Thursday, April 4, 2013

Seven-Year-Itch


I long for to explore more promising shores.


Woe is me.

Yeah, my writing state of mind is that bad.

This month is the 7-year anniversary of when I began writing seriously.

I have the 7-year-itch… to be more successful than I am now.

Now I have a small stack of small-piece publications .

I need more validation.

Writers and established authors have provided wonderful words of encouragement.

It’s not them, it’s me.

I’ve followed all the rules. I read the books in my genre. I’ve read and applied how-to-write advice. I attend conferences. I took poetry and grammar classes. I ask other writers to critique my manuscripts. I revise my queries and manuscripts a zillion times before I submit. I research agents thoroughly.

There are glimmers. A full request here. ABNA rounds or contests won there.

But it goes nowhere.

My biggest hurdle is networking. I’m intimidated when I talk to agents and editors. My friend said they wear pants like the rest of us. I say, “But they’re fancy pants.”

I’ve been querying a middle grade since December. There were a few promising developments. Now I find out that, after a zillion rewrites, my query is “too vague.” So I’ve rewritten. AGAIN. Since many agents will ONLY view the query before they request pages, I feel I’ve blown a few promising chances to have pages read.

There are more agents out there. Small presses. I’ve received some promising feedback from agents on this manuscript. There are certainly more chances for it. It’s not finished.

But sometimes I feel like I am.

4 writers have read my current YA. It’s now out with the 5th. I envision a trilogy. But I won’t let myself write the other 2 books. If the 1 doesn’t sell (and I must face that my track record of 0 books published is not great), then how will I feel if all 3 are written?

3x as worse.

But here’s the thing, I tell myself to move on to the next story, which is why I have an upper-middle grade rough draft ½ finished. But the YA story writes itself in my head. All. The. Time.

In my mind, I have these wonderful stories. I itch to share them.


Please share your writer highs and woes.

66 comments:

  1. I can't speak for everyone, but we all feel frustrated at one time or another in this industry. It's all subjective, and it's important to remember that.

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    1. Miranda, thanks. I keep trying to remember that. When I see people jump in later than me and land an agent, it's hard.

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  2. If you have the itch to share them, then get them down on paper, without thinking of anything else but just to scratch your itch. And don't give up. Shake it off and keep your eyes on the prize. It's coming.

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    1. Shelly, I may have to write it because it's not going away. Ever since I finished it last June, the ideas for 2 and 3 have been rolling out like a red carpet. It's almost turning me into a plotter! I hope you're right.

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  3. A lot of it is in the timing, which can really suck. Maybe you should just write those other two books anyway. Get the characters out of your head. Maybe that's when the magic will happen.
    And there are certainly other options between smaller publishers and self-publishing.

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    1. Alex, there are a lot of options out there. Right now, I've been working hard in one direction. Maybe I'll end up in another.

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  4. I'm with Alex. Remember YAHOO, You Always Have Other Options.

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  5. These types of decisions are so tough. You could have a great book that isn't catching on in the market right now. There's no clear and easy answer. Hopefully you can stay encouraged with the little victories :)

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    1. Stephsco, I tell myself I just have to keep putting myself out there to make it happen. But 7 years is a looong time.

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  6. Hi Theresa .. I'm with Alex too ... and if push comes to shove you can self-publish ... and I love Lee's mnemonic ... such a sensible one ...

    But as you say decisions decisions .. be bold and go where others fear to tread .. don't wait - do .. get on with things ..

    Cheers and see at the top soon ... Hilary

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    1. Hilary, thanks for the encouragement. I hope to keep moving onwards and upwards.

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  7. I can totally relate, Theresa. At the WriteOnCon pitch fest I finally fixed by query into one I like. But the agent said the story sounds too much like what he's seen. So now I'm wondering if a small revision will make it appealing enough to other agents or is it just not unique enough. But I'll plod on and put it in a drawer if it doesn't work. Maybe I'll have an enlightenment realization of how to make it perfect in a year or two and can query it again. And I'm moving onto a new project that could be more easy to sell.

    I'm not writing the rest of my trilogy unless I sell it as I don't think I'd self-publish with working full time.

    Remember that agents and publishers are people like us and have their own subjective tastes. So much of it is very subjective and we just can't control it. I've been writing 10 years and will query for the first time. So I understand the frustration. Hang in there.

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    1. Natalie, thanks for sharing. Wow, you've waited so long to query. Looking back, I realize I jumped in way too quickly.

      Decisions like you're facing aren't easy. You send out a bunch and get some form rejections. You get a request and then a rejection with no substance. You get rejections with conflicting advice or conflicting problems. You don't know if your form rejections are rejections over your query or pages or both. By the time you think you've figured it out, you've sent 20 queries, some with pages. At least, that's how it's been for me.

      Once in a while I hear about people who had multiple offers and I can't even imagine ever being in that position.

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  8. I understand where you are coming from. I have books published, yes, but I would love to have an agent. Climb another ring in the publishing ladder if you will. I'm almost afraid to start querying again. It's a tough road.

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    1. Nicole, you have a lot to be proud of, but I understand why you still want an agent. Yes, querying is a tough road. I hold my breath each time I hit the "send" button.

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  9. Write the YA! It wants to be written.

    Seems like the goal post keeps moving for me, but as long as I'm moving toward something I'm OK. It's the waiting that kills me!

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    1. Carolyn, I like the idea of moving towards something. I can't see this as static. It's too depressing.

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  10. Theresa, big hugs. We've all gone through this stage. I'm not near my 7 year itch yet, but I feel the same way. But we are writers, and writing is our passion, and though we may not get what we want right away, rest assured we will!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Nutshell, I've hit these walls many times before. You are right, it's our passion. I keep telling myself that even with my Mt. Everest pile of rejections.

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  11. *hugs to my lovely Theresa.

    I entered a contest back in October for an open call offered from Harper Voyager. If I get chosen (still in the mix after 3000 have been rejected) I'm so going to agent up. If I do, I'm gonna be like "Dear agent person...represent my friend Theresa...she's good."

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    1. Michael, that's so exciting. I'm thrilled to hear you're still in the game. You've already got books out there. I know it's going to come together for you. (And if I can ride those agent coattails, I'm on!) Thank you for always being so supportive.

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  12. I read your post and I think - you are doing so much, sooooo much and all the right things and then stepping up and moving on!! Two step forwards, half a step back!! :-) It's allllllllllllllllllll good!!!

    You keep going girrrrrl!!!! Take care
    x

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    1. Old Kitty, two steps forward, half step back sound so much better than how I think of it. I've got to keep going. The alternative is to stop, and I can't imagine not writing.

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  13. Having read /critiqued two of your novels now, I can safely say it's not your writing. Your words shine on the page. That means it's just a matter of finding the right agent/publisher who falls in love with your stories. By no means is this easy, but believe me when I say you will find a home for your books as long as you don't give up. Keep writing those stories and don't forget to simply enjoy the writing process.

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    1. Lynda, thank you. You comment means a lot to me. I hate the psychological place I'm in now because it's preventing me from writing new words on longer pieces. I've been critiquing, revising when I receive comments, and writing poems and vignettes to fill in my writing time.

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  14. I started really writing back in 1999 and have had nothing published, so there are those worse off than you. (I know, that doesn't make you feel any better.)

    The thing I've been looking at a lot lately is The Secret. This is kind of hard to explain in short comment form. It's all about your thoughts. As long as you feel and think like you're lacking, you will be.

    Because it's not your writing. It's not your networking. It will happen for you. You just have to let it.

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    1. Liz, why don't you submit? You can't get rejected if you don't query. As you can see from my post, you're missing all the fun.

      I've never heard of The Secret.

      I feel like I need to work harder or smarter.

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  15. Sometimes the process of publishing can interfere with the writing. Maybe you should just set aside the completed projects, or incomplete ones, and work on the ones that are now driving you.

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    1. Karen, that's sound advice. Usually, so many things drive me. I like the upper-middle grade I'm halfway through. I'm dying to write 2 and 3 of the YA. And then I have this middle grade percolating. I wrote a couple of chapters of it back in the fall + jotted some ideas. I think that one is going to be so much fun to write. But when I feel like this, I don't want to write at all.

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  16. Karen's reply is right above this box. I agree with her. Don't fall into the doubt trap. Writers now have options.

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    1. Carol, I'm trying to claw my way out of this trap.

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  17. You know you can write, so don't doubt yourself, Theresa. Instead, doubt the vagaries of publishing. Although I do have an agent, it hasn't made a difference because I don't write to genre. And since I have no desire to write to the market, unless I want to self-publish, my option is to wait until the market comes to me. As Alex said, it's timing. At present I'm at work on my third novel.

    All I can say is, just keep writing. Perseverance is the only way to win the war.

    ~VR Barkowski

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    1. VR, I know from reading bits on you're blog that you're a talented writer, so I wasn't surprised when you landed an agent. I hope the market comes to you soon.

      This is turning out to be a long, bloody war on my end.

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  18. I've been at it as long as you have and I don't even have the small-pieces pubbed that you do. It's hard to keep going without validation, but we do. We must. It's what we do. Keep writing. And keep your chin up. We'll get there.

    -Vicki

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    1. vbtremper, you're right. It's what we do. "We'll get there." I like that!

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  19. Wow, our writer friends have given you golden advice. I'm not sure there's much I can add to it, except to echo that it's all about timing. Besides catching an agent/editor at the right time with the right thing, I also believe that every writer has his/her "right time" when it's meant to work out.

    I withdrew a MS from querying because I just didn't feel like it was my best work. It wasn't my time. After that, I pursued the next MS as far as I could -- and got very close with a full request and R&R -- and after finally letting that one go, I realized this wasn't the right time nor the right book. Not saying there's anything wrong with your work; I get the feeling it's polished and beautiful. But maybe a much better opportunity will happen at "your" time.

    Keep writing and working hard. I'll be thinking of you!

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    1. Shelley, such a good sign you got so close. I hope you get there with the next one.

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  20. I sympathize with you completely. I want to go farther, but I feel stuck sometimes. I agree with everyone else here that has said just keep working hard. There's nothing else we can do. Except find that magic bottle with a genie in it!

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    1. Christine, I want that genie. I'm asking for unlimited wishes and going from there...

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  21. I've been seriously writing about seven years as well, and I thought I'd have more published by now, too. But writing does take practice, and I do know I am a better writer today than I was seven years ago. I am pleased with one picture book and several magazine credits to my name. But I want more. :)
    Good luck to you. You are closer to your success each day.

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    1. Kelly, it sounds like you've made good progress. I'm also a much better writer than I used to be. I think each manuscript is better than the last.

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  22. I've been going through the same mindset. There must be something in the air. Will you slap me if I say this is a marathon, not a sprint? I promise I won't duck. Seek that joy when it's just you, the keyboard, and the story. As long as that's alive - whatever happens happens. xo

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    1. Leslie, I visited you this morning and gave you the reminder!

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  23. Good for you for continuing to write, and good for you for publishing some of your stories; a lot of people (including me) haven't even gotten that far. I can't remember if you've blogged about this, but have you been to one of those writer's conferences where you can pitch your work to agents? I read about some of them in Writer's Digest. They can be pretty pricey, and going up to agents in person can be intimidating. But at least that way you could explain what your work is and what it means to you to several people at one time.

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    1. Neurotic Workaholic, writing a dissertation is a manuscript. You're putting in all the same work and experiencing the same angst.

      Yes, I attend conferences. I go to the same one each year and get critiques. The last couple of years I've received requests, but then don't get offers.

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  24. I know the feeling well. But I say, write the book that is buzzing around in your head, and put this one aside for awhile. Then you can probably see it more clearly and approach it with more enthusiasm the next time you see it.

    It's just hard to get published these days. I've had short stories, flash fiction and poetry published, and publication in a couple of children's magazines, and I still get rejection letters on larger works. I finally have an agent, but still no publisher. I think you just have to keep writing for the love of writing and not get discouraged.

    After all, how much fun would it be to give it up? It's one of your great pleasures in life. Keep failing. Fail better. (Someone erudite said that and I love it.)

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    1. Elizabeth, I keep telling myself having an agent doesn't make it all smooth sailing from there, but I can't help but hope. Thanks for sharing your story. I know, I can't give up.

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  25. All great advice above in comments Theresa. I know exactly how you feel. All the best with your dreams!

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    1. Nas, thank you. All the best with yours too.

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  26. PS: Thanks for stopping by my 4th Wish blog and commenting. I really think you would enjoy the movie!

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  27. You can do it, Theresa! Keep up the good work. You're doing everything right, and if you keep at it it will pay off eventually. Perseverance is what separates the published from the unpublished. And they don't say "success is 1% inspiration 99% perspiration" for nothing. Your agent or contract could happen tomorrow! You never know. But you do know that if you stop submitting it will never happen. So keep writing those stories in your head that want to be told and one of these days that itch will be scratched :)

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    1. Susanna, I guess if I make it, I'll feel comfort in the fact that nobody will begrudge me my success. I'll probably be at it longer than anyone else! I may become the shining example. "Theresa Milstein was at it for XX years, so I don't have to feel bad about how long I'm taking."

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  28. I definitely understand the "itch." It seems to be part of the process. Hope you'll continue "anyway." :)



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    1. LR, I'm trying to muster some enthusiasm to work on my longer pieces. Not succeeding these days.

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  29. I've read fantastic advice. Keep going, Theresa. This is a long journey and you have what it takes to make it.

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    1. Medeia, thank you. I keep hoping I have it.

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  30. I just received emails with a similar sentiment from both of the women in my writing group. All three of you are wonderful writers, so it must be something in the air. You'll get through this discouraging feeling.

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    1. MIssed Periods, maybe spring brings it on. I've gotten down before, and I'm sure I will again. It's part of the fun.

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  31. Theresa,
    It's been about seven years since I got serious about writing, as well. I've had lots of short works published but so far no books. For me, the most important thing is not to compare where I'm at with where somebody else is. It can be hard. The more social networking you do, the more you see others getting those book deals. I totally get the "when will it be my turn" thinking. When I start feeling like that, I have to remind myself that my journey is my own and it's not subject to anyone else's timing. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep doing what you're doing. And have faith. It will happen.

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    1. Ruth, that's it. And I don't begrudge anyone else having success. I don't get jealous. (Though when someone hasn't been writing long at all, and gets a book deal, that is a little hard to take.) Your're right. I need to keep it in mind.

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  32. I feel you. It sucks. But the moment when you put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, there is magic. And no one can take that awesome feeling away from you. =)

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    1. E. Arroyo, that is so true. It really does feel like magic. That's why I can't stop even if I feel like I don't have much to show for it.

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  33. I feel your pain, Theresa, since I'm in the same boat. I always feel rushed, like I'm never devoting enough time to getting anywhere.
    But I've written a few more novels along the way, and I really think that helps - it's good to meet new characters and edit a story other than your first...

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    1. Deniz, we do feel the same way. I don't think any of my novels were wasted. I learned something from each one, and they may still have a chance to be published someday. We'll see.

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