Or more specifically,
“Thank you very much for providing us with the chance to read your novel, and for your continued patience during the submission process. We are sorry to say that at this time we don’t feel it is right for the Harper Voyager list. Due to the volume of submissions we were fortunate enough to receive, we are unable to provide personal feedback, however, please be assured that your work received thorough and fair consideration. We wish you the best of luck with your writing career, and thank you again for thinking of us.”
Am I disappointed? Of course I am. I worked very hard on my novel, and do believe that it is good. Who wouldn’t be disappointed? As my girlfriend pointed out, the only thing worse than being rejected is to make it all the way to the end, wait over a year, and then get rejected. That means someone at Harper-Collins liked my book, advocated for my book, but in the end got voted down. It’s like being the athlete who scored just low enough to miss the bronze medal.
Am I mad? No. I see a fair number of people posting angry responses on the message boards about being rejected, and all I can think is, C’mon. Harper-Collins doesn’t owe you a publishing contract. They don’t even owe you feedback. They were pretty transparent about the process the entire time. Could they have updated more often? Sure, but I don’t think they did anything that warrants anger.
(Unless I see a book on the shelves next year titled, “Black Substance”)
Am I devastated? Nope. The day I found out wasn’t good, and I allowed myself that night to wallow in disappointment- which, in case you were wondering, looks like me in bed at 9:30 eating ramen and watching Fullmetal Alchemist until midnight. But after that I was/am fine. Because this isn’t the end. You have to have thick calluses if you want any kind of career in the arts. You have to persevere, keep working, keep sending out stories, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. It’s only over when you give up and decide to spend the rest of your life gorging on mayonnaise with your hands and never leaving the couch. And I’m not gonna do that.*
I have a plan. I don’t know if it will bring me closer to being published, but at least it will keep me productive.
1. I spent last week writing proposals/outlines for five novels that have been kicking around in my head. One proposal a day. I didn’t finish them all, but I made good progress on all five. Two fantasies, one sci-fi set in the same universe as Dark Matter, a more detailed outline for Black-Boned Angels, and an urban horror novel that, if it works out, will be pure brutal id.
2. This week I set aside the proposals and am submitting three short stories I’ve written. I don’t consider myself a short story writer- I think I’m rather weak at short form narrative- but if they get published it will make me more attractive to agents and publishers. It gets my name out there.
3. Next week I will revisit and revise the outlines. The goal will be to complete the ones I didn’t finish, and polish the ones I did.
4. Over the following five weeks, I want to continue to expand those proposals, one a week, starting with the strongest. Outlines, reference images, bouncing ideas off those friends willing to listen, that kind of thing. I did this with Dark Matter, so I’m hoping that by repeating this process I can develop it into a system. No matter what, it has to be better than what I’ve been doing this last year, which can be best summed up as, “Thinking really hard about writing, and then finding excuses not to do that thing that I love and want to devote my life to.”
5. While this is going on, I’m going to keep shopping Dark Matter around. If it gets accepted, I will return to work on False Light. Otherwise, the sequel will go on the back burner for a bit while I take a look at these other projects.
I am aware that this seems like I’m spreading myself a bit thin over multiple projects. That’s why I’m being so methodical about the entire thing. I have a lot of ideas. If Dark Matter doesn’t pan out, I will have other books to fall back on. An agent that doesn’t like my sci-fi might like my horror or fantasy. We’ll see.
It’s not a matter of optimism for me. I don’t have that borderline psychotic belief that I WILL be published and I WILL be successful. I write because it makes me happy and I’m good at it. I write because nothing else I do satisfies me in quite the same way, and to stop writing would be to kill an essential part of myself.
I just want to say a quick thanks to all the people who have supported me thus far, whether through feedback, advice, or encouragement. It means a great deal to me, and when I do finally get published, you will be recognized.
Time to get to work.
*For the record, when I decide to become a lump of failure on the couch, it’ll be Tim’s jalapeno chips that I shovel into my gaping maw. I have some self-respect.