Continuing our theme of “if only I would have known” this month at Mysteristas…
On Tuesday, Kate Lansing talked about how there’s really no rush in publishing, even though we think there is. If we don’t get that book done, we can’t query; and if we don’t query, we won’t get that agent and if we don’t get on it RIGHT NOW all the agents will be gone and we’ll never get published…
<pause for deep breath>
All this put me in mind of my first book (okay, not technically my first book, but the first I felt was good enough to put out there) two years ago. I’d been working on this puppy since 2013. I’d done a critique group. I’d paid to have it professionally edited. This book was ready. I was ready. It was time to query. I was prepped for some rejection; I knew that was part of the game, but I believed in this book and it was time to jump into the pond.
I wrote a query. I sent out about 20 of them. I pitched at a conference. Radio silence. I reworked my query and sent out another 20 or so letters. A few compliments, but mostly “this just isn’t for me” or radio silence.
I admit it. I was devastated.
Devastated enough that I paused writing book 2. Maybe I wasn’t as good as people told me, as I thought. Maybe I should hang it up. But then came along 2016 and The Great Short Story Challenge (or so I have dubbed it) – and I got three acceptances. In a row. In fairly prominent anthologies. Then a fourth rolled in.
Okay, what gives?
By this time, I’d finished book 2 with the help of a new (fabulous) critique group. I was prepared to shop it as book 1 of the series and even sent out one full manuscript. I started book 3 (or book 2, depending on how you look at it), decided I just can’t write and critique at the same time, so pressed pause in the critique process to finish Draft Zero.
But book 1 was still there. I still liked it. I thought it had potential. So I started working on it again with the new critique group. And I learned something very important.
It was not The Best Book It Could Be.
If only I’d known that in 2015. I wouldn’t have pitched. I wouldn’t have burned those 50 agents. I would have taken the time to do the hard work – the work I’m doing now – to make the book better. Because although I went through a period last month where I really hated the thing, two days ago I got an idea that made me fall in love all over again.
There are so many things that make it nearly impossible I would have known that two years ago. I’m a better writer than I was back then. I’ve written more words. I have a solid group at my back, pushing me to do better (even if sometimes I feel like hanging up my keyboard when they don’t quite love my monthly submission as much as I do). It’s possible that I couldn’t have written this book back then.
But I sure wish I’d have know that two years ago.
Fellow Mysteristas – what do you wish you would have known before you took a big plunge?