I finished my first novel at the tender age of 14. A fantasy novel parked at 75,000 words. And the question naturally became, “Well, what do I do with this thing?” I’d shown it to family and friends, who either read enthusiastically or kindly, and it seemed to be reasonable enough to see what would happen with it.
So I tried my hand at querying.
I didn’t have a copy of Writer’s Market. I scarcely knew the rules. I wasn’t going to try an agent–those people were all scary. I knew the publishing houses as a genre reader. Why not give it a try?
Perhaps if I’d listed an age in my query letters, they might have been a bit more forgiving. The responses were neither quick, nor kind, nor terribly helpful. Indeed, they rendered such a shock to a budding writer’s system that it was a good 20 years before I tried again.
I didn’t stop writing. I’ve been writing continuously throughout my life. I had a short story website where I self-published my own weird hypertext fiction. I had stories on the side. NaNoWriMo gave me license to break from real life and info-dump entire first drafts in single sittings.
But publishing was always tomorrow’s problem. And I regret that I didn’t get over that sooner.
On Writing telegraphs the years of rejection letters Stephen King received as a boy through the railroad spike he used to hold them all. I don’t think I kept those initial letters. (For that matter, the novel and its two sequels are lost to antiquity.) (Trust me, it’s for the best.) It’s one thing to hear about the long struggle to get from ‘aspiring’ to ‘accomplished.’ It’s another to live through it. And it took me a long time to accept that the journey was not going to be a handful of steps.
So I’ve pulled the bandage off. There’s a faint mark on my psyche still; it had been there so long. And now I’m trying. Querying agents. Shopping stories. Editing all these manuscripts I’ve collected over time. The rejection letters are digital, but the pile is helping to build a respectable callus where my thin skin used to be.
I’ve been writing for decades.
I’m new to this.
It’s an odd dichotomy to balance. I wish I had started sooner. Because now … now, I need to make up for lost time.