But I just ... couldn't. I couldn't bring myself to do it, because I discovered that I had no desire to rub my nose in my own problems like a bad doggy. Not right now. Anyway, I think I've covered that territory pretty well, so what's left to be said?
Instead, I'm going to write about querying and progress. It feels kind of odd, but I find myself querying again. I pretty much know which agents I'm interested in, and I've read widely enough in my genre to know who is repping the kinds of books I'm trying to sell. So I spent a little time this week whipping up a basic query and shipping it out, along with a few sample chapters. Naturally, I included in the query that this book has already been through revisions with a major house and they rejected it. You pretty much have to include that kind of thing.
But it got me thinking about how much has changed since last time I queried.
Early on in my career, I used to send out queries by the truckload. I was a master at querying ... for magazines and newspapers, literary agents, editing jobs, whatever. I was intent on building a career, even though it felt like every door was closed. I used to prepare queries by the batch and spend loads of money and time copying clips and putting together packages (remember those days)? Then the SASE rejections would roll in. And my, would they ever! I remember some days getting five or six rejections in a single day, for various projects and ideas.
For a long time, I kept all the rejections. I guess I thought it was some kind of record-keeping thing, so I'd know who I contacted. But my file grew into a box, which grew into a crate that I kept underneath the bed like some poisonous fungus. One day, when I was having a moment, I thought, "Why the hell am I keeping all these? Why am I building a monument to my own rejection?"
So I dragged the box out, and I threw them all away. I haven't kept a rejection since. And if that means I sometimes queried the same editor, so be it.
Fast forward ten years, and here I am, querying another novel (number six, hard to believe). And the response has been gratifying. So far, more than half of the agents who have replied have requested either a full or a partial. Ten years ago, I was lucky to get 1 out of 10 asking to see anything.
This doesn't mean I'll find representation, and even I do, it doesn't mean I'll find the right representation. But ... to me, it's a small sign that there is such a thing as progress, that you do move forward, even if it's slower than you like and even if it costs more than you expected.
Writing is truly a journey, with way stations and destinations and roundabouts and off-ramps. If nothing else, querying again has reminded me how far I've come, and it's nice to know that I've earned this kind of response. It's nice to know that, no matter how I feel about what's happened, I got more from the last two years than two books I can't sell. And I have to trust that, even if I can't really point to a tangible sign of progress in my fiction, there has been movement. And I bet the same is true for any writer who is actively working at it, who is putting in the time. That, despite the rejections and the scars, there is a quiet progress.
So you tell me: what progress have you made?