Confessions of Intimidation

I don't consider myself to be a newbie to this publishing thing. I've been around the block long enough that I've gone from being the youngest member of my writer group to one of the ones that's been there the longest. To put it in perspective, my college-age daughter was in diapers when I started writing.

So, this would beg the question... Why in the world would I let one editor/agent discourage me from writing a story I truly want to write? 

I've sat on this story for nearly a year. I've stewed and hemmed, and fussed and fumed. And yet, I never went any further on the story that I was once so passionate about. Last year, before the beginning of the New England RWA Conference, those of us who were signed up for an agent/editor meeting were asked to send out 10 pages in advance. This was so that the editors/agents could have a chance to read through the material and determine whether the submission in question was something they were interested in reading. In theory, this was a great idea. But only if the editor/agent liked the submission. In my case, she found it boring and she used the word "lazy" in describing the method in which I had used to parlay some of the initial information.


Not exactly the word any writer wants to hear. Especially, when they were trying to write a book that they considered to be outside their comfort zone. Of course, I smiled and thanked her and then turned and walked away from the table with minutes to spare. But something of myself got left behind at that table. Some of my self-confidence. This is an edgy field, filled with competition, a lot of criticism and a good dose of maternal optimism when it comes to our work. We all want "our baby" to be the best, to have someone find it who will respect it and understand it and see why we feel it's the most beautiful, original baby in the world. 

But sometimes, our stories just aren't beautiful, original babies...

I haven't written a thing on the book since then. I haven't even opened the file. It has crossed my mind a few times, only to be pushed to the back burner in favor of more marketable projects. But lately, I've come to the conclusion that while the editor/agent's criticism was harsh and unfavorable... so was my response. This was something a quitter would do, giving up on something they believe in just to conform to the party line. My writing wasn't really lazy, but I was a quitter. And while I wanted to blame the lack of progress on the project on the editor/agent, I knew that to be truthful I would need to look at myself first. I let her intimidate me into conforming. I gave up. Not a pretty diagnosis, but recognition is the first step in changing the outcome. Working on the book again would be the next step and taking it in the direction I originally wanted it to go. 

I've always detested people who place blame for their problems on others. More often than not I am the first to admit when I've done something wrong (much to the amazement of my day job boss). So why should I blame this editor/agent for my lack of initiative? I can't. If I give up, she wins. If I continue, I can't fail. Either way, I write the book I want to tell.


Greta said...

YES!!! It doesn't matter who the person is handing out the criticism. It is ONE opinion. I could list a pile of published books by well-known authors that don't do a thing for me. I expect they probably don't care much.

Get on a finish your book. Somebody's going to love it.

Diane said...

Well said, Beth.

It's easy to get discouraged in this business. As to the new ten page pitch technique, I prefer pitching to an agent/editor who hasn't read ten pages. That agent/editor would usually request a full proposal of three chapters and a synopsis. That's a better opportunity for the author. Plus the synopsis is there to fill in the missing blanks. Better luck next time!



Nina Pierce said...

Though it's true one person's opinion shouldn't strip us of the joy of writing a story, it is difficult to set it aside when we feel we've put our heart and soul into a project.

I always need some time to stew a little and lick my wounds when I hear criticism. But then I sit back, reassess and move forward.

Best of luck with your story. I hope you find the enthusiasm for the project you felt last spring.

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