I’ve submitted a manuscript. Again. It’s the first one I’ve sent out in about eight months or so. The last one is for my YA novel “The Deepest Blue” – but despite a lot of favorable comments on my writing, the agents who read it all said the same thing: the YA market for boys is not strong enough to support a story like mine. There’s good news and bad news in that. The good news is that most all the agents I heard from really liked how I wrote, and several invited to me submit other work to them. The bad news is, I worked on The Deepest Blue for a long time, and until the YA market shores up and gets a little more tolerant of books outside the norm, it’s going to have to sit.
So about a year ago, I started working on my most recent novel, “The Afterward” – a speculative fiction set at the beginning of the second US Civil War. It only took me about six months to write, but it took longer to do the revisions because as soon as I finished that book, I started writing Gallery of Dolls (formerly An Evil Heart) with my writing partner Jared. That book, an adult horror novel, consumed a lot of my time, and I put my revisions on hold.
But if I’m brutally honest, it wasn’t just another book that got in the way of the revisions. It was fear.
I hate rejections. I don’t know anyone who likes them. You get used to them as a necessary evil in this writing business, but they are – quite frankly – rotten. They suck. They make you second guess yourself as a writer. They make you wonder if you should give up and get a job at McDonald’s or as a checker at Kroger. They make you question your very heart. Even the nicest ones are still telling you “No, I don’t want this.” So it was easy to devote attention to another book and to turn my back on revising a finished project.
Then the other book was done. And then the desire to get this novel out into the world kicked in. Suddenly, I realized that I was being a giant chicken. Jared has been collecting rejections on his first novel, “The White Room”, and he has been strong, stoic, and an example of all the things I should be but have been to scared of submitting to become.
So I finished the revisions. I tightened that book down, cleaned up certain issues, and all-in-all, sucked it up and charged ahead.
When I was 12, I loved horses (bear with me, this will make sense in a minute). Of course, nearly all 12-year-old girls love horses, so that’s nothing unique. One lovely summer day, my parents took us up near Park City, Utah, to go on a trail ride. We got there early in the morning, and it was clear that some of the ranch hands had tipped a few back the night before. Long story short, we all mounted up on our horses and started off on the trail. We hadn’t gotten far when it became clear that my horse – Alabaster – was having some issues. He kept wanting to turn back to the barn. The trail guide kept yelling for me to pull the reins and spur the horse forward. I tried that. The more I pulled the reins, the more the horse fought and tried to go back. Finally, Alabaster had had enough. He took off running for the barn. When I pulled on the reins to stop him, he threw me, then reared back with his hooves ready to stomp my head in. With me off his back, he made a bee-line for home. The trail guide came along and told me to get on his horse. I refused. I’ve never been on a horse since then. I think they are beautiful animals, but I’m terrified of them.
The trail guide should have made me get on.
In terms of writing – it’s time for me to get back on the horse. And that’s what I’m doing. The manuscript is on the first agent’s desk. I have a list of 10 other agents I’m planning to submit to in a few weeks (I did give the first one exclusive rights), and I am building a list of 10 more whom I will submit to after that. I know what’s coming. I’m not new to this. I’ve read these letters and emails before. But it is time. And despite the fear and the anxiety – and the extended waiting periods I know I’m in for – I am ready to be back on the horse.