taste_is_sweet: (Please be Advised)
[personal profile] taste_is_sweet
Many years ago, while riding the Toronto subway, I was in a car with a young woman and her two friends. This was back in the early 90s, when name-brand, novelty sneakers were very much 'in'. This young woman had on such a pair, and I, with nothing else to do, was watching her wearing them.

I didn't realize it might have been rude until she glared at me and demanded to know why I was staring at her.

"I'm just looking at your shoes," I said, horribly embarrassed.

And she replied: "They don't wanna know you!"

 photo Sneakers.jpg

It's the kind of moment that stays with you, and sometimes, like when I'm about to post on LJ or--especially lately--when I send out another novel query after the previous one was rejected again (three for three so far!), I hear those words. They don't wanna know you.

I realize this isn't helpful, and not even true (at least with non-footwear). I've met many people who wanted to know me, though I can't speak for their shoes; and many of these people both still know me and still want to, as far as I can tell. And I know that the people rejecting my novel aren't actually rejecting me. Maybe they'd want to know me if we ever met in person, even if they did describe my novel as 'fairly well written' and 'off-putting' in the same paragraph.

Maybe I wouldn't want to know them, but that's not the point.

Radio Host Jay Smooth, who is a bit of a YouTube celebrity for his commentary on racism, homophobia and gender issues, calls these kind of internal mantras "Little Haters". He has a video about them, which is pretty cool:

And Martin Freeman, lately of The Hobbit but possibly more beloved as Sherlock's Dr. John Watson, told an Entertainment Weekly interviewer that he doesn't read reviews because (to paraphrase, because I can't find it), it wouldn't matter how many awesome reviews he got, he'd only remember the negative ones and they would ruin his life. He has inner haters too.

That's reassuring, of course, to know that even famous people have their they don't wanna know you moments. But it's also discouraging. It'd be nice to think that at some point, somehow, maybe, I'd reach a threshold of success that would mean I didn't have to make the little haters shut up all the time.

Instead, most some days, like right now, it's a constant battle to keep writing, and posting to LJ, and sending out my novel when it seems like no one will ever want it. And to remind myself that they--whomever 'they' actually are--probably do want to know me. Just maybe not my writing.

It's a battle I don't think I'll win, but I'm still trying. And I'm still writing. And that's something, right?

But their shoes would love me. Really.

Photo: "Colorful Sport Shoe" by John Kasawa, via Freedigitalphotos.net

(no subject)

28/10/13 21:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] draycevixen.livejournal.com

One of my theatre profs once told us that if we never got a bad review we just weren't trying hard enough to become better actors. *g*

As to agents and publishers also remember that they're running commercial businesses which often means they're looking for something like 'X' (whatever the latest big success was) because they reason that's what the general public is currently in the mood for.

One of my favourite responses to an audition ever:

"Can't act, slightly bald, also dances."

Fred Astaire's version of the lost infamous screen test report in an interview with Barbara Walters.

Take heart, petal. ♥

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Your theatre prof had an interesting perspective! I like that idea, actually. :)

Thank you for your kind words. I know (intellectually, at any rate) that the bottom line for everybody is what they think they can sell. Sometimes it makes the rejection easier.

Poor Mr. Astaire! At least he got the best revenge ever by becoming famous. There really is no accounting for taste.

I am taking heart, I promise. <3

(no subject)

28/10/13 21:25 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] miscellanny.livejournal.com
You are awesome. :D

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:01 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Thank you! You too, eh? You need to remember that.

(no subject)

28/10/13 21:40 (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sholio
It's SO hard to keep your spirits up sometimes. I sent my urban fantasy novel to about 20 agents this spring without getting a nibble, and got discouraged and stopped sending it out. Then I mentioned this to a pro-writer friend, and she said, "You gave up after 20? If you get one request to see the whole thing after sending it to 60, you're doing very well!"

It's definitely a thick-skin business ...

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:05 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Oh my God, do I hear you! I'm not even sure what's worse--agents or publishers. And urban fantasy is one of the in big things right now, so God knows why no one bit. Is the market glutted? Is your main character not whiny and self-centered enough? No sparkly vampires?

That's great advice from your writer friend. But wow, I'm miserable after sending my novel out to three publishers. The idea of going through at least 57 more... ::shudders:: Honestly, I think you were damn brave trying 20.

Have you considered going to publishers directly?

(no subject)

30/10/13 05:58 (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sholio
Well, the nice thing about agents is that simultaneous submissions are just fine (expected, in fact), so as long as an agent's website doesn't ask for an exclusive -- and most don't -- you can send them out in batches. The site I was using to look up agents (agentquery.com) recommends doing 10 at a time. I was doing more like 5 at a time, and then, well, got discouraged and gave up. :P I'm doing a rewrite on the novel right now, though, and then I'm going to try some more agents.

I'm not to the point of trying publishers on my own yet, mostly because I feel like it's worth aiming for the bigger markets, at least at first. If I can't get an agent to bite on it, then I'll tackle publishers on my own, or perhaps self-publish it.

(no subject)

1/11/13 18:18 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
That is nice. And I'm not sure I ever actually knew that. Crazy. ;D

Thank you for the info!

I hope you've been querying other agents, and I wish you the best of luck! Someone's gotta like our stuff, eh?

(no subject)

1/11/13 20:07 (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sholio
Good luck to you too! We can do this! *fistbumps*

(no subject)

3/11/13 02:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
::High five!:: :D

(no subject)

28/10/13 22:08 (UTC)
ext_975: photo of a woof (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] springwoof.livejournal.com
Keep at it, BB! We know that they'd love to know you if they ever got a chance to.

Rejection is part of publishing--Steven King literally papered the walls of his bedroom with rejection slips and notes before his first book sold. I think sometimes it's not how good a writer you are, but how persistent you are that gets you published....

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Yeah, true. Thank you, sweetheart. :D

I try to remember that a lot of the time the only difference between published and not is persistence. But it's so miserable getting rejections, and then having to tailor another submission package, and then waiting, and then getting rejected again... Argh.

But yes, I'll do it. :)

(no subject)

28/10/13 22:56 (UTC)
ext_28878: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] claudia603.livejournal.com
oh yes, it would be weird if you didn't get rejected about a million times to one enthusiastic reader. It's the way it is. I have someone on my flist who HAS been accepted by an agent for her novel, an agent that represents some well known fantasy authors, apparently (can't remember the details exactly) and even so, now PUBLISHER after publisher is not reading. It's a slow and horrifically rejecting career. You really have to just love writing, and not only that, love your own writing!

Sometimes I think I don't have the skin for it at all which is why I never finish anything...:-p but that's the completely wrong attitude to have and I am trying to change that.

As for the shoes girl, how rude! But there is kind of a humor in it, like something that would be in a romantic comedy movie, or perhaps something rather existential...

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:14 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Thank you for the kind words. I've been in exactly the same shoes as your friend. I also have an agent who loved my first sci-fi novel but couldn't sell it anywhere. And then he didn't want this one of mine because he didn't think it was even worth trying to sell it since his agency doesn't really do YA. Ouch.

It's not so much a thick skin but a veneer, I think--the ability to keep sending stuff out in the face of sometimes rude rejections. What helps is knowing that my fanfic has been truly loved. And you write great fanfic too, right? I know you can write original stuff too.

I don't mean to sound glib--it took me around 10 years to finish my first novel (the one my agent couldn't sell), and a lot of that was because of my internal critic who kept telling me no one would want it. Ultimately what got me to finish the book was counselling, and being pregnant. I didn't want to have to admit to my kid some day that mommy never even tried.

It was rude, yeah. But I can understand her perspective. I'm sure she thought I was going to say something nasty to her, and hit back first, so to speak. And yes, it is funny in a way. How could she really know what her shoes wanted? :)

(no subject)

29/10/13 01:44 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] brumeier.livejournal.com
I can't speak for my shoes, but I certainly want to know you. LOL!

It's unfortunate that so much of what stays with us is negativity. I have a notoriously poor memory, but I can remember every harsh word anyone has ever spoken to me and every humiliation great and small. I wish I could hold on to more of the good things, of which there were many, but those stay hazy. It's unfortunate.

Please, please don't get discouraged about your novel submissions. Sometimes you have to wade through a lot of rejections before that one shining approval comes through. There's a publisher out there that wants to know you AND your book, it just might take a while to find them.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:18 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Thank you! I want to know you too! And I'm glad I do. ;)

Oh, God. WORD. I so wish I could remember the positive stuff as well as the negative. I hope my kid can remember more positive stuff.

I promise I'm still going to send that sucker out, if the latest publisher doesn't want the YA novel either. It's just hard to dredge up the requisite enthusiasm to do it. I really appreciate you keeping your fingers crossed, especially as that makes it hard to type. ::g::

(no subject)

29/10/13 02:33 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] sgamadison.livejournal.com
I'd like to be brilliant and articulate and profound here, but I'm actually having one of those days in which I don't believe I belong on the internet and I shouldn't communicate with anyone. ;-)

I think we all have these Inner Haters. I think some people's are louder than others. I think some people who pretend to have none have the biggest, loudest ones. Right now, mine are pretty loud...

The subject of reviews seems to be on everyone's mind lately. I've been thinking about writing a blog post about it, but I'm not sure I have anything worth saying about them. It would be nice to say we don't need them and we shouldn't read them, but most of us, after dressing our babies (our stories) and sending them out on the School Bus of Life, need some indication that they are well-liked and that no one will bully them behind our backs (or to our faces, for that matter).

I've likened feedback for fanfic like people dropping in your house for tea to tell you how much they liked your story. Feedback for original fiction however, by the average reader-reviewer, is much more like someone painting graffiti on the walls of your neighborhood. It might be beautiful, but it can often be ugly or filled with hate. The thing is, these people don't know you. Their posts aren't directed at you per se. They are just spray-painting opinions in their neighborhood, for good or bad.

The problem is, if you've come to original fiction from fanfic, then you are accustomed to the rush that comes from receiving almost instantaneous, positive feedback when you post a story. If you're like me, that kind of feedback was what gave you the nerve to submit a story for publication in the first place. Now feedback is few and far between and not necessarily predisposed to be nice, either. Because there is so much less of it as well, it's much harder to have any sort of gauge as to how people like your work except through sales--which comes with it own baggage as well.

It's taken me some time to learn to ignore graffiti. For me the frustrating part is feeling like no one even knows you're out there. Or that you simply aren't writing what people want to read.

Right now I'm battling just plain exhaustion which makes it hard to have the creative energy to write--and that fuels the Little Haters like feeding the Mogwai after midnight...

Great video here. Thanks for sharing it.

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:36 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
It's taken me some time to learn to ignore graffiti. For me the frustrating part is feeling like no one even knows you're out there. Or that you simply aren't writing what people want to read.

This, dear God. I tend not to ignore the bad reviews so much as to not look for them. My husband has very kindly kept me informed about Black Hawk Tattoo on Goodreads, so I can avoid the ones I don't want to know about.

[livejournal.com profile] brumeier and I were joking the other day about writing the perfect YA novel: a romance set in a distopia populated by zombies and vampires. Maybe with magic powers thrown in, just to make sure we cover all the bases. And written in first-person present tense, of course. Because apparently anyone under the age of 20 can't handle anything else.

Writing something like that might be fun, but it's not what I really want to write. And unfortunately I never seem to want to write anything that would be popular. So in the mean time I struggle with rejection. Sigh.

I'm glad you like the video! Smooth has a great knack for making big ideas accessible.

(no subject)

29/10/13 17:45 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] sgamadison.livejournal.com
You remind me of the Bestselling YA story generator. It's a hoot.

You got me thinking about this to the extent I went ahead and wrote the blog post on reviews over on my website after all. Mentioned you in it too. :-)

And unfortunately I never seem to want to write anything that would be popular. So in the mean time I struggle with rejection. Sigh.

Yep, but at least these days you have more options than ever before. The publishing industry has no idea which way to turn anymore and that means that smaller options have proven more viable for some people than the Big Six.

(no subject)

29/10/13 19:20 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
All true. I just wish I'd found the right publisher already! It'd be so much nicer for my ego. :)

Thanks, again. I'll go check out your blog.

(no subject)

1/11/13 18:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
And I did check out your blog, and I thought it was very well written (as opposed to 'fairly'. Heh.) As you said, it's hard to have a fresh take on a widely discussed topic, but I think you did. And thank you again for the shout-out. Much appreciated!

(no subject)

29/10/13 08:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mcparrot.livejournal.com
I think pimping a novel is probably the most soul destroying thing you can do, because hell, all that work, all that effort, all that love, and ... now it has to find a market in a world that really doesn't even want books anymore.

I've decided to go straight to self epublishing, but done properly. So proofread and edited, properly laid out. Artist designed cover etc. Of course. First of all I have to FINISH the bloody thing. 3rd draft and wallowing. So huge kudos to you for having achieved that bit.

Someone, somewhere is going to want to see it so just keep going. And in the meantime immerse your self in the next book.

Take care.
I want to know you too.

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:39 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, Ms. Parrot. I'm glad we know each other. :D (Did you get the email I sent back in July, btw?)

Believe me, it's a lot easier to finish something when writing is your full-time job, rather than what you do when you have a few spare moments. I think it's awesome that you've gotten to a third draft of anything.

I'm trying to do exactly what you say--sending the YA novel out and working on another one while I'm waiting. Of course, the waiting part sucks too. ;)

(no subject)

1/11/13 18:23 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Replied to myself to add that I got your email! Thank you! I will try to reply today. :D

(no subject)

29/10/13 13:22 (UTC)
ext_9226: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] snailbones.livejournal.com

I suspect you almost have to disconnect from the part of you that writes/does something artistic/is creative because you can't help but attract a degree of harsh criticism and rejection - even if you were Shakespeare, Pavarotti and Nureyev all rolled into one all-singing, dancing and writing package. Somebody would still hate you. But it's not the real you, just the part of you that creates. They don't know the real you from a hole in the ground - their loss, by the way *g*

In RL I've also been the poor sod in the publishing house who's had to reject work (don't hate me, don't work there any more *g*), and it's hardly ever been because the work wasn't good enough, and almost always purely about budget. Even something that's destined to be a winner can be rejected if the money for that type of project has run out.

Please keep plugging away - we know you're good, and it's just a matter of time and bloody minded persistence before the rest of the world catches on. ♥

(no subject)

29/10/13 16:51 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] taste-is-sweet.livejournal.com
Thank you. :D and I don't hate you for having had to reject people. Hell, I worked for an agent for screen- and television writers back in the day. I know it doesn't matter how gentle you are, it's still a rejection and someone is going to be miserable and/or furious.

I'd love it if it seemed that I was rejected out of budget considerations by the editor who condemned my stuff as both off-putting and only fairly well-written. I know that he has every right to his opinion, but that particular opinion hurt.

I will keep plugging, though. I'm fairly (ha) optimistic that someone out there will want the novel eventually, and even pay me for it. :) Thank you again for your kind words and encouragement.


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