When getting published is no piece of cake

It's almost been a year since I started sending queries for Red Rain Boots to agents. And yet here I am, still as woefully un-agented and book deal free as I was before I finished my first novel. That's not the way I thought things would pan out.

You see, I thought I would get an agent within my first 10 queries. I thought it would be my dream agent, someone who believed so powerfully in my book that she just had to represent it. I thought her excitement would infect an editor and a publisher and that I would be on my way to being a published author.

Instead here I am. 

Don't get me wrong - a ton of my dreams have come true over the past year. I got into grad school for journalism, won some awards for student journalism, had my first full-time internship at a newspaper and moved to New York. There have been some ups and some downs. But at the end of the day, I'm happy with where my life is.

I really, really wish I could get a book deal. I wish I could get an internship for next spring and next summer in journalism. I wish I could skyrocket to success without barely having to lift a finger.

But that's not how it works. I realized several years ago, and have to realize anew every day, that opportunity doesn't come knocking, sit down for a cuppa tea and offer to make all your dreams come true. Opportunity is the white rabbit that led Alice down the hole. It tries to run, it tries to hide, it only knocks when you've finally trapped it and it's trying to escape again.

Opportunity is hard to come by. It's slippery and slidey and you have to work really hard to get to it. You have to sit down and diligently write your novel. You have to mercilessly edit it, eradicating everything poorly written or weakly plotted. And you have to be persistent and persuasive in trying to convince someone to sign your book.

  I'm a lazy person. It's (one of) the thorns in my flesh. It's hard for me to start writing, editing or persuading.

I stare at the screen and watch Friends, I get distracted reading other books, I turn over and take a nap ... anything to keep from working.

But if I want to be published - and oh, how I want to be published - I'm going to have to get off my butt and work.

Saying goodbye to my darlings 

It's time.  After years of writing and months of querying and re-editing, I've made the hard decision to put Catherine, Tara and the red rain boots behind me for a period. I'm going to set my first novel aside and focus on other projects.

When I first started sending my query letter to agents, I heard the same thing over and over again: it's really hard to get your first books published. But I was confident and kept trying. And I kept getting the same message from agents:

   Or something similar. They weren't liking it. They weren't falling in love. They weren't being entranced by my darlings, by sweet, innocent Catherine, who maintains a smile no matter what, or by fiery Tara who doesn't know what she wants. They weren't invested in the complicated familial relationships that propel the book. They didn't love the lines I had penned, lines like:

The swing set that slouched in the corner of the yard, one swing sagging into the dirt beneath it while the other was hiked up around the structure like a dress around a bored flower girl. 

So I tried editing it again. But all I kept coming across were more and more questions. Did Tara's emotional swings make sense? Should I keep the red rain boots at all? Was Jason too perfect, and was he even necessary?

I couldn't answer those questions. I still can't. I'm too close to it.

People in the publishing world like to throw around the phrase, "kill your darlings." It means you have to be willing to let go of anything that doesn't make your book shine, even if it's a scene, character or turn of language that you love. I'm not there with Red Rain Boots, not even close. I've spent so much time on this book that the thought of massively revamping it kills me (no pun intended 😜).

But in the meantime I've written the first draft of a different novel. A stronger novel. A funnier novel. One with a more distinct voice: My Mom's a Killer.

   It's been several months since I finished writing MMaK, so I think it's time to start editing. And letting other people take a look (and by "letting," I mean forcing, obviously). And querying. And trying, once more, to get published.

I'm keeping my hopes high that I'll still publish Red Rain Boots one day. I want everyone to fall for Catherine the way I have. I'm still proud of that book. But I'm starting to realize that maybe this isn't the time for RRB.

It's the time for Keira, Jo and Derek to storm off of the pages and into the literary world, for people to laugh at Keira's dark humor and Jo's sass, for me to make my debut into the contemporary YA circuit. 

It's time for me to say goodbye to some of my darlings and get back to work.