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.

Writers, Embrace Your Humble Beginning

Ever since The Runaway Courtesan was well received on FictionPress, a seed of arrogance was planted in me. Ever since an agent took interest in my work, my arrogance puffed up. But now…the needle of reality has pierced my ballooning head.

I am now deflating.

I have a second revise & resubmit request from Agent#1 that I’ve put on hold, because my brain and heart is not prepared for the upheaval I plan on putting TRC through. I have a partial in the hands of a superbly busy agent. I have query letters in the inbox of four other agents, awaiting a response for weeks now. And I just received an “Unfortunately-after-careful-consideration-we-have-decided-to-pass-on-this-project” today.

Nothing is turning out as I imagined.

I dreamt of a quick progress from one point to the next. I imagined that one of the agents would contact me, offering representation because she was totally in love with my work. I fantasized that within this year we would be so fortunate as to land a publishing contract for my manuscript.

However, week by week, my assurance weakened, my fantasy crumbled under the weight of reality. As I watched my other writer friends begin querying, receiving partial and full requests, getting represented, getting published, my confidence began to shake.

Then, as I saw the others writers moving on ahead of me, as if we were in a race and I was falling behind, I began to examine myself. I asked myself: Why do I want to get published? I thought and thought about this and realized that I was envious because I wanted to take pride in something. This wasn’t why I started writing at all. I started because I wanted to reach out to other readers.

I’ve finally come to terms with this struggle of mine. It’s a change that has occurred slowly. If I am rejected, I will not be crushed. If I am falling back in the “race” to publication, I will try not to envy. This is why:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

And, if I might add:

a time to revise and a time to query,
a time to publish and a time to develop your craft

Each time I am rejected by an agent, I want to step back from my default mode (wallowing in self-pity) and tell myself that perhaps it isn’t my time to get published. I’ll use this time to develop my craft, because it is the story I want to tell, and if my story is not good enough…then why rush myself to share it?


My Facebook status: I’m going to stop querying for TRC now. Publishing is not a race. I’ll take my sweet time. Thank God I have another ms to work on

@ Mandy Kellett Goff: I read somewhere that on average, it takes 10 years to publish a first book. So if it is a race, it’s a very, very long one =).

@ June Hur: That actually makes me feel much better–the fact that it takes 10 yrs on average to publish. Being unable to find an agent, I was starting to feel like a “failure”. But I guess those folks who get agents and get published within a year or two are the lucky oddballs!

A Writer’s Biological Clock?!

Article’s recipe: Inspired by Sarah J Maas’ remark in regard to my querying frustration & by Erika Mark’s epic journey to publication

The writers around you are landing agents, signing contracts, promoting their up-coming novel–you see this, grow envious, and the moment you send out your first batch of query letters, a clock puffs into existence. A clock that tells you that time in running out. Hurry and get published!

My advice: Get a hammer and SMASH that clock to smithereen.

When I first began querying, sending out a batch of twenty-four emails to agencies, I was determined to settle for *any* agent who’d make an offer. After all, unpublished authors cannot be choosers…Right? The desperate underdogs must accept whatever opportunities open up for them. Right…?

….Not quite.

My mindset has changed. Somewhat. When Sarah sensed my desperation to land an agent within this year, she told me about how she looked back on her querying days and wondered WHY she had been so determined to get an agent RIGHT AWAY. She reminded me that writing would afterall be my LIFETIME CAREER. So why the rush? If you have a LIFETIME to achieve a goal, what does it matter that you get published now, or in five, ten, fifteen years?

You might say: Yes, yes, it MATTERS because the world is missing out on a great book. BUT there is NO biological clock ticking away in a writer’s life. If querying doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it. TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE. NOT AGAINST YOU.

Querying is like…like searching for your soulmate in life. There are MILLIONS of people to choose from. And among the many, there is the right one for you (ehm, the soulmate theory is totally debatable, but I digress). You’ll be courted, and it might not work out–as in, you might meet an AGENT, but s/he might not share the SAME VISION of your manuscript as you do, and so you might choose to move on. You might feel the social pressure around you, to marry SOON, because you’ve hit your 30s. But just as a woman shouldn’t feel pressured to settle for ANY man, (or to get married AT ALL), a writer should not feel pressured to settle for just ANY agent. NO husband is better than a BAD husband / NO agent is better than a BAD agent.

If an agent rejects you, know that the right one is somewhere out there for you. And you WILL find her/him. It just might take a few hundred more query letters, or a few more years. So NEVER lose hope!

I read an article written by this one agent, I forget who, but s/he was talking about how unpublished writers should enjoy their days before publication. Once you get published you will [always?] be writing to meet DEADLINES. If you get a two-book deal you’ll be writing sample chapters of a story that you have yet to write the end of [or something along these lines]. Of course, if *I* ever get published, I DON’T think I’d want to trade that moment with my unpublished days of freedom. BUT, just saying, when it comes to writing, it’s the journey that matters!

P.S. There seems to be many writers in the querying stage. Cheers to you all!

P.S.S I finished reading Pillars of the Earth: So. Friggin. Good. ‘Nuf said. [Actually, no. Not enough said. I’ll be writing a review of the book]

Kindness goes a long way….

Another agent has stepped into my journey to publication. Dear Agent#3, Kelly Mortimer. I’m finally mentioning one of the agents I queried to because it seems almost impossible to share this brief, but special story without identifying her. Just check out her interview and you’ll see why: She’s an agent I think everyone should consider when querying.

I queried to her. A few days later, she emailed me back. It was not a rejection. It wasn’t even a partial request. She was offering a second chance. This is mind blowing when one is used to getting automatic rejection emails. And if requests for revisions are made—they’re made only for manuscripts. But for a query letter? My respect for her rose to a whole new level right then and there.

She kindly pointed out that in my query letter, I was marketing TRC as an inspirational romance, yet had no inspirational elements present in the story’s summary. I read over the summary and realized how right she was! It was an ignorant mistake on my part. It showed my inexperience. And yet, rather than rejecting me right away, as she obviously is a very busy lady (the evidence), she had the heart to point out this problem and then asked me to resend the revised query letter to her.

She even added a smiley face at the end of the email. I smiled along with the emoticon.

I spent half the day reworking the query letter. I let my sister read the first revised draft; when I saw her cringe, my heart sank. She said it was too corny. So revised it again and again, incorporating the suggestions my LTWF ladies suggested, and putting my own twists here and there. I sent it to M.M.Bennetts because she’s experienced in the querying field and always replies back so quickly to me, never leaving me hanging with dread (I absolutely adore this historian and brilliant novelist). And finally… I pasted the summary into the letter, read it over a thousand times, then clicked SEND.

Her response came on the same day. She wrote that she liked the query letter “much better” and requested the first three chapters. In the following brief emails exchanged, I felt in my heart of hearts that she was one very special agent. There was something about her that makes her seem almost like a mentor.

Whether she signs me on or not, is besides the point. I’m just writing about this experience because this single act of consideration meant a lot to me—me, who, having to start querying AGAIN while revising for agent#1. It felt like I had my toe cut off and had to learn to walk all over again. Frustration. Frustration. Frustration. But now I feel motivated once more and also have an appropriate query letter to work with.

I know there are many more special agents out there. Agent#1 and #2 were both special in their own ways. They taught me lots. Especially Agent#1—who redirected my entire career as a writer, introducing me to a new market. Now…. If there are any agented writers out there reading this, could you share a bit about your relationship with your agent? And if you’re a writer seeking representation, please do share a bit of your journey with us all! I find that sharing our querying journeys always ends up becoming an encouragement to others who are planning to begin one. Or who have stumbled along the way— *cough* Me *Clears throat*

Currently reading: Pillars of the Earth. IT IS SOOOOOO GOOD! I can’t stop thinking about this book. I smile stupidly each time I crack the humungous book open. The characters are so alive it’s unbelievably inspiring. And the atmosphere the author creates—breathtaking. This is a truly amazing medieval epic.

I can’t, can’t, can’t WAIT until I can watch the TV series. I am determined not to watch it, however, until I finish the book. Don’t worry. I’m almost finished! Why, I’m on page 127….out of 1007 pages.

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.