Lately I’ve been feeling melancholy. It’s a great word, you should look it up. I know people frown on using big words, but I enjoy having a rich vocabulary and being able to resort to a wide variety of words to express my meaning. I lump all that “speak simply” stuff in with typical anti-intellectualism we seem to be going through right now. There’s nothing wrong with being smart, nor is there anything wrong with being dumb. Be who you are.
So I’m melancholy. In the last two years I’ve ratcheted up the writing. I’ve finished two novels and perhaps a dozen short stories, along with assorted unfinished things. The first novel I think is not bad, and the second I think has real potential to be very good, though of course that remains to be seen. Of the short stories, I think there are three really solid works in that bunch, and the rest are okay. And yet I can’t get anything published to save my life.
The first novel has been rejected by agents almost forty times now. That’s fine… it’s a first novel. Sure, I’ve written a lot before this, and even re-wrote this one extensively after the first draft was completed. But I get that it might be a little rough around the edges. Maybe it’ll become one of those desk drawer novels, hidden away from the light of discovery until I do get published, when it will pulled out and dusted off and an editor can help me see where it goes off the rails. Or not.
The three “good” short stories bother me more. I’ve seen worse getting published at some of the same ‘zines and places I’ve been attempting to get these published. So far, zip, zilch, nada enchilada. All of the stories have been submitted multiple times, but these three at least ten times each. I got one reply that said they “wanted to like it, but it wasn’t quite right for them”, and one that had it on hold after the first reader liked it only to reject it later, and that was the closest I came.
Now Summer, the new novel. I’ve got an editor working with me on development and I’m about to spend a shit ton of money for that assistance. And to what end? What if it never gets published? The critiques I’ve gotten on the first part received pretty much universal glowing reviews, and the editor seemed to really like the first three chapters. But what if agents pass on it as often as they have on the first novel? I made the mistake of testing it by querying several agents, and already have gotten back some form rejections.
I had an existential crisis entering work on Tuesday morning. A huge wave of depression hit me. It was the feeling that “this is it, this is all I’ll ever have, I’ll never be the writer I see myself as.” Tuesday really sucked for a few hours because of that. But I persisted my way through it, and have been working on the fresh edits of Summer every morning, getting through about two chapters a day of line-by-line effort. The editor’s comments really have helped improve some small details I was doing improperly (use of the em dash for example, formatting of a three dot pause or another author’s quote, etc.). So I get up, drink some coffee for a little while, then read out loud and make corrections as I go along.
Maybe I’ll have to self publish. I don’t know… I still crave the traditional route and the validation you get from that. But another year from now, after editing Summer and working through the developmental edits with Kisa, I may feel differently.
Melancholy. So… I write. Because I can’t NOT do it any longer.