Monday, May 30, 2011


I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve tried my hand at young adult fiction. And I found a couple of really good agents that loved my book. I thought I was home free. Until, oops, a publishing house bought a book that had a concept that was similar to the book I wrote. And my book became redundant. I thought, “Um, sometimes people don’t mind a repeat in concepts.” Look at vampires, they’ve become their own genre. Besides my novel was very different than the one that was signed. But it didn’t matter.

I was okay with that (eventually), and I wrote a new book. This one was a mystery with an inventive, creative plot. I sent out a couple of queries. One agent said that it sounded really great, only she didn’t think a newbie writer could do a good job with so many plot complications. That made me angry. “Uh, hello, if I can explain in the query and have it make sense, I might just have the ability to make it work in a novel.” I gave up querying. Not a good idea. In fact, a very bad idea, but I wanted to hit my head against the wall.

I pulled out an old literary novel. Polished it and took it to a writers’ conference. The conference leader gushed over it as did my fellow writers. “Get this to an agent!” the leader said. So I did. Several agents showed interest. One of them really excited me. Before he became as agent, he was executive editor for Holt. He edited Salman Rushdie, Jeff Shaara, et al.

I knew that my chances of getting an agent like that were slim to none. But I hoped that maybe he’d at least tell me what was wrong with my book. Finally, I heard from him. It was a rejection. But not for the reasons I’d thought. Nothing was wrong with the book. He told me that I was a very accomplished writer. He said that it was very hard to tell me that he couldn’t offer representation because he didn’t know to whom he could sell the book given the current market in literary fiction. He encouraged me to keep querying because another agent might just know the right editor...

All writers know that publishing is first and foremost a business. But you hope that if you write a really good book, it will get picked up. And then it doesn’t. You wonder if it’s worth it.

Many nights, a bird wakes me around two am. He sings the most beautiful plaintive song. But no one hears him. Still, he sings. Writing is like that—unpublished writing especially. Is it worth it to sing if no one can hear? Perhaps. Maybe singing is enough. Is the act of writing enough for me?

Then I realized that I hear the song. But the bird doesn’t know that. Maybe it’s enough that God and I both take joy in my writing. I think that I can live with that.

And, of course, I’ll keep trying to find that well-connected agent. 


  1. I so hear you! It used to be if you wrote a good book, someone would publish it. Not so any more. Now you have to write the book on the top of the trend without knowing you're starting a trend (or so it seems) and then all the publishers want to buy that kind of book. Problem being if you're in the middle of writing that kind of book, by the time its ready for submission, the trend is over, they're not interested. It can be very frustration.

    I came to a similar conclusion on my trip. I thought I could stop writing, but realized I'm just happier when I am writing, and it can't be about weather or not it gets published. I like how you state that it's enough that you and God enjoy it.

  2. This post resonated with me so deeply that I almost want to cry.

    It sometimes feels the same for me, that I'll never finish and get the story out there.

    Still, I must go on, because even if I do sometimes forget, writing is enough. No matter who reads it.

    But I can't help hoping that someone will one day love it as much as I do.


    Good luck!

  3. As witnessed with this blog, the internet is listening to your birdsongs. If you ever find yourself writing for the simple joy of the art, why not skip the process of businesses and release it to the internet?

    The internet can reach into all markets and has more accessibility than any other medium. (You don't have to be awake at 2:00 in the morning to appreciate it, or put up with the hassles of queries.)

  4. I love this analogy to the nightingale. It's beautiful. It's also a good reminder to have, that at the root of it we write for ourselves first.

    Best of luck to you with the agent search! I'll keep my fingers crossed. :)

  5. Aw! What a great post. I personally find joy in your writing as well. Maybe you will be like one of those crazy famous people who eventually get published and make editors look stupid. (cough, Harry Potter, cough)

  6. A bird just tweeted VERY loud, and he's still going out, and he's saying Never give up!!!! Also, I'll trade my night bird for yours, because mine starts "beeping" at dusk and doesn't stop until dawn....