When It’s Time to Permanently Shelve Your Unpublished Novel

This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation.

 

36 Weeks Until Publication 

Though my Friday blogs focus mainly on my preparation for self-publishing this summer, I still haven’t completely given up on the hope of traditional publishing someday. Today, I’d like to talk about what happens when you reach the end of the line on a given project.

For self-publishing, the “end of the line” can be a very happy time. The end – or what you could even call the beginning – is publication. For traditional publishing, the end of the line can be when you’ve queried all the agents you can find and contacted all the publishers who are willing to accept un-agented material, and, quite simply, nobody wants your work.

I think we all know that writing can be a huge risk. If you do it right, it takes an awful lot of time, work, research, rewriting, and editing to complete a project. No matter how good a manuscript might be, the possibility is great that it will always remain unpublished.

I’ve almost reached that stage with the first manuscript I ever wrote – my middle-grade novel called RAIN ON THE WATER. I wrote it first as a screenplay all the way back in 1994, and then years later, in 2009, I turned it into a novel. I’ve written lots of other works in the meantime, and that’s why it’s taken so long to reach the end of my queries for this one. Today, I sent my last agent query for this book. I reached the end of the all the lists I could find. I plan to give it a few more weeks to hear back from the literary agents, and then I plan to query publishers in December. I don’t expect that it will take that long, since I would be surprised if I find a large number of publishers willing to look at unagented work.

There’s almost a sense of relief in letting this novel go. Not worrying about querying for this one means one less thing I have to do. I have another middle grade novel that I plan on querying with  in the next few months ( I won’t consider self-publishing any of my middle grade work, because I can’t imagine how you would market to nine-year-olds online). For that one, I’ve decided I want to wrap up the queries much faster, rather than letting it drag on for years. I hate to sound pessimistic, but twenty years of writing will do that sometimes. I figure I will query the list of agents, then publishers, get rejected by everybody, and then move on to other projects…

Still, it is a little difficult to let this novel go. It was the first story I ever wrote! There are a lot of memories associated with it. I remember exactly where I was when I came up with the idea for the book (college lounge room). I remember the field trip to the Indian burial ground when I was doing research for the story. I remember all the reading I did about Native Americans. The Native music I listened to. All the heart I put into the story and the characters. I remember that day when I lived in Baltimore and we were in the middle of a huge snowstorm in 1996 and I received a phone call from sunny Los Angeles. It was the producer from Mega Films, Inc, telling me she wanted to option my screenplay. I remember years later when another producer, from Runaway Productions, also optioned RAIN ON THE WATER. I remember reading the story to my kids. They really liked it. My kids are very sweet, and they would tell me they loved it no matter what, but I would know if they were lying. My son always insists that he loves my dinner, even when I burn it beyond recognition. I know he’s lying, but I love him for it. I know my kids. I know when they’re bored. They’re not good fakers, and I’m telling you, my daughter was on the edge of her seat when I read her this book.  I was surprised at how much she got into it. I really was. At the time, she didn’t really realize that, since it was a kid’s book, of course everything would turn out okay! She even read the book AGAIN on her own. That really floored me.

I also remember the years and years of rejection. I remember the literary agent from New York City who told me she loved the novel. She told me she wanted to represent it. Then she ignored me for two months, leaving me hanging, only to finally summon the energy to tell me she was “too busy” to represent my novel after all.

I get the rejection thing. I do. But there’s no excuse for the particularly cruel type of disrespect for a writer displayed by that agent. I still don’t know how  she was able to say something like that, all but promising representation, and then walk away without a word for months. I can’t help but hope that one of the publishers DOES say yes. With a deal on a table, it would be easy to get an agent to represent me. I can’t help but wish I could go back to that agent and tell her that if she hadn’t been so heartless, I would have let her have this deal without her even having to do anything!

Okay. Back to reality. That’ s not likely to happen. What is likely to happen is that I will close out my querying for RAIN ON THE WATER by the end of the year. The sun will set on that particular book, and I will start 2014 without that novel being in my life anymore.

Of course, nothing that you’ve written ever really goes away. The lessons you’ve learned and the experiences you have stay with you. I can truly say I gave it my all with this novel, and it’s okay to let it go.

I think it’s almost time.

– Linda Fausnet

Advice for the Beginning Actor Part 10 – Do You Ever Think About Giving Up?

Special thanks to the actors who have taken time out of their busy schedules to graciously provide advice for new actors for Wannabe Pride, including Regen Wilson, Chris Pentzell, David DeBoy, Ken Arnold, Mercedes Rose, Gabriel Voss, Brittany Baratz, Laura Hunter, Lance Carter, Stephon Fuller, and Rachel F. Hirsch.

Do You Ever Think About Giving Up?

“Do you ever think about giving up? I’d give up golf before I’d think about giving up acting… and I’m lousy at golf.”  – David Deboy (email) (website)

  “Do you ever think about stopping breathing?” -Regen Wilson (website)

“I did more when I was younger.  Now it’s very rare even though I’m more aware than ever what a crap shoot it all is.  The older I get, the more I say, “Well what else am I going to do?”  That’s actually a freeing attitude.  For better or for worse, this is the life I’ve chosen.  Now let’s get to it…” – Chris Pentzell (email)

“No. I look forward to acting everyday and whether it’s good or bad I treat it as a learning  opportunity to better myself as an actor and as a person. Giving up isn’t in my make up.” – Ken Arnold ( STUDIO BOH)

 “Nope. Never. Not once.”-  Mercedes Rose (Imdb)  (website)

 “Every day :) Pressing on despite that is what separates an actor from the pack.”- Gabriel Voss (website, imdb, facebook, twitter)

“Once in a blue moon, I think about giving up. There is this little vampire voice in the back of my head that taunts me with dreams of security, family, and nice things (oh wait…maybe that’s just my Mom). Then I remember how happy performing makes me, and where I started versus where I am today. I know, deep in my gut, that this is the profession for me. Once I remind myself of my passion, the evil “am-I-good-enough”s retreat.”- Brittany Baratz (website, twitter, Knuffle Bunny National Tour)

“Honestly? I have thought about giving up. I’ve had a couple of experiences that were so traumatizing that I took time off from auditioning because of them. My whole life has been about being an actor, though, and I consider it to be “who I am.” You only live once, and if you’re not at least trying to follow your dream I think you’re doing yourself a disservice.” Laura Hunter (email, website, twitter, facebook, youtube, contributor to NonSociety.com)

“No. I love what I do. Yes, some days are very challenging and I go home in tears. But mostly, I understand that any challenges I face are part of the business. I have set my goals and I know I have to go through some obstacles to reach them. I may wake up one day and realize I’m done with this work and lifestyle, but I don’t see that day coming any time soon. If/When it does I hope that I have the strength to listen to my heart and change paths smoothly.” – Lance Carter website, twitter, Facebook)

Nope. What else would I do? :) ” – Rachel F. Hirsch twitter, website, acting website, website)

“I wouldn’t call it “giving up,” but yes, I have thought about doing other things.  Not because I don’t want to act anymore; only because I have other interests.  But I think I’m in this for the long haul.” – Stephon Fuller (twitter, blog, website)

When It’s Time to Give Up

Today I had to go to Suntrust Bank and answer the question “May I ask why you are closing your account with us?”

“Because my writing business failed.”

I came to terms with this more than a year ago, but saying it out loud brought tears to my eyes. I’ve put off closing my business account for several months, but I can no longer postpone the inevitable because they will soon be charging a new $10.00 per month fee for bank balances below $1000. I had $2.82 in mine.

I knew there was no guarantee of success when I started the business, but it’s hard to look back on the optimism I once had now that I see how this particular story has ended. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to have a copywriting business – writing things like brochures, website copy, newsletters, direct mailings, flyers, and the like. Something I could do from home to try to earn money while I was home with two young children. I worked outside the home two days a week at a law firm, but my husband and I desperately need more income. Like so many families, we could not afford the daycare so that I could work full time.

I invested a huge amount of time, money, and energy in trying to get the business going. I attended networking meetings throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. The meetings in Washington were particularly brutal – between the drive time, the Metro, and networking, I would spend 8-9 hours for a 2-hour meeting. I did this several times a month – sometimes twice in one week, all while rising early in the morning to either tend to the kids or to go to work. I invested money in printing up my own brochures and postage to mail out postcards for my business. I paid meeting fees, membership dues, Metro fees, office supplies, and exorbitant gas prices. I drafted endless writing samples and put up a website. I gave out my business card and got quite a collection of others in return.

Though I knew there was no guarantee of success, I believed in myself. For years I sent out my own direct mailings – in the form of query letters for my screenplays. Several producers responded and told me my query letter was the best they had ever received (over 50,000 screenplays are registered with the WGA every year. These producers get A LOT of query letters). One producer called me at home to tell me that (alas, her production company dealt only with reality programming, so she couldn’t take my script). Yet another was going to send me my return postcard, but she decided it was so clever that she wanted to keep it. She called me to request my script, rather than relinquish the card. Two production companies told me that their policy was to not read unsolicited screenplays, but they would read my script anyway because of my letter. Two weeks ago, a producer contacted me and said that even though the script doesn’t really sound right for him, he could not bring himself to throw my query letter away. He had held onto my letter for years. He requested a copy of the script.

In 2008, I received only one paying job. I was hired to develop a concept and write an educational video for attorneys for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. The video won a First Prize Gold Peer Award from the Television, Internet, and Video Association (TIVA) of Washington, D.C.

I do believe I have some degree of talent – enough to be a good advertising copywriter. After all, producers were actually KEEPING my query letters. But it was not to be. Lots of people at meetings said “we’ll call you”. Few did. One woman in particular told me she really needed copywriting for her website and she wanted to meet for coffee the next week to discuss it. I never heard from her. My own calls went unreturned. I’m still pissed about that.

So when do you give up? Would my business have succeeded if I just hung on a bit longer? Maybe. But time goes on. Debt goes up. Postage goes up. My kids are in school full time and now I have a full time job. I suppose it doesn’t make sense to keep trying anymore.

I have to accept that it simply didn’t work.

One of the few things I hate about my day job – like most day jobs – are the stupid hours. I would love to come in very early in the morning to do my work so I can be home in time to get the kids off the bus. Instead, like most workers, I get in my car at the same time in the morning and leave at the same time as everyone else. That way, we’re ALL stuck in traffic at the same time. Our tempers our short with lots of time and human and car energy wasted. If I worked from home as a copywriter, this wouldn’t happen. I’d be home with my kids. I wouldn’t have my pay docked for two weeks in a row for being late due to traffic. I wouldn’t have to eat dinner with my kids at nearly 7pm.

BUT I WON’T EVER HAVE TO WONDER WHAT IF.

Sometimes, when I’m trapped in traffic, I catch myself thinking – I should try to work from home. Then it all comes flooding back. Oh yeah. I tried that.

I tried that.

You better believe I tried that. I gave it all I had. I don’t kick myself for being stuck in traffic because I have to work a day job with the same hours as the rest of the planet. It’s not my fault, because I did everything I could to make things different for myself and for my family.

It’s time to let go of the idea of a writing business. Was it the economy? Was I really no good? Was there just no market? I don’t know. Probably never will.

I’ll continue to write novels and screenplays, which I never did for the money. I knew that success in that type of writing was a very, very long shot. I don’t do that kind of writing for money or for success. I’ve been writing for 16 years so far and haven’t ever given up. There was not one single moment in 16 years when I ever wanted to walk away.

I write stories because that’s who I am. I just checked my pulse. My heart is still beating. So it’s not time to give up on that dream just yet.