Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
A few posts are on tap looking at perseverance, yes or no.
I remember having talks with myself all through the first ten years of this century about perseverance and how if I gave up in my pursuit of writing and publishing novels it was in no uncertain terms over. Giving up – as tempting as it was many many times along the way – would slam the door shut and I’d have to become an ex-writer. I’d have to channel whatever creative impulses I felt into something that would be distinctly a hobby, a diversion, whereas my writing had always been a force coming from inside me.
So I kept at it, and had these talks with myself, in which I’d say that I’d know when it was time to hang it up and it’d feel right. In the meantime all I could do was continue to write, continue to query agents, continue to pick myself up after the defeats and, like the song says, “start all over again.”
But you begin to ask, how many defeats do I have in me before it’s destructive, before my psyche gets PTSD and I deteriorate as a person? I never wanted to be one of those who are pretty cruelly described as a “failed writer.” Why do they always label writers that way? You never hear about failed musicians or failed sculptors. There must be something about the process of writing, the investment of self in it, that makes the failure that much more agonizing.
That meant I had to be careful, and there were probably a few times when I crossed some kind of line as a human, feeling way too sorry for myself. One was probably when an agent I’d been trying to land, and who invited a revision, double-teamed me with a former Viking editor on a conference call, and they tore the book to shreds. Even though I was probably burning a bridge, I told them both it felt like I’d been set up. It felt like they wanted me to pay the editor a shitload of money to help me whip the book into salable shape, something that had happened to me before. It feels like a racket, I told them, and the agent said I’m sorry you feel that way, Kevin, but best of luck with your writing – you have talent.
I signed with a different agent after that, but she wasn’t able to sell the book, and she wasn’t able to sell Yesterday Road either, though she did try. I sent her Town Father but she passed, now convinced that nothing I wrote would get picked up.
And she was the last agent I worked with, though I tried to land another each time I had a new book to shop around. I think 2010 was the last year I was under contract. Then came my self-publishing experiment in 2013.
I’ve learned since then that the indie market isn’t evolving in a way that welcomes literary fiction. A litany of reasons why. Doesn’t matter what they are. But it became clear a while ago that I need to go back to pursuing agents if I still believe in my writing – and I do. So the querying has recommenced.
This means I won’t be self-publishing anything new for quite a while. I need to give the querying process time, and this year I’m prepared to hit up to a hundred agents per title (I have two I’d like to place right now). I have one nibble in my first ten so far. That’s about the right percentage, I’m afraid. In other words, out of my hundred queries, I might hear back from ten agents who want to see all or part of the book.
Perseverance requires that I not think about that too much.
[Photo by Isakarakus at Pixabay.]