Well. It’s happened.
You’ve been tapped. Touched. Selected. You have received communication from the distant, bustling publication world – probably via agent – and have been told that they want you. You are now, surely, anointed, blessed, poised to ascend into the heavens and take your place within the firmament as one of the hallowed constellations of the literary world.
Except kind of not. When they first start out, writers typically conceptualize their careers as occurring in huge increments, usually structured around a “I have to get ____” mentality. It usually goes:
- I have to get my book finished.
- I have to get an agent.
- I have to get published.
- I have to figure out how to deal with my huge success, like what to do with my plethora of purebred Shetland ponies and whether these ponies understand and appreciate my guitar music
But that’s (huge surprise coming) not actually it at all. It does not, unfortunately, follow the simple structure of “caterpillar -> chrysalis -> butterfly.” There’s a lot of crunching, observing, thinking, stressing, hair-splitting, and good ol’ fashioned shit-eating that comes with being a writer. When you’re down in the trenches, trying to move your career forward just a few inches more, those gigantic milestone increments completely dissolve.
For instance, if you’ve just gotten an agent, they’re not just going to tap an editor somewhere and say, “Here, publish this,” and off we go to press. It’s likely your agent is going to ask you to revise, and re-revise, and rethink. Because they want the work to be ready. Agents really only get a handful of chances to give editors a book, and they’ll need every chance to count.
So, listen to them. They know a lot. They know what editors are looking for. If you’ve got a good one, they’ll try and make your work “more of itself” – always a good thing – rather than saying, “Throw some vampires in there, and maybe some teen girls.”
Remember – if you question the importance of any scene or line, cut it. If you’re questioning it, the reader will likely skip it. You don’t want white noise in your writing.
And then, once you’ve trimmed the fat, it’s back to the rejection process. Your work will go to editors, and many of them – most of them – will say, “Sorry, no.” This rarely has anything to do with the quality of your work. When someone says, “It just wasn’t a good fit,” they likely mean it – it didn’t fit with the schedule, their marketing, the brand, anything.
As always, keep trying. Learn from your bruises. And listen. Writing is work – keep working.