Moving Forward After Disappointment

Monday, July 09, 2018
It’s time to fess up here. I have a bad habit of trying to bury my head in the sand when the going gets tough. If I’m having issues with a friend or family member, I go quiet, figuring if I avoid the problem it will go away. And when I have a setback in my writing, I do the exact same thing.

A few weeks ago I sent off the first part of a YA novel I’ve been working on to an editing service. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I felt like I was finally onto something I had been revising off and on since NaNoWriMo 2014. I knew the feedback wouldn’t be pages and pages of how brilliantly I write—that’s not the point. But in previous experiences I’ve had a balance of what is working and what isn’t.

That wasn’t the case here. The 50 pages I turned in were returned back to me in 24 hours, and there really wasn’t a positive note in the comments. Here were a few issues the editor highlighted: too much “filtering,” i.e. using words like he saw, she heard, he felt, etc. With my background as a reporter, I could see this. I also need to outline some long and short-term goals for the character. Although for me, this is difficult because you can’t just come out and say “Cassidy wanted to learn how to live comfortably in world full of landmines due to her sensory processing disorder.” It has to be more organic than that. I presented an intriguing hook in the first two pages and then flipped backwards in the story, which was a letdown.

Basically, after reading the e-mail with comments, I felt like I sucked as a writer. Big time. I wondered if it was even worth moving forward, because I couldn’t find any positive comments in the notes, besides, “You have an intriguing start to a story here.” After having success with a few short stories this past year, I wondered why I can’t seem to pull off the opening pages of a novel.

So I allowed myself to wallow. I tinkered around with another short story I’ve been working on. I read a novel for pleasure I’ve been saving for vacation. And I finally decided I’m moving forward. Because as a recent podcaster said, “Failure is a jumping off point for your dreams.”

I believe in my story. I do see the flaws. But I also see the beauty in it. It deserves my devotion and attention. And in the meantime, I’m listening to the little voice in my head telling me to send out queries for another YA novel I wrote a few years ago that I allowed to languish for too long. I will not allow my writing to go stagnant. And you shouldn’t, either.

Have you ever let a negative experience make you doubt yourself as a writer? How did you get through it?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works in marketing and publicity for a nonprofit theatre company. Her short story, “The Polaroid,” won first place in the Thriller Category of the 2017 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards. She also received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Women’s National Book Association Writing Contest for her young adult story “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women.”


Joanne said...

Good for you for moving forward, which is hard to do. And thank you for sharing the upside: "Failure is the jumping off point for your dreams."

Angela Mackintosh said...

You use the ignore it and it'll go away method, too? ;)

Well, you know what I think about the critique, but I won't get into it here... definitely take the constructive advice--what rings true to you--and toss the rest.

I love that quote! I'm glad you're not giving up on your manuscript. It does deserve your devotion. I'm also glad you're sending out queries for your YA! I'll send you a list of agents we've worked with in the past. Perhaps you can use that as an introduction or even just mentioning WOW in your bio could be a nice connection.

I love your outfit! That lace tank is so pretty. :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee-- I got a short story rejected after they'd had it for less than 24 hours. AND they said not to send them anything else. That hurt.

I go all Cee Lo Green when that kind of rejection comes. And if you don't know which song I'm talkin' about, send me an email. (I like the original version the best, not the sanitized version.)

You've shared some details about this manuscript--I'm one of the many people who thinks it's a story that needs to be told. How about sharing it with several different people, and seeing what kind of feedback/suggestions they have?

Do NOT toss it aside and let it gather dust. Please.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela's comment reminded me of something I forgot to mention. You look maaahvelous. Are you sure you're not a female version of Benjamin Button?

Lou Don said...

Its such a punch in the stomach when rejection arrives, no matter how long or short the story.

I give myself 24 hours to get over it, otherwise I would give up on writing!

Margo Dill said...

As someone who has read your writing--fiction and nonfiction--you have talent. And perseverance. And it is hard to get published traditionally these days. But if it is a goal--GO FOR IT. I know you are willing to put in the work it takes. Also, did you think about a beta reader next, before you start revising based on this one feedback. I'm not saying the feedback was wrong or too critical. I just really think getting two or three opinions and then kind of seeing what really resonates with you is the best way to go. That's why my critique group is invaluable, but I also know people who use beta readers this way. Just a thought. I'm thinking about doing that when I finish this next novel before I get too much editing done, to see the big picture. Hang in there, girl. :)

Renee Roberson said...

J. Glenn--Thank you. It does always seem I experience some sort of disappointment before every success. It's an endless cycle!

Angela--Thanks again for that list! I promise I'll put it go good use. That tank is a T.J. Maxx find from several years ago. I always get a ton of compliments when I wear it!

Sioux--I can't believe someone would tell you not to submit anything else. That is so unprofessional and not likely anyone you would want to work with anyway. We've all had to deal with our share of jerks in this industry, that's for sure. And yes, I love that Cee Lo song!

Lou--I love that 24-hour rule. I need to adapt that myself. I'm more like two weeks. Blech!

Margo--Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. I do need to find a solid group of beta readers. I haven't had much luck in the past, but I need to work on finding two or three in my same genre that would be willing to swap, I think. Or sign up for another WOW! class where it's built into part of the curriculum, right?!

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