When writers get down…

I have a good friend who’s really down today because her wonderful fantasy novel keeps getting rejected. It’s hard to feel TOO sorry for her when she’s getting such nice rejection letters…the editors all have a lot of positive things to say about her manuscript (which she glosses right over), but there’s always some reason they ultimately can’t take it to committee. It’s also hard to feel sorry for her because she’s only had 5-6 rejections on it (none of them form rejections, BTW), and I KNOW IT’S GOING TO GET PUBLISHED EVENTUALLY!!!

But it’s not my manuscript. And MY telling her it’s going to get published eventually sounds hollow, I know. I don’t know anybody who tries harder than she does. And she IS published. She’s published a novel and several picture books, a couple of which have gotten some really great reviews and are selling well! But yet she said today, “I’m a fraud. I can’t write a good, publishable novel.” She’s NOT a fraud. She CAN write a good, publishable novel. She’s done it several times before. AND…she leads novel writing retreats all over the country, and teaches other people how to write good, publishable novels.

But I know how she feels. And I’m guessing anyone who’s reading this post knows how she feels, too. It’s HARD to be a writer sometimes. I tell kids all the time, “anyone can be a writer…you just have to want it badly enough to stick with it through the hard times.” I honestly believe that.

Sometimes *I* feel like a fraud because I haven’t published a book with a major New York publisher. Nevermind there are many days I wonder if I really want to publish with a New York publisher. I like my small publishers…they take very good care of me. But there’s this nagging little voice inside me that tells me I really haven’t “made it” until a New York publisher wants to publish my work.

And then there’s the agent thing. I’ve sold 16 books of my own (soon to be 19…I have 3 contracts pending right now)…actually, I’ve sold 26+ if you count work-for-hire/series books…but I can’t seem to interest an agent. Not that I’m trying all that hard…I tend to query 2-4 agents in a given year. And again, there are a lot of days I’m not so sure I want/need an agent. But on the days I DO want an agent…and I actually do some research and I think I’ve found one who would be perfect for me, they’re never interested. Why is that? Am *I* a fraud?

Are there any writers out there who DON’T feel like they’re a fraud at some point? Are there any PEOPLE out there who don’t feel like they’re a fraud at some point? Whenever I feel too sorry for myself, I think of all the people I know who are just working a job, counting down until the weekend…I’d take my life over theirs any day. At least I’m doing something I love…

33 thoughts on “When writers get down…

  1. Hey, Dori. I think this is very, very common. When E.B. White accepted the National Medal for Literature, he said, “A writer’s courage can easily fail him. I feel this daily.”


    The bottom line is, if you write, you’re a writer. I know that’s simplistic. And I know it’s easier to be on the outside, saying, “Yes, you’ll get published,” than it is to believe it during those inevitable hard times.

    And I have to laugh. There’s always someone “ahead” of you on the path (and sometimes that path loops around and back a few times.) I remember when I used to agonize that I would never get published in the magazines that eventually published my work. Now I dream of publishing a novel. But you’ve done that and you get the agent bug sometimes…and even your friend, with all her amazing success, has down days. These are normal. And I agree: The difference between those who eventually meet their goals and those who don’t is most often perseverance: working diligently on craft and not ever giving up.

    I also had to laugh when you said you have a job that you love. For some reason, when I’m down, I always compare mine to working at a meatpacking plant kill floor. I think that’s about the worst job anyone could have, especially in the summer. Thanks for the post. Will I see you in October? 🙂

  2. Oh, yeah. I’m a total fraud for many reasons, which I won’t clog your LJ with.

    And I’m pretty sure I know who your friend is, and she’s definitely not a fraud. But if E.B. White felt it, then I understand why she does, too. 🙁

  3. What makes it harder to sell after you’ve been published is that your new publisher wants to know your sales figures. I had this asked recently and I’m really not sure of my number although THE SEER seems to be selling well.

    I’ve had the agent problem, too, but am still trying. I have queries with two agencies right now and feel I’m closer this time, that one of them might sign me up. I keep hoping for that phone call anyway (g).

    Good luck to your friend…and to you!

  4. I think all writers feel like frauds sometimes. It’s the nature of the beast. Plus we work in solitary confinement… and mostly like it that way.

    Would your friend like to contact me? Maybe I could put her in touch with my agent, who does sell fantasy.

  5. Re: fraud?

    Ha! I just queried her on Friday. She’s my latest “seems perfect for me.” In fact, when I found out about her, I was actually a little disappointed I had a query out somewhere else (and that agent had specifically asked for an exclusive “just for 2 weeks”…until she got back from vacation and could have an agency meeting…but then it took two nudges 6 weeks later to get a form e-mail rejection).

    But anyway…a friend of mine LOVED having Megan as an editor (I love this friend’s work, so if Megan was her editor, she might be a good agent for me…), Megan obviously lived in Minnesota when she was an editor (as a native Minnesotan myself, that automatically earns her about 10 extra points), she graduated from the University of Iowa and I live in Iowa City (okay, offering that as proof she’s perfect for me might be stretching it a little…), and she’s with a smaller agency (even though I’ve also made a case for wanting an agent with a large agency, I think I’m really better suited to a smaller agency…as long as the agent still has all the contacts for selling sub-rights…).

    How long have you been waiting to hear?

  6. Re: fraud?

    And yes, actually, my friend is submitting to the right houses…houses where she already has a contact, houses that publish her kind of book etc. I think that’s part of why she’s so frustrated. These are targeted submissions.

  7. Yeah, I think we all do take our turns feeling like we’re fakes, someone will find us out eventually, and so on. I just keep reminding myself that most people do feel this way. And, well, I know all those other people are wrong–and I can’t quite get up enough ego to believe I’m the only one who’s right about my fake-ness after all–which means I must be wrong, too.

    I also know what you mean about wanting to shout at someone else who’s feeling fake “But you haven’t even been trying all that long yet!” I guess it always seems longer when we’re the ones doing the waiting than when someone else is …

  8. Megan Atwood

    Does anyone out there know what’s happened to Megan Atwood at Firebrand? She asked for my teen novel back in late October. Never heard back from her. Checked the Firebrand website yesterday and she is no longer listed as one of their agents. Anyone have any information or ideas???

    Perplexed in Utah

  9. Re: Megan Atwood

    I, too, am desperately seeking Megan Atwood. I sent her my middle-reader fantasy novel in 2004 and got a response in spring of 2005 that she loved it and wouldn’t change it, but that Llewellyn wasn’t taking middle-readers at that time. She suggested that I might want to grow the protagonist up. And I did. But 11 to 16 is a lot of growing up and the changes wreaked havoc (great havoc) on the plot. By the time it was ready, Megan had gone and Llewellyn doesn’t have a place for the kind of book the new book is. (I worked for a time with Andrew Karre who replaced Megan and was very helpful, but in the end said it wasn’t a good fit for them.) So, now I’m zeroing in on the agent search and if Megan is an agent somewhere, it might seem she’d be a good bet. Or at least know where the good bets might be. Anybody have any luck finding her? My protagonist will be 40 soon ….

  10. Re: fraud?

    Joelle, what lake do you live by? Mine is Erie. And I’ve thought of jumping in myself but never throwing in the book. Cool idea. And so appropriate some days …. I’ll wait until the wind is from the South! That way it’ll be in Canada and they can look at it floating around.

    Did you ever hear back from Megan Atwood? From reading this thread, I’d say you’re the last to actually have contact. When she left Llewellyn, I got an email saying she wasn’t going to be there and who she had passed my book along to. Any word from Firebrand?

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