No writer likes to receive rejections. Anyone who has been following my blog for a while knows I’ve been trying for months to find an agent who would say “yes” to In Her Mother’s Shoes. By Christmas I was reaching the realization that the book would not be picked up by an agent because it wasn’t sensational enough. If it doesn’t have blockbuster potential, an agent couldn’t easily sell it to a publisher, and it follows that they wouldn’t want it on that alone.
The handful of compliments I received about the writing being very good and the story enjoyable raised my hopes that maybe I could find a publisher who considers unagented work who would take a chance on it. I’ve sent it to six such publishers and, alas, the rejections have continued. Only one so far, but I’m seeing the writing on the wall.
The rejection wasn’t highly negative. It read: “Thank you for considering MacAdam/Cage. Unfortunately we have decided to pass on your manuscript, In Her Mother’s Shoes, at this time. While your characterization is rational and straightforward, we felt that there just wasn’t enough to make this work really stand out….”
There’s a pattern here – and perhaps a lesson to be learned by all writers who are receiving rejections. The pattern of responses that start with some variation of “I enjoyed your story, but…” or “Your writing is very good, but…” and end with the message that it just isn’t stand-out enough, shouldn’t be ignored. It has now become way too consistent to think they just don’t appreciate my style. It’s time to make a decision – do I want to change the way I write (and can I?) so agents and publishers will see stars and dollar signs as they read my work? Or am I content to write what comes naturally and self publish and enjoy the praise of the friends and family (who are the primary buyers in that case)?
I would have to say that’s a no-brainer. I’ve said repeatedly that I love to write, but that I want to be published and I want to leave a mark, however small, on the literary world.
But am I capable of writing the way I would need to for that goal? Or maybe, am I willing to invest the time and effort necessary, especially while I’m still employed and have a long commute? Writing what I do now – writing Autumn Colors and In Her Mother’s Shoes – has been pretty much effortless. I wrote from the heart and spiced it with a little imagination. I didn’t do any research that had to be woven seamlessly into the story line. I didn’t stretch much. (And maybe there’s a message there, too – just as “you get what you pay for”, you also “reap what you sow.”)
And I’m not sure I want to, at least right now. My husband has dropped more than a few hints that he’d like me to spend less time on writing-related activities and more on things we can do together. After 35 years of marriage, I should be happy that he still wants to spend time with me – and that we have similar tastes in “fun.” I don’t want to sacrifice our time together, because I know all too well that in a heartbeat he or I could be gone. It’s a constant tug-of-war between spending time doing fun things we can share (and include Nala, our dog), and doing fun things only I can appreciate.
I could say I’ll just spend less time on writing so I can spend more time on mutually enjoyable pursuits. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that very hard to do. Maybe I’m an all-or-nothing person. Or maybe my senior brain needs to stay focused on one thing to do it well, instead of spreading myself around.
I don’t have the answers as I write this. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to self-publish In Her Mother’s Shoes, once I get the rest of the inevitable rejections from the publishers. I can’t leave it sitting idle in the computer, even if agents and publishers do think it lacks spark. I thought about re-writing it with more spice and trying again, but agents don’t like receiving re-worked manuscripts they’ve previously rejected. So I’ll get it out there on my own, assuming no miracle occurs in the next few months. (I have this dread of the possibility of committing to self publishing before all the rejections are in, only to receive an acceptance. It’s unlikely, but would be just my luck, which is why I’m waiting.)
Then after that? Undecided. I have Kiss Petey started, but I’m not thrilled with it so far, and I’d have to do a lot of research to raise it to the level sought by agents. And that takes time. You see how I’m spinning here.
So I guess I’ll ponder the dilemma a bit longer. Playing in my head is that song from Oliver: “I’m reviewing the situation…” Different dilemma, but same circular thinking.