My agent search isn’t going great. It’s a competitive industry, and agents are very picky about who they take on. (Fun fact: most agents request less than 1% of the manuscripts queried.)
I’m not deterred. A writing career isn’t built on one manuscript. Writing Studio 65 taught me a lot about writing historical fiction. I’ll use those lessons to make the next book better.
It’s all about looking at the Big Picture. When I take a step back, I realize that, in many ways, building a writing career is like plotting a novel. In a book, every scene drives the plot forward until you reach the end. Same with a career. Everything – every book, every rejection, every piece of feedback – moves you toward the career you want. And, like with a novel, there are no shortcuts. You don’t get to type “The End” without writing the middle.
That’s not to say the journey isn’t frustrating. I don’t enjoy rejections. I’d much skip them and go straight to the part where I’m a success. Sadly, that can’t always happen. Therefore I’ve come up with some rules to make this portion of my career more palatable.
- Remember that I’m not starting from scratch. Or, as my friend Donna Alward put it, this isn’t my first rodeo, it’s just a different rodeo. When you’re banging on doors and no one is answering, it’s very easy to forget I’ve had prior success. Two dozen books worth. I know how to write a story. What I’m doing now is learning how to write a different kind of story.
Even if I was a newbie shopping my first manuscript, I would remind myself of my accomplishments, starting with the fact that I wrote a book. Millions of people dream of writing a novel. Few follow through on that dream. Every writer who has written a book or is working diligently on one needs to remember that they are special.
- Don’t quit with the first failure. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first English man to successfully scale Mt. Everest, failed on his first attempt. Sir. James Dyson developed 5126 prototypes before successfully creating the Dyson Vacuum. Twenty-seven publishers rejected Theodore Seuss Geisel’s first book. None of them quit. Why should I?
In fact, Hilary, after failing, gave what might be one of my favorite quotes of all time: “Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all you are going to grow…but I’m still growing.” Hillary also said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Words of wisdom.
- Don’t stop learning. The only way forward is to study my writing weaknesses and work to make them stronger. Remember that every failure, no matter how bitter tasting, is an opportunity for growth.
- Stay true to my plan and identity. Like with a story, there are thousands of potential paths to the conclusion. There is only one Barbara Tanner-Wallace path.
There will be times when other paths look greener or easier. Maybe they are. The path that I’m on is where I belong. Do not be lured astray.
This last rule is the hardest to follow, especially when it feels like others are moving faster. The best I can do is make Hillary’s quote my mantra.
And keep thinking Big Picture.