same pains. But now that I'm over here, I wish I'd have understood that published writers still get it. I wish I'd realized that some of that stuff never goes away—like being on sub, always hard and never a sure thing. I drew an unnecessary line between me and them. I forgot that we're all on the same road, just at different points. It's easy to make it a competition, but I really hope we can all see each other not as enemies but as friends.


  1. I'm a new twitter follower that saw a retweet of your post yesterday and as someone slogging through query purgatory, it was just what I needed to hear. So when another full rejection landed in my inbox this morning I was able to send it to my rejections folder, take a deep breath, and send out another new query. So thanks for that. :)

    1. Ugh, Crystal, those are the worst! I'm so sorry. I remember those days being the hardest.

  2. I'm lucky - although I wouldn't have said that 2+ years ago - to have connected with some fabulous debut authors while I was still writing my first draft of my first book. They keep me hopeful, yet grounded. Kudos for providing that to many others through this honest post! :)

  3. I just had this very conversation with a published author a few days ago. She had a very unlightening reality for me: "Just because I got published ONCE doesn't mean it's EVER going to happen again." She said, basically, that even after you get one book deal (multi-book or otherwise) there is no guarantee that a) that book will do will and b) that the editor will want to buy your next project. She said going on sub still sucks and that the pressure not to make "debut author mistakes" (whatever those are) is even worse.

    My point is that published authors get it because in some way, they are still going through it.

    1. P.S. I'm pretty sure unlightening isn't a word, but you get what I meant...right?

  4. Thanks for this post. As I begin querying it's good to remember that published authors, those with agents, etc. They remember and understand too. I appreciate how real you are on your blog.
    I'm realizing more and more than I'm not as crazy as I thought. Or at least that I'm joining plenty of like minded crazy people;)

  5. I prefer when published authors talk about how hard it was for them because my default setting is to assume it was easy for them. I don't know why.
    I'm about to shelve a book I was sure was "The One." It hurts, but I'll just keep slogging on.

    Thanks, Natalie. I always love your posts.

  6. Thank you. Always, thank you for sharing your experiences and your thoughts so candidly, but especially for this.

  7. This is a great post and so true. I was on subs for 18 months too and by the end I was so very depressed and it was very hard to see others signing contracts and selling books--like you said, it was something I wanted for myself. Great post. I have always loved your honesty when it comes to these matters!