Stuck In The Trenches

Querying can be downright depressing for aspiring authors. I imagine most would-be storytellers give up their dreams of publishing soon after they begin. We pour our hearts into our stories, people tell us we’re such great writers, maybe even other published authors compliment our skills, and yet…publication eludes us worse than 10 yo’s to chores. It’s very easy to lose hope when you’re stuck in the trenches.

I started writing The War of Ages Saga in 2008, finished the first draft in 2015, and submitted my first query letter in 2016. Why’d it take so long, you might ask? Well, this was my very first attempt at writing a fantasy novel, and I had a HUGE learning curve to trudge through. Every new discovery in the story led to a thousand more who-what-when-where-why-how’s to answer—why is there a class divide between citizen and non-citizen? What was the Great Uprising? How did it start? How is magic used? Who is the protagonists best friend? How did that friendship come about? What are slave-towns like? Holidays, heroes, cultural quirks, government structure, laws, lifestyles, idioms, races, etc. The ideas for my story came at me in random bursts of thought. Simply organizing my germinating story was challenging enough, much less creating such a complex weave as an epic fantasy series. It was a very long and learning process from inception to what I had naively believed to be a publishable product.

After a year of querying, I was hesitant to take a second look at my manuscript. I’d already poured almost a decade of my life into this work, to get it to its finished product, and the prospect of going through the revision process again, rewriting entire scenes and paragraphs was extremely deflating. It took a while for me to come to terms with the concept of undoing what I had done, and starting over.

Books take a long time to write. As such, it’s very difficult to justify spending the amount of time it takes to tackle another book when the first one is still mired in the Queryland Bogs. After all, there’s no guarantee that the next manuscript will be published, and then what—start all over with another book?

Yes.

That’s exactly what we do.

The very first few attempts at something almost always turn out to be more of a learning experience. Camping is a great example that bears an analogy for most aspects of life. Everybody’s first experience is unique, some pack the house, while others don’t pack at all; some experiences were great, some traumatic, some boring, some exciting. No matter how well or how horrible a person’s first experience camping, everyone returns home with a similar thought—Now I know better what to bring next time.

Writing is no different in that aspect. Since my first manuscript is still echoing down the neverending corridor through Query Town, another story grabbed my attention and a wonderful new heroine was born. Already this new story is coming together a lot smoother than The War of Ages. Granted, the new story is a standalone, not a series, with only a couple viewpoint characters. Nevertheless, the development of the story feels more familiar in the same way as preparing to go camping again. Once this story is finished, I’ll seek to publish it as well

When I was contemplating earning my doctorate, one of my professors gave me a great perspective on the matter. He told me to consider the following before deciding on whether or not I wanted to spend the next 6-8 years, working towards my Ph.D: “You’re going to be competing with students that wake up every morning with philosophy on their mind; people who are reading Plato, Kant, and Leibniz while others are reading Stephanie Meyer and J. K. Rowling. Are you ready for that level of dedication?”

Well, first off, I’d thought that was a little extreme. I knew plenty of doctoral candidates that read fantasy. But I understood the message. A certain level of dedication is required in the realm of professionalism.

As a working-class writer, I write when I can. It’s not nearly as often as I’d like, but it’s hard to justify spending hours a day, pounding my keyboard when there are young ones that are always wanting such trivialities as food and water. I can’t dedicate as much time to writing as I’d like, but it’s something that I could dedicate my time toward. More importantly, writing is something I want to dedicate my time toward.

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