Today I got an email from an agent I’d queried over the summer. Although she had some positive things to say about aspects of my writing, she passed on the novel. I think her reasons for doing so, and the criticisms she gave are completely accurate, and it gives me some great things to work on in my current project.
While I’m disappointed, I’m not devastated. I think this is for two reasons:
- I worked hard on the novel but at one point I let it go out into the world to see what it could see. I didn’t turn it into a precious object so that when others gave me feedback or rejected it, it wasn’t so much a part of me that it was rejecting a baby. I do love parts of it very much, and it’s special to me, but I’m not so blind that I can’t see where it needs work.
- It was my first novel and I’m hard at work on others that might be so much better. I let this one out so early, perhaps before it or I were ready. But if I waited, I’d be waiting for ever to see if I would get better. Just like Lemony Snicket says, I’d be waiting my whole life. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to see what I and my novel were made of right now. And now I know. It was made of some very good stuff, and some stuff that needs work.
She did say she’d like to see my future work, so there’s always that! In the meantime I need to write. And I need to start compiling a new list of agents.
What were your first failures like? What got you through them and were are you now? I’d like to know!
This time of year is full of New Year resolutions that we start with such vigor and slowly watch them fade as the year drags us kicking and screaming along. My 2015 was full of transition and hard work. I worked my rear off (metaphorically, of course. Literally, it’s the same size it was last year). I worked a few different jobs trying to keep myself in the black, and trying to create opportunities where none existed before. I learned a lot. And now I find myself in a better position to take advantage of this yea of hard work, which is a really nice thing. A lot has happened.
- I finished my first novel, went through the editing process and pitched it to an agent who wanted to see the full manuscript. So far I’m not certain what will happen, but I’m cautiously optimistic and trying not to think too much about it as I know my success so far is a little atypical and I don’t want to get my hopes up.
- I completed 2.5 more semesters of college teaching and rediscovered my love of British literature and teaching in general. Even though I’ve absolutely needed the break for the holidays, I’m really enjoying my current teaching track and don’t want that to change!
- I’ve saved some money even though it’s been tight for us, and am grateful I’ve been able to do that. My husband started a new job that he really, really likes in September, but before that we were barely squeaking by. I may have contributed to that problem by leaving my soul sucking high school teaching job and teaching as an adjunct instead, but I’ve been working very hard to make up for it with my second job.
- I’ve come to better understand what I want out of life, and focused on how I can achieve it. In a vague way, I’ve always known what I’d like my life to look like, and most of my twenties involved a process of chipping away at other things to get to what I truly wanted. But now I’m clearer on the steps I need to take, and clearer on my ability to take them. I’m not letting anything stand in my way if I can figure out how to move it or go around it, and that is an empowering feeling.
So what’s next in 2016?
That is a favorite swear word of Regency rakes and frustrated lords across the romance world. And now I’m muttering it myself as I swill my scotch.
Because while I was listening to another excellent episode of Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast Sarah Wendell mentions a Lisa Kleypas novel. I’ve been intending to read Lisa Kleypas for a while, having heard good things about her and knowing she’s grouped with some of my favorite authors. But I haven’t read her yet. This fact will become important in a second.
Sarah was mentioning a sub-genre of the historical romance novel, if you will. American heiresses in need of a title. And a series that Lisa Kleypas has written with an American heiress named Lillian Bowman who finds herself married to Marcus, a peer in England. Maybe now you’ve figured out why I’m muttering “Damnation!” over my scotch?
Because my novel, my first, dear little novel, the one I broke my teeth on, and my head, and my heart over? It features an American heiress named Lillian Blythe in search of an English lord who falls for a man named Morgan. There’s even a love scene in the library in both. And a scene where the heroine is a trifle drunk (although not the same scene).
So what do I do? My ingenious little idea, and even my heroine’s name taken already! Of course, the idea isn’t worth much. I’m sure our stories are still quite different, even though the premise is similar. That’s not the problem. In fact, it might even be a selling point. Loved Lisa Kleypas’ novel about an American heiress and her English lord? Try Evelyn Isaacks!
No, my frustrated moment is that fact that the names are so similar, and even some of the plot. How is that even statistically possible?!
I guess I need another name that is as excellent as Lillian. Damnation!
Word Count: 505
Music: Wilco, “Forget the Flowers” from Being There
I’ve gotten feedback from two of my beta readers and mostly they were positive. Hurrah! I cannot adequately express how much of a relief this was. I’d been having momentary bouts of panic a few times a day, questioning whether or not I was being foolish and am secretly a terrible writer. It’s strange. I don’t suffer from that fear while I’m actually writing. No. Then, it’s all “Wow! I am SOO good at this! I’m the best writer ever! Bow before my genius!” But as soon as I let myself become vulnerable by having others read it? I’m a quivering mess.
They’ll learn my secret, that this is just a pile of bones I call a romance novel. They’ll see that I know nothing about love and my own marriage is clearly a fluke, since I know nothing. They’ll see my sex scenes and giggle at the ridiculous notions of sex I have. They will not like the characters at all, and think they are boring.
That is what I start thinking. But luckily, or just because I have very nice friends, they were mostly positive. Of course, I have things to fix, but overall they weren’t terrible. I can breath again.
And now I’m starting a new draft of a new novel. It’s another historical, only this time I’m jumping back two hundred years from my last one, and shifting the focus to French Canada. I don’t want to say too much, but I will say this: RESEARCH can be your best friend. I had some ideas for the conflict but nothing concrete and after researching a little more I’m starting to feel my way through the mire and actually figure out what these characters are deal thing with. Some people hate research. Some say that research bogs down their story telling. For me, research is what pads out my story, like the padding on a dressmaker’s form. The structure of a romance novel is what holds it up, but the research is what creates the final form. At least, that’s my metaphor for it this week.