In February of 2004, I began writing "Spectacle" and I finished the first draft in August the same year. I thought I'd finished the second draft in September, and I began shooting queries out. At the time, I picked a handful of top agents who worked with my genre. (Of course, then I thought it was a literary work or a mainstream work, so some of my queries were pointless, but that's a post for another time.)
In the meantime, I started "Caldera". And it was coming along nicely.
Shortly thereafter, the rejections began rolling in. I tweaked my query letter, tightened my synopsis and my outline, and tried again. More rejections flew in.
And the depression began to set in. Looking back now, I went through the Five Stages of Grief - or at least the first four. At first I couldn't believe they were rejecting my awesome manuscript. Then I got really pissed the agenting community couldn't see how awesome my work was. Next I was trying to think of a way to bargain my way to representation - you know, thinking if I told them I'd be willing to give them a higher commission, maybe they'd rep me. And finally, the depression.
Suddenly, Caldera sucked. I couldn't look at it, let alone type another stinking word. Spectacle was still my baby, but I wasn't sure I had another book in me, especially if no one was going to buy the first one. So, I wrote... NOTHING.
I played poker instead. I watched TV instead. I tried reading other people's books... I couldn't read anything either. Everything I read sucked worse than I did, and I still couldn't sell my book. It felt absolutely hopeless.
I wish I could say a great golden light fell over me as my muse enveloped me in her motherly embrace, and all was right again. It didn't. My muse was on vacation--hanging out with some other writer who didn't stink on ice. I guess I finally booted myself in the ass, told my muse to bugger off, and got back to the business of writing. I sat down and wrote a short story, a few poems and tried to prime my pump. It worked. In January of 2006, I finally resumed work on Caldera. I finished it in June.
The rejection depression can and will thump you upside the head from time to time. I don't suppose there's any cure for it but a sale. The point is, keeping writing. Even if it's like pulling teeth, even if every word seems pointless. Get through your stages of grief and move on.
And if nothing else seems to work, remember why you started writing in the first place. If you started writing for publication, then you may be well and truly screwed, but chances are you began writing for yourself. If you never sell a single word, and you write to the best of your ability, you'll already have met your original purpose. You wrote for yourself.
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