Spectacular Peacocks and the Terrifying Slush Pile
Inadequacy. Self-doubt. Insecurity. No light at the end of the tunnel. Sound familiar? If you’re a writer or aspiring author, you may sometimes find your inner thoughts hijacking you to a dark place where pessimism and fear bully you into believing your writing is utter drivel. These crappy feelings love to creep in as you go through the daunting process of sending out your query, your first five pages, your soul, for others to judge and decide the fate of. If you’re one of the lucky few who don’t get caught up in writing mind games, then woo-hoo for you. You’re relieved of reading further. If you’re like the rest of us, plow ahead.
Raise your coffee cup if you’ve ever written something so awesome, you leapt to your feet, and pranced around the living room with your peacock feathers spread wide and proud as you circled in a victory dance. Okay, not literally but that impressive frolicking in your head sure made you feel great. Am I right? You’re riding such a high, you edit the hell out of your query letter and synopses. You dissect your first five pages and chapter one like a forensic pathologist performing an autopsy and you don’t stop until perfection waves at you from the pages. You forget to eat and shower. You’re in a frenzy, tracking down the right agents and publishers, adhering to their specific guidelines. You don’t move from the computer until your dog nudges you, leash in mouth.
Phew, you’ve done it. You donned your brave hat and sent a bunch of queries along with synopses, pages, and in some cases your ever so tight chapters. Now you can relax. Just joking. Keep writing!
Days turn into weeks then months. Crickets. Zip. Nada. No responses. You start biting your nails and twirling your hair in nervous contemplation of your own audacity. After all you sent your heart, your baby, the essence of your ego for a stranger to judge. What were you thinking? Doubts pile up in your brain. Inner turmoil twists in your gut. You begin ruminating about your characters, your plot, the dialogue, and flow of your story, second guessing yourself at every turn. STOP!
You prepare for the dreaded “R” word. REJECTION. Fingers crossed, you get kind rejections like "I'm afraid I have to pass" or "sorry, this is not right for me." Hopefully, you don’t receive any nasty ones. And remember, some will NEVER read your query or proposal at all. If you do receive constructive criticism lock it in an empty desk drawer in your head until you can process it, then take the plunge. Send your ego into the other room and sort through the critique. Fix what isn’t working if the assessment of your submission makes sense. However, this is your story to tell so, if the suggestions are not right for you, that’s your decision to make.
Shake off the idea of that terrifying slush pile and submit your work. I repeat, submit your work.
No, no, and no are weightless if there's one yes. And one yes is all it takes. Believe in yourself and your work. Never give up. Write the book that screams to be written. Edit, polish, and don't be afraid to add, delete, and change things around. NO means NEXT OPPORTUNITY. Push until you hear that yes. Have faith that your manuscript will eventually cross the desk or computer of the right agent or publisher. Rejection is part of the game, but it's never easy. Pull on your big-girl pants and hone your craft.