Just because I wasn’t posting on my site or social media as much during my hiatus, doesn’t mean I wasn’t out here working my tush off. In those few months I was querying, entering contests, and receiving rejection after rejection. Honestly, what a time to be alive.
In the past year or so, I’ve been querying White Houses to agents. It’s been…trying. Obviously I knew that rejections were going to be the most common response, but it’s the lack of response that burns the most. Receiving a “thanks but no thanks” email shows me that they actually read it; most of the time, however, I don’t hear back at all, and I’m left wondering: what was wrong with it? What did I do wrong? Was it my query letter? Was it the story itself?
It’s a downward spiral towards breaking your heart.
Less than a handful of responses actually included feedback, and those have been printed and placed in my White Houses folder to look at when I’m ready. I’ve recently decided that won’t be for a while. You see, I’ve been working on White Houses so consistently for the past 2 years that it’s hard for me to be judgmental when consuming it; I already know what’s going to happen, what will be said, etc. which makes editing difficult. Instead I’m putting it all towards the back of my To Do List for now, and will come back to it closer to wintertime. I have The Morgan Mythos and a new mystery project to occupy my keyboard in the meantime; hopefully working on new projects will help me clear out the White Houses cobwebs and be ready to look at it with new eyes again when 2018 comes around.
When you get your degree in English, there’s a high chance that you had to experience at least 2 to 3 different classes that involved “workshops.” For the people who were smart enough to not “waste” their money on a degree that will not get them a job in anything they actually want, let me break down what a “workshop” is for writers: a workshop is a group of writers who share their work and then discuss it as a group; everyone must have one nice thing to say about the piece, and then one negative thing. Usually people are full of the negative, and lack the positive. For me, I’ve heard “I really like the voice in this piece” more times than I’m sure my husband has told me he loves me (as in, a ridiculous amount). This is important, though, because it trains you to understand how to take rejections and negative feedback. The writer must spend the entire time their piece is being discussed in silence, and once it’s over with, they will get a chance to either explain or ask questions of their own. To anyone who may enter a workshop in the future, take it from me, if you write something that is based in your reality (like, say, a break up) do not tell the people in your workshop this. Just… trust me on this, okay?
This is all to say that, I’ve had my fair share of training in being rejected when it comes to my writing. I have been my own biggest critique, as I find myself going through old pieces and cringing at least 94% of the time. So why does being rejected by agents get me so down? Perhaps it’s because White Houses is such a personal project to me, loosely based on how I myself dealt with the death of a close friend as a teenager, as well as the deep current of music that runs throughout it. Pieces of Mattie’s soul came from my own, afterall. Plus, no matter how realistic and down-to-Earth you are, a part of you still believes you’re going to make it, and when people pass on your project, it feels like being pushed off your lil’ happy cloud. As I stated earlier, the most frustrating thing is not receiving any feedback at all — I mean, even in workshops everyone has to say one good thing and one bad thing, right? It’s the new normal, I suppose: sending your soul to strangers and hearing nothing in return.
If there’s one piece of advice I’ve gotten from multiple writers — published or otherwise — it’s that you should always be sending your work out there somehow, and one of the best ways to do that is through contests. Now, until I finished White Houses the only writing contests I had entered were for poetry or scholarships. In my early days I was published a few times in High School Anthologies in Poetry, and in college I was published under a pseudonym a few times, but other than that, it’s never been my cup of tea. After my first wave of querying was found lacking, I entered the Author Mentor Match contest. For those of you who are unaware, this is a contest where writers with complete manuscripts that don’t have agents can query other authors, hoping to find a mentor in the business to help them move forward. They’ll help you with your manuscript, query letter writing, and give you contacts in the field to help you. In the past year I have entered this twice, and both times I was not selected by any of the four mentors I had submitted to. The first time around I was pretty quickly asked to see the first 50 pages (after submitting only the first 10 with the query), but was given a “thanks but no thanks” at the end. A more recent attempt they requested I submit a synopsis, and though I was once again not selected, this time around I was given some feedback from one of the authors I chose; however, the feedback mostly broke my heart and left me wondering if White Houses should continue to exist as it is, or if I should start from scratch.
There is literally nothing worse than feeling like you need to start from scratch when you already spent so much time finishing this version.
In fact, it was this feedback that forced me to look at White Houses and realize that I need some space and time to separate myself from the story a bit. The more rejections I got, the less comfortable I felt about any of my writing. Even just journaling was hard, because I’d find myself second guessing everything I wrote and wasting away the time by just staring at the paper wondering, “do I even have anything to say?” This was a contributing factor to my hiatus, as well, because each week I’d look at this site and think, “what was I thinking? No one cares what you have to say. Just stop trying.” It was dark time. But soon, I found myself retelling stories from my adolescence as a starting point, which turned into writing a bit more creatively, and then finally, coming to terms with this fact:
Just because White Houses might not be publishable in the current market, doesn’t mean that it won’t be a prime project in the future. As for my other projects that might be perfect for today’s publishers, well, they’re not ever going to be published if I don’t actually write them.
So now, as I said earlier, I’m moving forward. I’ve been finalizing the overall outline for The Morgan Mythos, and have begun playing around with voices and styles to use with the tale. The written memories of my youth have also spun into a project that as of now is titled Sharpening Stars, though I’m sure this will change as I continue working on it. Without giving too much away, since it’s something I’m keeping pretty close to my chest for now, it’s going to be an account of the things I experienced in high school, via the themes made famous by Gillian Flynn, with a dash of the paranormal (because I can’t not). Think Sharp Objects meets Veronica Mars with a dash of The Mediator Series. It’s weird, but writing about my life is a great way to keep moving forward with my other projects, because when I get writer’s block or begin to feel too insecure to attempt writing, I can force myself to keep writing just by telling the stories I’ve already lived through, and those in turn inspire me to move forward elsewhere once I’m done.
So there you have it: White Houses is on hiatus, The Morgan Mythos is being outlined and ready for full-steam-ahead creation, and my days are being spent reliving my adolescence through pen and paper exercises. I will continue to keep up the first chapter and excerpt of White Houses on this site until I feel the need to remove (example: if the story changes dramatically in rewrites in 2018). Since I’m working on The Morgan Mythos again, I hope to soon have more posts to inform you on its production. If you’re interested in any of the other things I’ll be up to, be sure to follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page.