I sent my book in.
An agent asked to see some of it. I sent her as much as I’ve written. 138 pages. But I have the rest of the plot. Most of it, anyway. I have it scribbled in about ten notebooks and worked over on my chalkboard and in thirty word docs in a folder on my computer. I have so many versions. I have so many things crossed out, so many failed ideas, so much to clarify. Most of the time, when I look at it, I think entirely new things. I have entirely new criticisms. I wonder suddenly if all of the characters have the wrong hair color. If the story is actually stupid. I can’t remember how I thought of it. Sometimes I stare at the words blankly, unable to see even a page into my book’s future.
It took me over two months to send her something. Not because I didn’t have it. But because I was afraid.
I was so afraid, I was paralyzed.
Not of rejection, but of the after.
After she rejects it, I thought, will I be able to keep writing?
I have been rejected many, many times. I mean, obviously. I’m a writer, and I send stuff out. Often, I don’t even get a note, I just never hear back. Often, it’s a form letter. At first, I would lose a day to each one. But it’s been almost two years since I started sending stuff out, and now I glance at it and get back to work. Sometimes I even laugh, a hard, bitter, laugh, to myself. I laugh sardonically at the absurdity of it all and pour myself a cup of coffee and drink it black. I roll a cigarette and smoke it thoughtfully, squinting into the glare of the anonymous city.
No. That’s not true. But I do laugh once in a while, at the silly, repetitive cycle.
Those are short pieces, the ones that get rejected or published. They are not books. They are straightforward. Clever or not clever enough. Topical or sensational or marketable or not enough of any. They are not sprawling fiction about a girl who kills things by accident when she gets angry. Who doesn’t yet know who she is. Who lives in a white house at the edge of a cliff, in the middle of nowhere.
I don’t know why I am writing that book, exactly. I mean, it has nothing to do with the other things that I write. It’s just what I want to write. So that’s the answer, then. It’s what I really want to write. It’s what I write in my time off.
And that’s why I’m afraid. Because it is so complicated, to piece together a world, and fill it with stories, and braid them together in interesting but simultaneously simple ways.
I end up describing food too much. I always do. Probably 10% of my book is action, 20% is important plot development, and the other 70% is a series of intensely detailed descriptions of everything everyone is eating. And the stuff that they are preparing, to eat tomorrow. And the stuff that they wish they were eating right now. And the stuff that they will probably eat sometime in the future, after they fight an epic battle.
I’m joking. It’s not that bad.
“It’s pretty bad,” my brother Gabe said, after reading it aloud (and doing some amazingly evil voices for several only ambiguously evil characters). “And I’m hungry.”
The point is—writing a whole book is time-consuming. It’s mind-consuming. And you need hope.
So if she rejects me, I thought, I might give up. And then what will happen to the girl who is still accidentally killing things? What if she never learns how to manage her terrible power? What if she never learns to use it to heal the world? What if she never finds out who she is?
I’m afraid for her.
But I’m happy for me. Because I sent it in. Thus proving that I can move my fingers over the keys again. That I can hit send. Which is an important button. That I believe in myself. I think. Or at least I believe in getting things done.
I know I proved something. It’ll come to me.
That there is hope. That’s it.
I think that when I sent my book in, I let myself hope that one day I will finish it. That it is going somewhere. That the girl will learn who she is and learn to like herself.
“Let’s celebrate!” said Bear.
Even though I might get rejected tomorrow. Even though maybe I’m not even good at writing a book.
It was exactly the right reaction.
* * *
Have you ever tried to write a book?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in spaghetti straps. Is that still a term?
THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY!! I’m doing that now. I wish I could give you all amazing dresses, but I had to pick one number. And it belonged to….Adrienne!! Her comment was #123. Adrienne, write to me when you see this and I’ll get hook you up! Congratulations!!!! I hope you’ll share a pic of yourself in the new outfit when you get it!
And a reader cake pic, from commenter Bethany Actually, to top it all off. This one is so awesomely artistic: