Writerly Endurance: Try again. Fail again. Fail better

The anxiety you feel after submitting a requested revision to an agent is paralyzing. Because with R&Rs, you’re oh-so-close to landing an agent, yet oh-so-close to falling back into the Query Trench.


So that’s where I’m at right now — I sent the R&R and am now waiting for the agent’s response. How do I feel–knowing this is my second and final chance with Agent A? Initially, I was incredibly stressed (so much uncertainty, too many feelingsss!) until I picked up a book at the library and read this:
I’ve heard it said that everything you need to know about life can be learned from watching baseball. I’m not what you’d call a sports fan, so I don’t know if this is true, but I do believe in a similar philosophy, which is that everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write…
The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself. To look at the world without blinders on. To observe and withstand what one sees. To be disciplined, and at the same time, to take risks. To be willing to fail–not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime. “Ever tried, ever failed,” Samuel Beckett once wrote. “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It requires what the great editor Ted Solotoroff once called endurability.
-Dani Shapiro, Still Writing
After reading this, I was like…Oh yah! This is what it means to be a writer. Fine. BRING IT ON! I can take whatever comes my way.
So, to the writers who are querying/on an R&R/on submission, we can never be certain of what awaits us around the corner in our writing life, but we CAN be certain that if we do get rejected (heaven forbid), we’ll probably wallow in self-pity for a few days, but then we’ll get back up and begin again. Why? Because we’re writers. We are ones who endure.

A Hollywood Moment

A pitiful confession: My camera was mainly focused on the policemen, rather than the protest itself

 1) Call me ridiculous, but I love the thrill that I feel before and after a dangerous moments. Though I turn into a total coward in the midst of it, I continue to throw myself into such situations, like a moth to a flame. And so, on the week before the G20 meeting in Toronto, knowing there would be proptests that might get out of hand, I went downtown. Even though I wasn’t feeling so well. I planned on calling a friend over to join me in our wannabe-journalist-adventure. But the city was so…peaceful…that I ended up just going to the library alone. I found two very intriguing books, began reading it, but the moment I heard shouting outside, I dropped those books and ran out with my camera. There was a parade of people going down the street, protesting, while they were surrounded by the police(*swoons*) . Anyway! The protest was very peaceful, the speech two of the protestors shared was quite moving.  After I followed them for half an hour I went home.  

It was my SISTER who found herself living a Hollywood moment. She and her friend were shopping at a mall when a lockdown occured. Her friend went nuts because she had to leave soon to catch her flight. So they slipped past a security gaurd and ran out. The man continued to yell out at them: “Ladies! It’s dangerous out there!” But they didn’t believe him. Danger was not something to be expected in their ordinary lives. So they were heading down the street, surrounded by the sound of protestors crying out their grievances–when suddenly a gunshot blasted through the air, triggering everyone into screams. My sister said there was literally a stampede headed towards her as three more gunshots rang over the shouting and screaming. She ran and ran and ran with her friend, to keep themselves from being run over, and to get as far as they could from the shooting.  

I was on the phone earlier with a customer and she was telling me about these anarchists from Montreal that had come to Toronto and had begun to smash windows and such. So I’m assuming this abrupt turn from a protest to a riot might somehow be associated with this group. We’ll see. I’m sure this story will be on the front page of tomorrow’s paper here in Toronto.   


Black-clad demonstrators burned police cars and smashed windows with baseball bats and hammers when rioting broke out at the G20 summit. 

Some protesters hurled bottles at police after they prevented them approaching the perimeter of the economic summit site. 

Heavily-protected riot police responded by firing tear gas 

‘A relatively small group of people came clearly with the intent of damaging property and perpetrating violence. 

‘They’re criminals that came to Toronto deliberately to break the law.’  

The city’s police chief Bill Blair admitted police had struggled to control the crowds, and had used tear gas on one occasion, after warning people to stay away from trouble spots. 

‘We have never seen that level of wanton criminality and vandalism and destruction on our streets,’ he told an evening news conference. 

‘There are limits to free speech, and these limits really end when it infringes on the rights and the safety of others.’ 

At least 130 people were arrested, including some Blair believed were ringleaders of the rioting that started when several hundred anarchists broke away from a large, peaceful demonstration against the top-level meeting. 




Photos taken from here 

I found myself shaking my head as I read about what occured downtown. What was going on in the heads of those who burned down police cars and smashed the windows of shops? What do they think they’ll gain from such violence? While I was amazed that this occured in our rather peaceful Toronto, I also found myself laughing, because suddenly, it seemed all so childish. Those car-burnders and window-smashers appeared to me like a child having a tantrum. Violence is not the answer. It only makes a person less creditable and heightens the reason for others to ignore their grievances.

2) On Wednesday Agent#1 emailed me! I waited a full half an hour, preparing my heart, before I finally opened the email. It turns out that I must wait a bit longer. The agent wrote to inform me that my manuscript has been scheduled for a final read in the next two weeks, and was asking whether my book was still available. (I’m not too sure what she means by ‘final read’–Can anyone explain?)I replied that it was–in a most professional manner–though the fingers that were typing these words were trembling. Two weeks now, my friends, before we find out whether The Runaway Courtesan will be offered representation or not.  So keep dropping by my blog, because it is here, to you dear readers and bloggers, that I will tell first the good or bad news. 

3) Be Still My Heart. I’m on chapter 10 of it. And am royally stuck, plot-wise. I just need to find some good inspirational soundtracks to boost me out of the rut.

How to Survive Your Journey to Publication 101

Agent#1 had requested my full manuscript two months ago. In one of her interviews she stated that it took her two to three months to review a full manuscript. So I decided I would wait one more month before emailing her to check up on the status of my book. Because, otherwise, I’d be stuck waiting unproductively, blindly, as I had given her the exclusive she’d requested (meaning, I wouldn’t be able to query to other agents while my work was up for review—this allows agents not to be under the pressure of having the material stolen from them while she read). 

However, though I tried to play the Waiting Game with an optimistic spirit, my patience began to wear thin. And this Sunday was the worst. I had a dream that an email from the agent had arrived, offering representation. The dream was so vivid that I thought it had really happened. So when I woke up I checked my email account, assured that the email from her was there—only to find that my mind had played a mean, mean prank on me. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach.

I went to church that day, pinning a fake smile onto my lips, and so naturally no one noticed how miserable I was feeling. The only evidence of the stress I was under was the cold sore on my lips. Being patient is just so hard, especially when your entire ambition, your dream, is hanging onto that one email or phone call from the agent, informing you whether or not she loved your work enough to contract it. I, of course, knew that if she rejected me, there would be others; but during the time in which a writer must wait, hope naturally builds. And I was growing afraid of how I’d deal with rejection. Because, two months… really …. If she loved my work I knew she’d have contacted me within a few weeks. At least, that was the case for my other agented writer friends.

Anyway, I was miserable. But then Cristina gave me a present—The Little Prince. It’s the book she has been telling me to read for some time now. Inside the cover, she had written: Dear June, May you be completely touched by the magic of this story. This act of complete random kindness moved me so much. It was just what I needed to chase away the gloom that had been looming over me for the past few weeks. It was a present that told me that I was remembered and not forgotten. That I existed.

I began reading the book today. And, indeed, the book was magical. Never in my life would I have imagined myself tearing up over the love story between a boy and a flower. But I did. And while reading the book, I felt like a child again, I felt that appreciation for the simplest things in life. You can’t imagine how surprised I was with myself when my heart twisted into a knot by the end of the story. It was oh-so-sad! I wish I could tap into my feelings and try to put into words WHY I was feeling what I was. But I can’t seem to. Maybe you guys, who have a better understanding of the book, will explain to me why the story is so magical. I guess, maybe, it’s the significance the book places on a individual life.

ANYWAY. While I was nearing the end of the book, I received an email on my blackberry. It was….from AGENT#1!!! It was a short message saying that my book was next in their stack for reading and whether the book was still available. I had to calm myself for a few seconds before replying YESS YESS IT IS!!!!—but, of course, in a more professional manner. I asked her how long it would take before I received the final consensus, and she replied that it wouldn’t be much longer!

How weird is it that this email arrived right after the day I had been feeling SO hopeless? …I don’t believe in coincidences. Of all the days—it was today that the email came, the day when I felt so lost on my road to publication, not knowing whether I should just start querying again, assuming I’d been rejected, or whether I should just continue to wait without knowing WHAT I was waiting for.

But, more than that, I realized how pointless worrying was. I had put myself through psychological torment, doubting myself, hoping, then telling myself I shouldn’t hope—when actually all of those emotions would have served no purpose at all. My manuscript was in the stack, yet unread, during the two months in which I had been worrying.   

The Waiting Game requires fortitude, I realize. And lots of confidence—a confidence that even if you are rejected, it won’t matter, as it only means that you need to query some more to filter out the uninterested agents until you find The Literary Agent. Hope and the love for your manuscript—these two factors are the key to survival.

And before I end this entry, I’d like to give a shout out to Sarah J. Maas, a fellow Let The Words Flow contributor, whose book THE QUEEN OF GLASS has been sold to the major publishing house BLOOMSBURY!!!! And also, congratulations to fellow Historical Romance writer Rika Ashton for finally having taken the next step to publication—querying to agents! The best of luck to the two lovely ladies.

Pop a bottle of Champagne for me!

 1) Agent#1 requested the complete manuscript of The Runaway Courtesan!

2) Right now I would very much like to write an obscene word, capitalized, to describe my intense frustration. But instead I’ll keep my post Rated G. Anyway, today I slapped my palm over my forehead and cried out: ARRRRGGGGGG! So here is the story behind the tragic outcry: I was so busy this week I wasn’t able to send the full manuscript requested by Agent#1 right away. But I finally found the time today and hence went to the internet cafe to print my manuscript out. I triple checked that everything was correctly formatted. But I must have done SOMETHING wrong, because as the elephant-of-a-manuscript began to print, I noticed that some of the chapter headings were not formatted with the required “8 spaces down from the top”—but sometimes 3—other times 20—other times 10. Seeing some of the chapter headings at the very bottom of a page broke my heart. I wondered whether the agent would mind receiving a manuscript with bizarre chapter formatting. My agented friends/interning agent friends on Let The Words Flow warned me against it. So, I must spend another 30 bucks to reprint my manuscript properly. I will look at this as an investment. But after the initial frustration wore away, I became excited again. Whether Agent#1 signs me on or not, after reading The Runaway Courtesan, the very opportunity she’s given me of sharing my work with her is an honour in itself.

3) Yes, that is the photo of my manuscript, doubled-spaced, 311 pages long. Polished like it never was before. And so this leads me into my next rant of the day. I actually COULD have sent the manuscript to the agent right away. But do you know what caused the delay? While I thought everything was perfect, which was why I sent the rewrite of my partial to Agent#1 in the first place, my editor Val reviewed the last three chapters of TRC and was unsatisfied with it. I was like: Noooooo, I don’t want to know this now! But I’m glad I decided revise one last time. It was only after I read her critiques that I was able to see these chapters not through the eyes of the Omnipotent Writer, but as the Reader. From CH24 I was emotionally detached from my characters as I wrote. And Val picked up on this indifference in the flatness of my writing. And when I reread it with her edits in mind I saw exactly what she meant. It’s amazing how you can tell whether or not a novelist has her heart in her writing.

In the days that followed, scrambling to ready the manuscript as soon as I could, I went through one of THE MOST intense round of revising. It was one of the most frustrating, yet satisfying experiences I ever had. My schedule for last Thursday, Friday, Monday and today went something like this:

9:00am to 12pm-Write

12pm to 12:30pm – Eat Lunch

12:30pm to 8:00pm – Write

8:00pm to 8:30pm – Eat Dinner

8:30pm to 5:00am – Write

Very unhealth, I never want to go through this again. But I HAD to work this intensely because I needed to send the manuscript off within this week. It wasn’t all that tiring while I was working on my writing. I was having an adrenaline rush. So time flew. Yet, at the same time, it was emotionally exhausting. Like I said, the issue my chapters were having was that it was not emotionally engaging enough. So in order to fix this up I really had to put myself into the story. And the thing is, from CH24, The Runaway Courtesan gets pretty dark, with all its high drama. So from 9am until around 5am I was constantly forcing myself into the minds of either: 1) a socially condemned heroine in need of redemption, or 2) a tormented hero whose soul has been crushed by the woman he loves. Now I remember why I was so detached while writing these chapters. I think after getting through the previous 24 chapters, what with the characters tossing me about the emotional rollercoaster, by the time I reached CH24—I was pooped—I.did.not.want.to.deal.with.it. But I had to face up to it in the end. And now TRC is very complete at 86,000 words! I won’t be touched this story for the next several weeks because Agent#1 asked for an exclusive. This means I’m not allowed to query or send a partial/full of my manuscript to any other agent. I’m fine with that.

But then do you know what my editor says to me?–Go and work on my next book. *Faints* I think not, madam! However, I do have an idea for a new book. But it’s just too all over the place right now to begin writing. I need to develop it more. But I love the story idea, and it’s going to be another Regency noire. Now that’s all I’m going to say. Lips are sealed. I need time to get over TRC before I start a new book. Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles to start a new book! I’m somewhat intimidated. So much work was put into TRC I’m almost afraid I won’t be able to repeat this feat.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to my blog! It makes me very happy! *hint, hint*

P.S.S. Below is the soundtrack that got me through the last chapter of TRC. I’m also open for recomendations! I’d love to know what you guys are listening to while writing.

Updating Blog at 4am

1) I’ve entered Rowenna’s book-give-away contest! This is my very FIRST contest ever that I’ve entered online. I’ll be bummed if I don’t win an autographed copy of one of her used books!!!! I hope she’ll hold several more contests. And reading her entry made me want to hold contests as well. Small ones. Maybe in the summer time.

2) Still waiting for the response from Agent#1 and 2. I am preparing myself for the worst. This isn’t because I’m a pessimist. I’m a fairly optimistic person in fact. But, ok, I’ll compromise, my attitute is called: Statistically logical pessimism. I’m sure that only one in every ten writers get signed on by an agent on her/his first try (the nine writers who got rejected–it doesn’t mean they’re any worse. It only means that they have not yet found THE Agent). Plus. The more pessimistic I am, the less disappointed I will be when rejected, and the more overjoyed I will be when asked for the full MS request. It all works out in the end. GAHHHH ok. To tell you the truth, I am rather hopeful about Agent#1, and I WILL BE SOMEWHAT devastated if she rejects me. She is the agent who, after exchanging a few emails back and forth with, made me do a 180 degree career change (in regards to which market I want to publish in). But, rest assured dear readers, I will forge on should I be plopped into a worst-case scenerio. Writers, when you get rejected, remember to tell yourself this: “My book is a story that MUST be told.” This ambition alone will drive you on, no matter how many rejections it takes.

3) My answer to LTWF question of the week: If you had to pick one “theme song” for your novel, what would it be? is being reposted onto my blog because the piece is just too beautiful to share on only one site:

I would pick Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ (movement 1 Allegro non molto) for my historical romance, THE RUNAWAY COURTESAN. When I began writing TRC two years ago, this piece was in my playlist, and though I’ve removed and added new songs to my list, ‘Winter’ has always remained. And it was actually this piece I was listening to while writing an outline for my book. Each note in ‘Winter’ struck a chord in my heart, flashed scenes before my eyes, of a fallen woman lost in the glamorous, yet decadent Regency society. Ahhh! It’s heartbreakingly lovely. There’s something about Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ that sends a shiver down my spine each time I listen to it.

4) I told Bennetts that when I finally visit England one day I would like to hire a historybuff so I might ask millions of questions that would be answered with great enthusiasm. His answer gave the term “Historybuff” a whole new etymology: Buff is the colour of my breeches. Historian is my job description. Yes, here is me and my ga-ga adoration of this most intelligent historical fic writer. Strain your eyes and admire him as I do.

5) I will try not to write blog posts so late at night/early in the morning. Badly done, June. And I didn’t even mean to write this comment. But an hour later I return to this post to add thought number 5. I think this is the con about being a novelist. If you have a keyboard beneath your fingertips, even though you’re writing utter nonesense, it’s still fun.

O.K. Goodnight!