The Road is Long and Full of Potholes
Obligatory “how I got here” post!
Hahaha. Kidding. This isn’t an obligation. This is a doing-a-backflip-while-happy-crying delight. Also one I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve been drafting in my head for years.
Really, years. Eleven, to be exact. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. This post, this “I SOLD A BOOK!!” post has been rumbling around my head since my first book went on sub over two years ago. But the writing thing? I crossed the decade mark last year.
I started writing my first book when I was twenty. I wrote other things (bad poetry, a short story here or there) as a kid and tween. But the idea of writing professionally didn’t cross my mind until college, and I didn’t start (re)writing with that goal until after I graduated. Four years after that, I had a book I was ready to query. Over a year after that, I signed with my (lovely! fabulous! brilliant!) agent. A few months of revisions after that, my agent sent that first book out on submission to editors. A year and a few months after that, during which I received a slew of rejections and did an eight-month complete rewrite as an R&R (writing for a few hours in the evenings and on weekends because I had an infant), that book ended up shelved. Over the next year, I coped by…writing another book! This book!
Which is the long way of saying that when I said I’ve been drafting this post for years, I meant it. But that doesn’t mean I always believed it was one I’d get to write. Because the road is long. And filled with potholes.
All told, between querying and sub, my road was dotted by well over 100 rejection potholes (I’m estimating because I stopped keeping track), a chasm caused by that unsold first book that I crawled up out of with my bare hands, in the snow, followed by wolves, while a kraken waited at the bottom, tentacles reaching, jaws snapping (Ok, sorry. I’m done. But, hey, overcoming that failure was hard! Accepting failure is hard! Learning to call it a “pothole” or “part of the process” instead of “failure” is HARD.), and countless stretches of doubt, thick like quicksand. But.
But, here’s my favorite part of every post like this that I’ve read: I didn’t give up.
Don’t give up.
Repeat: Don’t. Give. Up.
I’ll admit, sometimes when I read that part of other authors’ posts, I felt bitter. Or I felt jealous. Or I felt sad and defeated.
Or, I felt brighter. Hopeful. Because writing is hard. And so often, we aren’t as privy to the hard parts, the potholes and krakens and quicksand, the long, pitted paths that lead to posts like these. We don’t see all the tears and the doubt, how after my first book failed at an editorial meeting, after I’d poured every second of spare, sleep-deprived time and ounce of hope and heart into it, I sobbed in the bathroom at work. Or how each “No” after that one didn’t sound like “no” but like “you aren’t good enough” or “you’re wasting your time.” Or how in the midst of writing Immoral Code I worried I’d spent the entirety of my twenties chasing a dream I’d ultimately fail to catch. Or how I spent the day before I had my first phone call with my now-editor (who is absolutely incredible) researching jobs because if it didn’t happen with this one it was time to give up, move on, let it go. We so often don’t see these parts. But they’re there, and without those hard parts, without the rejections and failures, I wouldn’t be here.
Here, where I get to say: Immoral Code comes out from my dream publisher Knopf Books for Young Readers in Spring, 2019! Follow me here or on twitter (@lillianjclark) for updates!