I could choose to keep my feet upon the beaten path
Never cross the open field for the one snake in the grass
But I’d rather risk my heart then never get the chance to find my way, to find my way
I will be here, I will be strong
I’ll face my fears when the night is long
And still go on…
I will be brave, I will be bold
Follow my faith to a higher road
And I’m not there yet but I will be…
~Melinda Doolittle, “I Will Be”
So it’s been nearly two months since I’ve written here. I really wish I could say that in those two months an agent responded to a query letter, asked to read the whole manuscript, and wanted to represent me and my books. I really, really, really wish I could say that. It’s something I hope and pray for every day … and I have to admit, it’s really tough not to get discouraged with something like this. Actually, wait, that’s a lie. It’s more like it’s impossible not to get discouraged with something like this. I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be easy. I knew what a difficult industry publishing is to break into. I knew it could take years to get published, if you’re even lucky enough to get to that point. I knew that with something like this, you get a hundred rejections before someone takes a chance on you. What I didn’t know was what a profound effect that can have on you. It’s been over a year and a half now since I first began writing this series. It’s become a part of my life, a part of me, like I can’t even begin to explain. It’s like the characters are a part of me, like the story is a part of who I am. These books aren’t just a part of me, they’re a very important part of me. They’re a part of me in a way that I really can’t quite explain. That makes this journey to get them published a deeply personal one – which can be very, very difficult when you don’t get the response you want from a literary agent, or when you don’t hear back from them at all. It hurts. It hurts a lot. And it can be very discouraging. It can make you feel like your dream is never going to come true. Been there, done that, sincerely hope I soon won’t ever have to be there again.
This quest to get my books published is an uncertain one. It can be discouraging, and there have been many times when it’s made me question myself. I’m a firm believer in the phrase “everything happens for a reason,” but there have been times when I’ve wondered if maybe this isn’t meant to be. It’s hard to put my life into this every day for over a year and a half and to hear that the idea isn’t what an agent is looking for. I do my best not to focus on that. I do my best to focus on the positive responses I’ve received, on the kind commentary and advice that several agents have been nice enough to give. I’ve learned so many important lessons through this journey, more than I can count. One of them is this: it’s okay to be discouraged, it’s okay to allow yourself to feel what you feel. But it’s not okay to let that stop you. You need to allow yourself to experience your emotions, but you also need to remember to take what discourages you and instead use it to encourage you. Easier said than done, I know – trust me, I know. But you have to have faith and believe that it’ll be worth it. You have to believe in yourself no matter what, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard.
That brings me to the lyrics I chose for this entry. You know how sometimes there’s a song that inspires you from the very first time you hear it? Melinda’s “I Will Be” is that song for me. It’s a song about faith, about hope, and about belief – in your dreams, in destiny, and in yourself. It’s a song about doing what you can to make your dreams come true. It’s about facing your fears and conquering them. It’s about knowing that the path ahead may be a challenging one, but choosing to travel that path in spite of – and maybe even because of – that. It would be easy for us to choose to keep our feet along the beaten path – to travel that safe road. It would be easy for us to take that path instead of crossing the wide, open field that’s in front of us. It would be easy for us to look at that snake and see it as a deterrent. But just because something’s easy doesn’t mean it’s right. It doesn’t mean it’s the best path for us. Sometimes we need to step outside our comfort zones – especially if the path to your dream come true involves just this. I know I’ve certainly had to do that in this journey of mine. When I started writing this series, I never dreamed it would turn into what it has. I never dreamed it would become such an important and lasting part of me. It never once occurred to me that it was something I would want to publish one day. And now? Now I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life, I honestly can’t. It means the world to me, it’s like it’s a piece of my heart. So yes, it IS like I’m risking my heart every time I send out a query letter. And even after sending them out for six months now (wow, did I get momentarily discouraged when I realized how long it’s been already), it’s still just as important to me. And see, that’s how I know I can never give up on this, no matter how discouraged I may feel sometimes. Because even though not many people know it yet, it’s like this series is my baby. Writing this is who I am, and no one can ever take that away from me. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, I understand that. Sometimes we have to risk our hearts to find our way – sometimes we have to risk our hearts when we’ve already found our way.
Is it still a frightening prospect? Of course. Anytime you put your heart out there for someone, in any aspect of your life, it’s frightening. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be afraid because that means you’re invested, that you care. It’s okay as long as you face those fears, as long as you remain strong and determined, and you still go on. That is exactly what I am doing. I certainly have my moments of discouragement – more than I’d care to admit – but I always try my very hardest to turn them into moments of encouragement instead. I focus on the steps in this process that I’ve already achieved – writing the books (2500 pages worth so far!), editing the books, researching, writing query letters and synposes, and more. This is definitely a long process with so many different parts. So much has gone into it – but truly, every minute has been a pure joy. I love it more than words can express, and that alone tells me I can’t give up on this. I will never stop believing in this and I will never stop doing everything in my power to turn this dream into a reality, no matter how long it takes. Because when you want something so badly, when you want it with all your heart, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You have to be brave and bold; you have to do things that may require you to step out of that comfort zone. It’s only when you dare to achieve your dreams that they actually come true. You have to persevere even when the path seems so long. You have to be risk your heart by walking across that open field. Because if you don’t, who will?
I’m still working on query letters for agents (as well as finishing up the sequel – aka books 5 through 8 … I’m sure you all will be supremely shocked to know it’s way longer than I had originally intended and I had to add five additional chapters to it!! But that’s okay, because I am absolutely ADORING every minute of writing it). I won’t stop until I’ve queried every single literary agent who deals with women’s fiction and/or romance novels. In the meantime, I’m also exploring self-publishing options. Of course, my goal will always remain the same – find a literary agent and publisher who believe in these books enough to take a chance on them, to take a chance on me. But in the meantime, I have to admit, I’m getting very excited about the idea of self-publishing. I’ve found what seems to be a terrific company that would allow me to publish both electronic and hard copies of the novels. I’m researching it now, and I have to admit, the idea of it gets more and more exciting every day. I can’t quite explain it, but even just thinking about it makes me more happy than words can come close to expressing. I so badly want this to happen, and the thought that it could – even in a nontraditional sense – is beyond exciting. That said, I’m still hoping that one day soon I’ll get the response that I’m praying for from a literary agent. This book series is my baby, writing it is such an important part of me. It will be forever. I think Melinda herself really explained it perfectly when she said that I’m meant to be a writer, that writing is what I do, it’s who I am. I will never, ever, ever forget that, ever. I couldn’t think of any more fitting way to explain what this dream means to me. Writing is who I am, and I won’t stop until it’s my career. I’m not there yet, but I will be…