You can have my absence of faith

Contents of Julie’s head as she checks email during a lunch break:

Sigh. My first formal pass on representation for the werewolf novel. Oh, well. That’s how it goes. I just have to send it to somebody else. There are a lot of agents in the world after all. It’s a pretty nicely worded rejection, really. You know. Encouraging.

I wonder why she didn’t like it. Do I need to rewrite the beginning? Is the beginning boring? It probably is, isn’t it? I bet the beginning is boring. I should rewrite the beginning again.

But maybe it’s the refined, rewritten version that’s boring. Maybe I need to go back to the first version that people critiqued and found interesting, maybe that’s better. I mean, it wasn’t as polished, but maybe it was more interesting. How can you tell? How can you tell which version is actually better? What if I polished all the life out of it? I’m too close to it. I can’t even tell anymore.

Maybe I should rewrite the whole thing in third person past tense. I mean, I wrote most of it in first person present because that’s what seemed to work, but maybe now that’s the problem. Before I send it to anyone else I should rewrite the whole thing in third person past tense. Or the first fifty pages, anyway. I should totally do that. Should I do that?

Should I keep working on the sequel? Maybe I should stop working on the sequel. It’s stupid to write a sequel when you haven’t sold the first one, anyway. I mean, it seemed like a good idea a few months ago. I thought it was a great idea to already have a whole trilogy written by the time I sold the first one. But what if I never do sell the first one? I’ll have wasted years of my life by that point. I should have cleaned the house yesterday instead of working on the sequel. Then I’d have a clean house, at least.

I should work on something else. I should write a completely different book. What’s selling now? I mean, better than werewolves? Maybe I should write that. Maybe I should write about something less overdone than werewolves. I should take another look at that mummy concept I had. Or take another look at that alternate-world fantasy. I could make it more steampunky. Maybe that would help. Maybe that would be better.

Oh, who am I kidding? Nothing will be better. I can’t write. I’ll never sell this stupid book. I’ll never sell any of my stupid books. Why do I bother? I could’ve just gone to the movies. I mean, even if I do sell it, it’s not like it’s going to make me any money.
What’s the point? Nobody reads anymore anyway.

I have, as I like to point out, severe submitaphobia.

I fear submitting because I fear rejection. Duh. Why else? But sometimes I am able to submit things. If I send it out right away, and if it gets published the first place it gets sent, then, okay. Otherwise, I almost never manage to send something to a second place. And if it sits around too long without getting sent anywhere, then somehow I can’t bring myself to send it anywhere.

My big revelation today was realizing that what happens is, when something is rejected, I lose faith in it.

When it sits around unsubmitted, I also lose faith in it. It’s like I have this little balloon of faith that either gets popped all at once by the first rejection, or gradually leaks out even if nobody touches it. And then it’s gone. I have no faith in the work anymore. So I fear the big pop, and shy away from it, even though I know full well that the faith is going to leak out anyway. But at least if it leaks out gradually through neglect, I’m not watching it happen, so it has a less profound emotional effect.

It would be bad enough, I suppose, if I just lost faith in the work. But I tend to start losing faith in myself as a writer. I lose faith in the act of writing. It no longer seems worth doing. In fact, nothing at all seems worth doing.

I have lost faith in life itself.

Then I’m depressed and I want to cry.

It’s hard for me to have faith. My brain seems to run on doubt. I kind of doubt everything all the time and I don’t even know if there’s anything to be done about that. I’m prone to worrying that really absurd things are going to happen, or have already happened. I’m inclined to feel that reality itself isn’t really real. (Something I have decided to call "Philip K. Dick Syndrome.")

Even when I was younger and still going to church, it wasn’t faith that kept me there, but doubt — doubt that my own perceptions could be trusted, doubt that reality was what it seemed. I conceded my own doubts to their appearance of certainty, until the moment when I finally realized that their certainty was no better earned than my doubt. They didn’t know anything I didn’t know. They just felt differently about it.

When my faith evaporates, it take a little while to get it back again. I have to give myself an existentialist pep talk. Existentialist pep talks are kind of funny, because they always start with "well, since we’re all going to die eventually anyway…"

Anyway, thanks for listening, and if you have good ideas on agents or publishers, send ’em my way.


  1. Crazy thought…

    Self publish as ebook on Amazon? Then work on a different book until you see how the werewolf book sells.

  2. I’m so glad you sent it out! Yay you!

    I would advise not to start tweaking till you’ve sent it out at least 5 times.

    Also, I would totally make you up a list of agents to send it to, if you’ll swear to send it to them! ;)

    1. Author

      I totally pinky swear!

      Five sounds like a good number.

      And thank you — it really helps me to get something approaching an objective opinion. That’s part of the whole losing faith part, is that I suddenly think it means I’m doing everything wrong, even if I’m doing it exactly right, I just have to do it more times before it pays off. So without some kind of external check I can second-guess myself into total oblivion.

      You’re the best! :)

  3. Author

    Thank you! That’s kind of what I thought. But, you know… self doubt is self doubt…

  4. Have you been reading my mind?

    And now I’m re-writing my novel–*back* to first person.

    But it’s better. I know it is.

    Hang in there, and listen to Tina!

    1. Author

      Ha, no! But I imagine everyone goes through this kind of thing. Except maybe Tina…

  5. I know exactly what you mean when you say you seem to run on doubt instead of faith. I can picture your little leaking balloon of faith perfectly.

    Your musings on writing (and on life in general) are fascinating to read, do not give up. I’ve been reading and re-reading my copies of The Goth House for ages now, they sit on the shelf next to my Sandman graphic novels, and I for one would like to add some novels to my Julie McGalliard collection.

  6. All I can say is anything truly good and truly worthwhile is often a result of extreme persistence. I am with tina….don’t change it until you have five rejections…than maybe there is something to think about. I know so many people who have sent out 20, 30, 40 maybe more queries. If the book feels right in your gut then you really are onto something, try again :) and hugs!!!! This is a hard thing to do and you at least submitted. So many people don’t.

  7. Would have thought what with the success of Twilight, you’d have an interested publisher. Keep trying though

    1. Author

      Trying to find an agent right now, hopefully the agent will find the publisher. Of course, when something is “hot” that means there’s a market for it, sure, but also lots of competition.

  8. Rejection is hard, but I think it helps to have that plan in place before you send it out the first time. If this place says no, then I send it to this place. Then this place, etc. That way the wallowing doesn’t obscure your original intent, and you can bolster your leaking faith with the idea that you’re at least *doing* something.

    It’s always worth a try. I mean, eventually we’re all going to die anyway, right? :p

    1. Author

      I’ve actually tried that method in the past and it didn’t work. It just became yet another barrier to action — oh, I can’t send it out to this one place until I’ve picked a second place!

  9. Squared shoulders, chin up

    Submit it again, please! I want to read it, and I really want to be able to buy a good ol’ fashioned paper copy that you can sign for me (also, i totally feel your pain. Well, not yours, mine. But I think they might be cousins).


    1. Author

      Re: Squared shoulders, chin up

      I have promised Tina that I will keep trying to find an agent. I pinky-swore! So I have to do it.

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