Once upon a time, I was querying agents and getting nowhere. Lucky for me, I came across this amazing person, who had a reputation for helping writers. I completely threw myself at her mercy, and she helped. In a big way. Jodi Meadows’ willingness to give back to the writing community and her huge heart made a difference in my life. And when you read this guest post, she will have the same impact on you. Warning: I teared up. Thanks for participating, Jodi! Don’t forget to enter my contest for a blog makeover.
Jodi’s book, ERIN INCARNATE – the first of THE NEWSOUL TRILOGY, will be published by Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books.
When Cory asked me to write a guest blog about my greatest writing lesson in the last year, I panicked. I was honored, but panicked. When was I supposed to write this? I already have enough trouble writing posts for my own blog. I actually opened iCal for the first time since I got this computer (2+ years ago) and decided I’d have to schedule things from now on.
Fortunately, this post will not be about time management. Because that’s boring, and apparently what I will spend the next year learning.
No, this post is going to be about quitting, and why you should not.
A year ago, I wanted to quit. I was fed up with my lack of success, even though I was following all the standard advice: write, revise, revise, revise, query, write another novel, repeat until desired consistency of success is reached.
I even had a job as an agent’s assistant. I read slush until my eyes bled, wrote revision notes for manuscripts I thought my boss might like, and absorbed every ounce of information I could get my hands on. My job enabled me to meet lots of writers I might not have otherwise; I made a ton of new friends.
But I was unhappy.
I watched friends reach goals of finding agents and editors. I’d critiqued many of them, or read them for my job and watched agents fight over their manuscripts. It was exciting! I was happy for their success, even pleased that I’d spotted their talent before anyone else, or managed to say something that inspired an agent-nabbing revision.
I wasn’t jealous of them. More, I felt like it would never be my turn. I felt like no matter how much I learned, no matter how many times I followed the advice to “write another manuscript,” it would never happen to me. It didn’t matter how hard I worked.
You see, I’d been trying a long time. I’d queried a lot of agents. I had one for a while, but it turned out we worked better as friends, rather than agent/author. In a fit of maturity I wasn’t sure I was brave enough for, we parted ways and I began my search for new representation. How hard could it be? I’d already had one. Surely finding another wouldn’t be difficult. (Hah. I know. So much for that fit of maturity.)
Last summer was about a year and a half since I’d begun my new search. I was all out of hope. It wasn’t because people told me I was a bad writer. On the contrary! I had oodles of requests, lots of folks saying they loved my writing or stories, and a lot of them seemed to like me, too. But a no is still a no, and sometimes, the nicest no-s hurt the worst.
I also began growing this feeling of caring what other people thought. That Jodi. Writes a lot. Queries a lot. Can’t get an agent. Hey, she works for an agent and can’t even get one. She must be really bad.
So there I was. Ready to quit. If it wasn’t going to be my turn — ever — why should I bother?
Okay, that’s a little dramatic. I knew I couldn’t quit writing. It wasn’t an option, because I loved writing. But I was ready to write only for myself. Forget the whole publication thing. Who cares, anyway? (Hah. I know. Protesting too much. I totally cared.)
I managed…for a little while. Then I began working on an old idea, one I hadn’t had the guts to write three years before when I first thought of it. But hey, if I wasn’t worrying about that whole publication thing anymore, why not write it now?
So I had fun with the story. I also quit my slushy job, as much as I enjoyed it, because I just wanted to write. And I did write. I worked for hours at a time — who needs food anyway? — and chatted endlessly with friends about all the great ideas I had for my latest story. They seemed excited. I was excited. Several said things like, “Jodi, this is the one,” and I said, in my head where they couldn’t hear me, “Yeah right.” Sometimes, even encouragement is hard to take.
Of course, when I had a draft I was happy with, I queried it. (Hah. I know. I’m a big ol’ liar. I totally did not quit.) (For those of you who care about the timeline, this is around January.)
In February, an agent offered representation. Then another offered, too.
Suddenly I didn’t feel so pathetic. The “I love your book” phrases didn’t have a “but” after them.
At the end of June, my agent said something like, “Multiple editors love your book. Get ready for July 1. Your book is going to auction.”
From there– Well, I’m still here. It’s been a year since I didn’t actually quit. New manuscript. New agent. New editor. If I had quit — really quit — I wouldn’t be here.
So it’s not a writing lesson like POV or grammar. It’s a keep-going lesson. A don’t-give-up lesson. I don’t think anyone wants to be the person who could have been successful, but quit. I think we all want to be the person who continued on, even when the path was uncertain. You never know what’s right around the corner.
It may be everything you hoped for.