Writers, Embrace Your Humble Beginning

Ever since The Runaway Courtesan was well received on FictionPress, a seed of arrogance was planted in me. Ever since an agent took interest in my work, my arrogance puffed up. But now…the needle of reality has pierced my ballooning head.

I am now deflating.

I have a second revise & resubmit request from Agent#1 that I’ve put on hold, because my brain and heart is not prepared for the upheaval I plan on putting TRC through. I have a partial in the hands of a superbly busy agent. I have query letters in the inbox of four other agents, awaiting a response for weeks now. And I just received an “Unfortunately-after-careful-consideration-we-have-decided-to-pass-on-this-project” today.

Nothing is turning out as I imagined.

I dreamt of a quick progress from one point to the next. I imagined that one of the agents would contact me, offering representation because she was totally in love with my work. I fantasized that within this year we would be so fortunate as to land a publishing contract for my manuscript.

However, week by week, my assurance weakened, my fantasy crumbled under the weight of reality. As I watched my other writer friends begin querying, receiving partial and full requests, getting represented, getting published, my confidence began to shake.

Then, as I saw the others writers moving on ahead of me, as if we were in a race and I was falling behind, I began to examine myself. I asked myself: Why do I want to get published? I thought and thought about this and realized that I was envious because I wanted to take pride in something. This wasn’t why I started writing at all. I started because I wanted to reach out to other readers.

I’ve finally come to terms with this struggle of mine. It’s a change that has occurred slowly. If I am rejected, I will not be crushed. If I am falling back in the “race” to publication, I will try not to envy. This is why:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

And, if I might add:

a time to revise and a time to query,
a time to publish and a time to develop your craft

Each time I am rejected by an agent, I want to step back from my default mode (wallowing in self-pity) and tell myself that perhaps it isn’t my time to get published. I’ll use this time to develop my craft, because it is the story I want to tell, and if my story is not good enough…then why rush myself to share it?

~

My Facebook status: I’m going to stop querying for TRC now. Publishing is not a race. I’ll take my sweet time. Thank God I have another ms to work on

@ Mandy Kellett Goff: I read somewhere that on average, it takes 10 years to publish a first book. So if it is a race, it’s a very, very long one =).

@ June Hur: That actually makes me feel much better–the fact that it takes 10 yrs on average to publish. Being unable to find an agent, I was starting to feel like a “failure”. But I guess those folks who get agents and get published within a year or two are the lucky oddballs!

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40 Comments

Filed under Editing, Querying, The Runaway Courtesan, Writing

40 responses to “Writers, Embrace Your Humble Beginning

  1. Noelle Pierce

    Oh, good. That’ll give me time to read it. It’s on my Kindle, prepped and ready. I just need to find the time.

    Like

  2. Writing is one of the worst things to do if someone wants instant gratification. It is a long, hard, gut-wrenching, hair-pulling, climb-every-mountain-so-someone-can-push-you-back-down-it activity that only a few ever succeed in finishing a book. You’ve done it. You’ve finished one book and working on another! You should be celebrating how far you’ve come! Most never make it this far because of the no-instant-gratification thing. Don’t give up on your manuscript. 🙂 An actress quoted this Bible verse a while back that has always stuck with me:

    “Despise not small beginnings.”

    This is your small beginning, and when you look back on it years from now you’ll smile and remember this time fondly. 🙂

    Like

  3. June, I think the race point if the most important one. It isn’t a race–it’s a journey. That said, I know better than anyone how the wait–and the journey, for that matter–can seem agonizing some days. I refuse to believe there are any overnight successes in the publishing industry. It certainly never helped me to think there were. I am the most impatient person on the planet but looking back (and looking forward!) I know my writing only improved with time, lots and lots of time. You will know when you are ready to put your manuscript away and move to the next one, and each one that follows will be stronger and richer for all the work you’re doing in the here and now.

    Like

    • There were days, long ago, when I felt that the manuscripts I had polished was perfect and would hit the best sellers once I published it. But now, reading back on these stories, I just roll my eyes and laugh. I wonder how I’ll react to the story I have now in ten years?

      It indeed is not a race but a journey. I think it comes to feel like a race, however, when a writer starts comparing herself to the progress others make.

      But everyone has their own pace! I need to keep reminding this to myself

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  4. June–such an honest post–thank you for that. Don’t forget that even if you haven’t yet measured success in published books, you’ve done far more than so many people have–you’ve finished one book and had the courage to send it out into the world. And then, undaunted, you started another. That means something far more than finish lines!

    It’s a fine line between confidence and pride–I think you’re doing a brilliant job of recognizing it and walking it. God will make all ways clear–keeping your journey in my prayers 🙂 All best!

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    • You’re right. It really is a fine line between confidence and pride. With confidence, even if I am rejected, I’ll remain hopeful. But with pride, if I am rejected, I only end up feeling angry and frustrated.

      Thanks for keeping my journey in your prayers! I’ll keep yours in mine 🙂

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  5. I know what you mean about the instant gratification thing. Writing is not the way to go if that’s what you’re looking for. I can guarantee that you’re quite a bit younger than I am, too. I’ve had a really long and twisty road, and I’m still not published. I wrote several novels in my 20s that came of nothing (I’m relieved, actually). Then I went back to school. Then I wrote THE book. The one that I knew would be published. Then its sequel. And now I’m still waiting. But I do so love that Eccl. chapter.

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  6. sharmon

    Such an honest and inspiring post. I, too, had a tiny taste of “instant success”. I wrote a short story in maybe a couple of hours, did a cursory revision then sent it into a contest. I won first place and 50.00$ from ByLIne (now out of print). I figured that puppy would sell in no time and I’d be on my way. After lots of rejections (I should count them) it has never seen print. Reality sunk in after a year, but I kept writing and writing, still encouraged by my photocopied check on my corkboard. It took four years and lots of writing, revising, learning, submitting and racking up rejections before I saw a short story of mine in print (not the one that won the contest) and some poems published. I submitted 3 stories one right after the other and the mag picked up the fourth–good thing because I didn’t have a fifth! I got a teeny check–but I SOLD a story! Patience (a skill I’m still ever-learning) and yes, not despising the day of small things.
    Great post, June.

    Like

    • You’ll have a much easier time at publishing since you have a nice record of past publications!!!! I have no credibility when it comes to publishing history, so in my query letter, that last paragarph is always so lame for me to write.

      I remember reading in ‘On Writing’ that Stephen King made a living for sometime off the paychecks he received from writing short stories. It must have been HARD because, as you’ve just made an example, those paycheks aren’t a lot….

      Patience is also a skill I’m learning. And I think as I forge on down this road to publication my patience is tested, stretched, and developed. So I feel like I’m becoming not only a better writer, but a better person through these trials.

      Ah, writers, what we must suffer to get published. But it’s all very fun in retrospect, wouldn’t you say 🙂

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  7. Thank you for such honesty. It’s beautiful to read. Perhaps what we need most, as writers, is compassion and lots of gentle, self-administrated words of encouragement.
    Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we insist on writing with a huge clock hanging over our heads. It kills creativity. It stifles our natural exuberance and passion for words.
    Be kind. Throw away your calender and expectations.
    You’ll get there.
    X Lisa

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    • “Why are we so hard on ourselves?” Good question.. I think this might just be one of those universal writerly mysteries. But I think my answer to that is because I see other publishing, so I want to publish to!!!

      But feeling that pressure, that “huge clock hanging over our heads” really does kill creativity. Even though I accepted the fact that perhaps this isn’t my time to get published, and that I should continue to focus on writing my story, a few days ago I was surfing the net once more, feeling all hopeless as I searched for more agents to query to

      Yah, it’s a constant struggle

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      • Does it matter if the second last, or last, agent is the one to accept you? I think you’ll be doing the happy dance and jumping for joy either way. There are thousands of agents out there. Try the UK and Australia too. But you’ll never run out. And the very next agent you approach could be the one to say, “yes”. Remember, you only need one.

        Like

      • Wow…I actually forgot there were agents *outside* of the states. I should check out agents from the UK too. Not sure how though. I found the agents on my list all via agentquery.com

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  8. Lua

    June, you are one of the wisest people I know… Reading this post, it made me feel like I’m not the only one out there feeling like I’m falling behind. All of my friends graduated 2 years ago. They all started their careers and slow or fast, they are walking on their paths. I feel like I’m still standing and nothing is happening. It’s easy to get caught up with the fear and the idea that this is a race but it is not. It’s our lives and it’s our time so we should feel comfortable using both as we feel right.
    I know you will be published, I’ve read excerpts of your work; I know how good they are… But maybe it’s not the right time. Thank you for reminding me why I started to do this in the first place; to tell stories 🙂

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    • This struggle is a bit more easy for me because I’m still in university and thus do not feel as much pressure as you must be feeling. So I admire you so much for handling the stress of it all so well. I’ve always admired you, actually, ever since you said you gave up your aspiration to beccome a lawyer in order to opt for a career as a writer. Such a sacrifice!…But one I think you’ll never regret. You’re an amazing writer too and I hope *your* time (when you can hold your book in your hands) will come soon!

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  9. sharmon

    June and Lua, you both have so much going for you–namely, talent and youth! It will happen. But you can’t give up.
    What I left out of my little story above was how despondent I had become. I was writing and writing and submitting and all I got were some encouraging words from a poetry editor (and I sure don’t think of myself as a poet) and stacks of form rejections w/o so much as a stray pen mark on them. My time was/is precious; if it takes me away from my husband and family, it better be way important. I was torn as to whether I should pursue publication (though I knew I’d write); publication is a whole other ballgame. Writing is art and personal fulfillment. If you want to share that w/ a large audience, you have to pay the dues and the process is long and laborious. Anyway, I prayed. I asked the Lord for just one crumb of encouragement if He intended me to pursue this path. When I opened the magazine that month and saw my name and title of my story under First Place, I literally felt the ground shift (this was the contest).
    I haven’t looked back since.
    And perseverance is the name of the game. If I had only sent 3 stories to The Storyteller, I wouldn’t have a short published now. And believe me, it was very hard to ignore my 3 previous wounds and put that story in the mail. But perseverance pays off. Sooner–or later.
    I’ll toss this out there and then shut up. I read agent interviews, as I’m sure y’all do, and they asked what, if anything, in writer’s bio would make them take notice. I braced myself to see the MFA (that I don’t have) or the degree (that I don’t have)–but no. They said it was previous publications. But first and foremost, it is the writing and the story, in that order. Not to discourage anyone from university or belittle that accomplishment in any way. I think the experience is invaluable.
    But I would STRONGLY suggest submitting shorter pieces till you have some publications. Even poems. Doesn’t matter if the pub pays in money or copies; everything I’ve read says that publication is worth its weight in gold. Esp. now that it is so much harder to get shorts accepted (yep, the recession hit the writer’s market, too). Realizing that made me feel a lot better about the “pay” I received for my work. My writing teacher said that all artists give their work away for free to build an audience before they are able to charge fees. So why shouldn’t a writer?
    Sorry for the tome!

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    • Eeeek….short stories….not only are they hard to write…but they’re hard to write! I’m such a wordy person. I need 90,000 words at the minimal to tell a story. But a few pages? I don’t know…. The only short stories I’ve written is for writer’s craft. It’s fun when i write it for homework. But otherwise….oh…I don’t know… Maybe I’ll take a class on short stories. Maybe some exposure to short stories will develop my knowledge of how to write one.

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  10. A very heartfelt and honest post, June! Bravo! Doesn’t every writer go through the same emotions as you mentioned, though? (I for one think so…)

    I love your sparkly plan — good luck, and I’m sure the minute you learn to tune out the “race”, you’ll have good things happening to TRC!! 🙂

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  11. sharmon

    I know, June, I felt exactly the same way! But give it a chance; it can be totally addictive. Something about distilling a story to its very essence in as much word economy as possible appeals to my frugal nature; and it’s a challenge, a puzzle. I also think it might help in craft, in learning what is extraneous in our novels. At least I hope so! I think as writers we should be as versatile as possible. I don’t have a desire to write nonfiction, but I want to be good at it because that is what synopses and query letters are, after all!
    And BTW, I love your “sparkly plan” too :-).

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    • Good point there. I think I’ll give writing short stories a try after all….. But I always feel that instead of writing short stories I should be working on my novels! But, you know what might be a good idea? Have a short story in mind, and when I’m in writer’s block with the novel, start working on that short story

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  12. Oh my! I only hope I have the courage you have when I get around to trying to get represented and then get published. Right now I’m taking a step at a time and focusing on finishing this book.

    But June H., you are an inspiration! Remember that as long as you don’t give up, you remain one in our eyes.

    Btw, love the new look. Very fancy. 😉

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    • Yes! Take is a step at a time. I’m going to do that now rather than rushing. Patience is a virtue, like Rosemary said..and I’m sure we will all reap some kind of reward for it at the end

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  13. First, I love your new layout.

    Second, I love your two lines to the poem/prayer which I love in and of itself. Have you ever heard the song? It’s quite good and gets stuck in my head rather often.

    Like you, I get impatient quite frequently with my unpublihsed self. You have a leg up on me, for you have agents interested at least. Any time I queried, I just simply got a form rejection letter. So you’re ahead of me in the race.

    Patience may be a virtue, but it’s a pain in the rear too. I think you’re right and we just have to accept that it may not be our time yet … and that it doesn’t mean our time will never come at all by any means!

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    • I’m sure you’ll get a partial or full request soon enough! Your stories are great! What I’ve noticed, though, is that when you end up getting many rejections that might indicate that you should review your query letter again. Maybe have an agented writer look it through? That’s what happened to me, at least!

      Who knows…you just might get published before me! At the rate I’m going now, I’m a turtle in the journey to publication.

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  14. June, I know exactly how you feel. I see people younger than me getting published every day and I feel old and useless. I wanted to start querying in September but one of my beta-readers said I need a major rewrite for publication – I plan on talking to the others, but at the moment I don’t have the energy for a major rewrite on a novel I’ve been working on for 2 years. I’d rather write something totally new, not “recycled” (from old stories of mine, I have plenty of those in my drawers) and see where it takes me, also because I feel I’ve changed as a writer in the past year, so I should try to begin again.
    As for publication… I don’t know. I’m still not sure if I should self-publish or not, if I should query or not, and things are changing so fast in this field, that waiting a little more is probably the best option anyway.
    Going to befriend you on Facebook. Let’s stick together on our writing journeys! 😉

    Like

    • So glad you added me to FB : D

      Major rewrites after having worked so hard on it can be so exhausting. But do you love that story very much? If you do, it’ll be worth it. Because you’ll enjoy even that rewriting journey with those characters. But if the thought doesn’t appeal to you still…if you’d rather not touch the story again…maybe it’s time to put it away and work on something you’re more passionate about? Because let’s say you did get an agent or publisher–what if they ask you to revise again, and again, and again? ……..OR am I making the wrong assumptions here? lol

      Ahk, self-publishing is so darn expensive! I say keep forging on. You’re efforts will be rewarded one day I hope! You’re a great writer : ) An agent will realize that one day

      Like

      • maybe it’s just one beta-reader that totally took me down! A second has been very supportive (she isn’t done yet, but at this point I’m in no hurry anymore). Tomorrow I hope to hear from the other two. If only one thinks the novel needs major rewrites… that’s one reader’s problem, right? I still love the story very much, so I won’t shelve it, but I probably need to work on it a little more before querying… you can have a taste in the Fight,fight,fight blogfest scene – yeah, it’s a fight, not the best thing us ladies write… how did I do? 😉
        Happy writing!

        Like

  15. Cities of the Mind

    Just stumbled on your blog through Ollin’s. I really hate that feeling of ”it could be better” nipping at my heels–but what else drives us to get better? Keep plugging away, and good luck!

    Like

    • You’re right. That feeling that things could be better is indeed one of the driving forces. without it….I think our journey to publication would lack some thrill. Thanks for dropping by!

      Like

  16. Kim

    Woah, June. You changed your layout…and it’s like…my blog. OMG. This is so surreal. Yeah, I’ve started a blog with my sister. I haven’t really advertised my blog yet because it’s still a bit shaky with the updates, that and I’m afraid no one will read it.

    Anyway, I read that you’ve reached around the 70k mark of BS,MH. Jealous! But, you’re an excellent, fluid writer who I envy. I feel like I’m in the “race” as well. I read on LTWF blog that Kat has recently got herself an agent (not to mention Sarah J Maas being signed by Bloomsbury!!!!). And..AND..you guys have all managed to write a novel. Sobs* I will try not to let it get to me..

    The Borgias with Jeremy Irons is coming out. Looks interesting??

    Like

    • What a coincidence!!!! I just changed my blog so last minute. I had no intentions of changing until I saw this theme and was immediately like: Ooooh me want this, me want this!

      Anyway, come on! Reveal your blog to us : D I’ll advertise it for you shamelessly. When you’re ready to publicate your blog, maybe you could write a guest post for me, or maybe I could interview you, and yah–that will be ONE of my shameless advertising.

      I *just* read Kat’s good news! I haven’t been active on LTWF so wasn’t able to learn the news first hand. Anyway, so excited for her! And a touch envious. But I remind myself again: Despise not small beginnings. My time will come…

      AS WILL YOURS!!! ❤

      P.S. Saw the Borgias trailer. Looks like The Tudors! I'll be watching it because I love Jeremy Irons! But how am I to wait till 2011….dfsdjhfsudf

      Like

  17. We’ve all been there and done that. Some people really just get lucky. They find the right agent for their book quickly. Others of us don’t. And sometimes it’s because the story needs to get better. I started sending out queries a year or so ago. Then I realized that my story wasn’t ready. I’ve been working on it since. I’m still not convinced it’s 100% there. In fact, I have quite a few smaller changes I’m working on. But I truly believe in the story.

    Another thing that was great for me was to take some time off. I didn’t read it, look at it, anything, for a long time. When I went back, there were so many things I noticed.

    Good luck.

    Like

    • I’m really glad now that i’ve been given a break from TRC. I think time away from it will benefit me, just as it did yourself. It gives us a different perspective. It allows us to read the story as a reader would read it–not how the writer (who has written and read it 10000 times) would see the story

      Like

  18. Sharmon Gazaway

    Hey June, I just realized you commented on the short story issue and I wanted to say that, yes, having a short story idea in mind is a great way to get the words flowing again when you’re stuck w/ the novel. Also, I don’t know/ don’t remember if you write poetry, but even if you don’t think of yourself as a poet (I still don’t, even after having a handful published)it is an awesome way to get the words going again. I read this trick somewhere: take a page of prose, anything will do, and place your hand or a piece of paper over the right half and scan down the words that are exposed and see how they connect or form unusual and fresh language. It’s amazing. Gets the right brain energized again. You can isolate a column down the middle or on the other side, whatever you prefer. Let me know if you try it. Pure word fun.

    Like

  19. Keep up the great work!
    Getting published isn’t the be-all-to-end-all

    Like

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