May is pitching a no hitter and my batting average is streaking in the wrong direction. In the last thirteen days, the following list of things have happened:
- One of my best friends had a family emergency that led to her abruptly—and understandably—not being able to go to Oregon with me.
- My dream company to work for, which by some twist of fate is located in Knoxville, turned me down—twice—for entry level writing positions that I am qualified for.
- A literary agent informed me that the novel I’ve written doesn’t meet industry standards for the audience I wrote the novel for.
- My first choice agent at the top literary agency in the world turned down my novel, echoing in his rejection letter what other rejection letters have said: my opening pages aren’t compelling or gripping.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. I’m used to rejection—but the frustration remains the same. I don’t expect everything to work out in life, but it would be nice if something worked out every now and then.
When it comes to #1, I’m mostly disappointed it didn’t work out. But I also know it won’t change our friendship and we’ll still get to take adventures in the future. #2, well…I’ve applied for well over 45 jobs at my dream company—interviewing for two—and it’s become quite clear that I am not what they’re looking for. Even in a janitor. I tried. Three times. #4 was expected—you don’t just become an author represented by Writer’s House. I’m not that talented, and my book isn’t that good, but you gotta at least try. Publishing is such a happenstance crapshoot.
The hardest one to swallow is probably #3.
In a lot of ways, the book I wrote is the book I wish I had been around. No one really writes about college kids. No one really writes about being in your twenties. Which, when you consider that almost all sitcoms seem to cover this slice of the age pie, is kind of baffling. There isn’t a set place for my book on the shelf because my characters are too old for Young Adult, not sex-and-tattoo-oriented enough for New Adult, not old enough for upmarket or literary fiction, and then the setting doesn’t fall into a genre shelf.
It’s the book I had to write. I know that. It’s a story I had to tell. You don’t write towards trends, you write the story you must write. Writing to trends is an easy way to be two-to-three years behind. Publishing redefines lethargic. Sometimes you just get lucky with your book and a trend aligning.
I thought my book was Young Adult, if only because it tries to address the weird, real world space of “where do I go after school?” and “what does becoming an adult look like?” It’s not the most exciting story, though I think I have a few scenes that utilize some great sentence crafting to up the intensity. I thought there was a lot of levity and heart in the heaviness. There is definitely a large swath of books that occupy that headspace in YA. I knew mine was “too old,” but other books that are too old have slid in before—and yes, best believe I put them in my comps.
I can’t control that agents don’t seem to think my opening chapters are gripping. That’s down to personal preference, and it’s just one more way that I don’t seem to be what anyone is looking for these days. But I am still quite proud of those chapters. I do think they’re good and where the story starts. A friend thinks I need to write a prologue—which seems to be the one thing everyone in publishing says to avoid—that uses some information to create an even stronger hook. I’m hesitant and it doesn’t feel right in my gut. But who knows.
Edit, adjust, and move on. That’s the only way to get published. But I’m getting tired. It’s just one more place where there is a very minor appearance of a modicum of control, but in the end it’s just one more open-handed offering with a lot of waiting and no certainty at all.