What if no one likes it?

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Three days from right now will be half a day into the first day of the 2017 Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference. I am not ready.

Early this year I decided, “If I finish my first draft in time to book the early bird special, I can go.” Then I decided, “I’m going to book because I can’t miss this opportunity and I want to grab the early bird special, but I have to finish the first draft before the con.”

Two months ago this looked totally achievable. Now? Let’s just say that to meet that goal I have to write approximated 25,000 words in two days and … Honey, that ain’t gonna happen.

Even if I hadn’t spent yesterday and today in a complete funk, it wouldn’t have happened.

The main reason I’m going to the conference is to pitch this book, and in fact the whole planned series. I’m set up to pitch to 21 (TWENTY-ONE!!!) agents and editors, 14 of whom are specifically looking for this kind of fiction. And I know very well that none of them is going to ask for a full manuscript right off the bat. If I am lucky they may ask for a written proposal. If I am veryย lucky they may ask for a sample chapter or three.

But.

What the fuck is wrong with me, that I have this … this thing that I want to do more than anything else in the world, that I’ve wanted to do all my life, that I know I can do, and I have this patient and supportive guy in my corner, and I have a laptop that works and a desk to put it on and a view from my desk that inspires, and if I need a change of scenery I have coffee shops or a library to go to or a car to sit in next to the river or at the top of a mountain…

And I now even have meds that make my brain work better, so that when I sit down to write the words just roll out of my fingers and onto the screen…

Bad evil men pointing at stressed woman sitting in a boxAnd I still have whole days in which fear sticks its hand in my chest andย squeeeeeezes. Fear of what, you ask? Damfino. Failure, mainly. Rejection too. Mainly I’m just scared of sucking.

What if it’s no good? Actually … that’s not really what’s worrying me. That’s not arrogance; it’s plain good sense – if I didn’t think I could write, and specifically that I could write this book, I’d be doing something easier and more fun, like gardening or training my dog. It’s not great literature and it needs some hefty pummeling by both me and beta readers, but it’s a fun little story about something that should appeal to quite a wide readership base.

What if I’m no good? What if these agents and editors look at me – my overdue-for-a-cut-and-color hair, my caftans and flat sandals, my foreignness and fatness – and simply don’t believe someone like me can have anything of interest to say to people like them? What if I accidentally say something wildly inappropriate and they think I’m too weird to work with? What if they listen to my pitch about an alphabet series – 26 books, two per year – and think, “Yeah, right, it’s taken you over half a century to produce half a first draft ofย A is for Aussie and you want us to believe you can do 25 more full books in 13 years? You’re old, bitch – you probably won’t even live that long!”

What if I get to the con, and pitch to all these agents and editors, and none of them likes it? Sometime in the past 36 hours I asked the Hubbit this question. He said, “Well, you know it’s tough to break into writing. So if that happens we’ll simply self-publish.”

We.

Such a huge, magnificent word. I thought about it for a moment, after he said it, and thanked him. And then I crawled back into my funk.

So now it’s Monday evening. I have two days to prepare. But it’s okay – I have a plan.

  • Tonight I will pack my suitcase. Packing tonight will mean I won’t have to fly out of here on Thursday morning, running late and with insufficient underwear.
  • Tomorrow and Wednesday I will write my two-minute pitch and written proposal, and edit the crap out of the first three chapters, and I will print copies. I’m not sure how many copies … but some.
  • magic bookThursday I will attend a training session on How To Pitch Your Novel.
  • Friday I will deploy all the best words and enchant the shit out of those people (Yes, they are people, not demonic or heavenly powers.)
  • Saturday I will do whatever’s on the schedule that I can’t care about right now, and I will not obsessively replay whatever insane thing blurted out of my mouth during my most promising pitch session on Friday.
  • Sunday I will unroll that “we” like a magic carpet, and come back home.

And then we’ll see.

So how is your book going? And will you be at the con? Let’s meet for coffee!

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About Belladonna Took

Into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, at constant risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic. A wife, a mom, a daughter and sister, kind of a grandma. Until recently a full-time dog rescuer, now more concerned with rescuing myself. User of dog hair as accessory, decor and garnish. Technical writer, strategic thinker, occasional entrepreneur. Voiceless poet and storyteller. Born again Christ-follower and former missionary schoolteacher chewing on some uncomfortable questions. Ignorer of rules, challenger of assumptions, believer in miracles. Skeptical libertarian, equal opportunity despiser of politicians and assholes. Gonnabe gardener, wannabe beekeeper, Monsanto-hating tree-hugger. Morbidly obese chocaholic, with a horse I don't ride because I might break him, and if not he would probably break me.

33 responses »

  1. I don’t have to tell you the number of publishers that JK Rowling hawked her manuscript around. That said – this is the opportunity you have created – so let the agents and editors do their job and you do yours.

    Best of luck or break a leg or grab a deal or whatever the encouraging phrase most appropriate to your field.

    I think you can write; I’ve thought it before.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Val, you will be fine. More than fine. Remember that editing your own work is sometimes the worst thing you can do. Leave those chapters as they are. Remember, too: you can write and people will read and like your writing. You are articulate and persuasive and, I am sure that among those editors are aspirant writers who envy your even attempting to write, let alone doing a pitch! Knock them dead – you will!
    PS I know I owe you a note….an update is brewing….

    Like

    • Thank you, my friend! I have to do some sort of edit … I was six chapters in and grinding out words when I realized I needed to be in the first person. So at the very least I have to fix that. But you’re right, I mustn’t get too hung up on the editing. Now send my that note – I’m dying to hear!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Here’s a few more “what ifs”: What if they love it? What if you spend a few days surrounded by these people and discover they’re your people? What if they are more interested in the great stuff you write than your hair? What if they love the way you speak and can see a real future for you? What if you’re really good at this writing stuff and publication just has to happen, one way or another?

    And what if the readers you already have are on your side and rooting for you?

    You go, girl.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey dear Val! Stop it! You have had the goods for more that a quarter of a century, and you still do! If any publisher is so superficial as to judge the book of your talent by its cover, then you certainly would not enjoy this ride with them. Remember the old prophetic adage: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the One, and the ones who really count, look on, and see the heart.” Please excuse my rewriting the Holy Book. You will know my meaning. So just go for it!

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  5. Mom, I’m not trying to make you feel better, because I know where you’re at, but seriously,you need to know… I have on many occasions thought: “If one day I can write half as well as my mother, I’ll be doing just fine.” I have been reading your stories since I could read. It’s high time others get to read them too. So stop doubting and just do it. It’s not fair to keep all that greatness to yourself!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. No matter what happens, you are taking the steps toward your goal of publication. It sounds like you are really well prepared. Do most people have their novel completely ready to go when they go to a pitch conference anyway? I hope you get to enjoy the experience. The thrill of just attending a conference as a writer must be heady. (It would be for me.) If you need to practice your pitch, reach out to friends. The ‘practice makes perfect’ mantra may be hackneyed or may not work, but it will help lubricate your brain for the real thing. Just reach out. You’ll be amazed at how much people want to help you achieve your dreams.

    Also, maybe focus on the first book. You don’t have to have 26 books lined up right now, do you? Just one. Focus on one and then see where you go from there! You will be yourself and you will be amazing at it. And, if looks alone sold books, there’d be a million pretty authors out there. Based on the jackets of some of my favorite authors, the pretties are the exception. Most miraculous inventors of word worlds are normal looking people, for the most part. Just breathe, and report back!

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    • Thank you, Kiri – you’re a voice of sanity and calm. How do you do it, in the midst of all your crazy? You’re an amazing woman! Also, NO, I don’t have a clear plan for all 26 … As I’ve been working on the first, I’ve made some notes for the second as they occur to me, and I have an idea of where the story has the potential to go, but nothing resembling a plan. I would hate to be that locked down, anyway! So I’ll be pitching this specific book, but in the context of a series.

      Taking a breath.

      Will definitely report back!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Clearly you have many fans here who obviously find your blog entertaining. I hear you, it’s so often easy to not do the hard stuff but as I was once told when things get overwhelming, you just have to pick the first thing off the pile and do it. Just start somewhere. Find where you work best and use that to your advantage. And about the personality… I have had feedback before about being to brash or coming off wrong at first. If people don’t like you for who you are, it’s their loss and you can’t let it hang you up. After so many interviews, I finally have a 2nd interview on Thursday and hopefully a job so if I can do it so can you! And I can’t wait to hear about all the things you learned and about your success upon your return ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Writing, unfortunately, is about surviving rejection. Or at least, that’s my experience. You get hit on the head, give yourself a few days (weeks; months; whatever you need) to recover, then send the damn thing out again and see if they hit you on the head this time too. Eventually, if you’re both good and lucky, someone likes it and is willing to take a gamble on it. But you know all that. Good luck. I’ll look forward to hearing how it went.

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  9. Breathe…

    Breathe again….

    Long and slow…

    Remember, you’re a writer, and what do writers do? They take the hero(ine) of the piece, and twist their lives all to hell & back. Angst is what fuels a story.

    You’re writing your adventure of the writer’s conference the same way you write of your focal character’s adventure…but you’re not the author of your story. You’re just the heroine.

    Trust the author of your story – they’ll get you through OK by the ending.

    Like

    • Thank you, my friend. I’ve been working flat out on editing the first three chapters today and I’ll be honest, it’s the first time I’ve looked at them since writing and ARGH! But they’re starting to look better… So maybe… ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. So tell me my darling precious friend on the other side of the globe, what if youโ€™re abundantly, wildly successful? You can surely do it. My sister Madeleineโ€™s son, Douglas Kruger, now has 5, I think, books published by penguin, and they sit on the 10 best sellers podium at all the book shops around here. He is wildly, abundantly successful. You CAN do it.

    Love and hugs and serious encouragement.

    Toni

    Like

  11. Oh I so know what you mean BT on wanting/knowing/needing I have to write a book, but yet somehow I never do. Good for you for putting yourself out there and committing to just finally doing it. I have faith in you girl, go get me’!

    Like

    • Thank you, Tricia! I’ve always thought of myself as, first and foremost, a writer … but actually DOING it, as a job? I mean writing fiction, not just spewing reports and such? Oy. This is new territory. And I am loving it, so thanks for the encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Skunked | American Soustannie

    • Hello random visitor! It went pretty well – thanks for asking. The conference was very good and I came home with requests for pages from four agents and editors – in fact one wanted the whole MS … Only I couldn’t send anything because I also came home with the knowledge that the whole thing needed a major rewrite. It’s now been three months, so those pages and synopsis MUST go off within the next few days. Scary / exciting / some more scary / hope-inducing / scary… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Whatever you do, don’t spend your time reading books like ‘How to Beat Procrastination in 1001 Easy Steps’ – just get on with it! ๐Ÿ˜€
        (but you knew that already, right?)

        Like

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