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  • Holly J

a reflection on writing in 2019

I've had this title up for awhile and I'm still sitting here, debating whether I want to talk about this or not. But I've always found writing posts like this to be cathartic, so here goes. It was a mostly down writing year for me. I started out 2019 strong. I had two finished books by mid-January (a YA college contemporary and a YA fantasy), and I was gathering agents and writing queries. Pitch Wars 2018 hadn't worked out for me, so I already had a synopsis, though I still suck at writing them. I'd had some form of rejection because of that, and because pitching for PitMad in December 2018 also hadn't gone well. But I was still feeling good, because I had two books, and I knew that cold querying worked for others. So I began to do that.


It did... not go well. I did a round with my college contemporary before I put it away. I wasn't confident enough in it. I don't write contemporaries with strong, unique hooks, and I know this about myself. But I thought my fantasy would at least go better, so I waited for feedback and ended up breaking apart so much of it only to put it back together again within a month. (I revise REALLY fast, compared to how long it takes me to draft something). So once I was finished, I tried to pitch it in another PitMad in June, and was promptly rejected just as strongly as before. I had a single like from an editor at an indie press, but I didn't submit because my focus was on an agent. That was it, though.


I thought I was prepared for rejection, and although I'm highly sensitive to it, I went into this work understanding that it wasn't going to be easy. I never thought it would be. But there was something so... exquisitely painful about putting myself out there in front of all of Twitter and getting so thoroughly rejected twice. I felt vulnerable to everyone who followed me, and laughed at, and torn apart after seeing dozens of other people get hundreds of likes and agents soon after. So I burrowed into myself, and I wallowed a bit, but I didn't stop working at it. I began to cold query the YA fantasy in the summer, but after about a dozen rejections, it was clear to me that something wasn't right. But I was too exhausted and broken to fix it.


During all of this, my personal life was getting worse and worse. My job became hell for me, and my mental health was taking hit after hit. By the time September showed up, I just wanted to do something that wasn't setting myself up for rejection. When it came to drafting new words, I only had around 19k of an adult fantasy, a villain origin story that I'm still not sure I have the writing chops to do. I caught a tweet about Pacemaker, something I'd looked at before but not too closely, and since drafting something new had been a huge struggle the whole year, I decided to give it a try. And I spent the worst months of 2019 working my ass off at it. Before the end of the year, I was a little over 100,000 words.


I'm still working on this WIP, and I'm hoping to finish it by the end of January. But sadly, I didn't end 2019 with a new, finished book. It sucks. It sucks reflecting on how hard it was and how awful I felt and how I'm not even sure I could sell this one later on. (That's not entirely mattered to me before, but it's something I have thought about as I've continued putting my energy and time into it). I did write two short stories, one of which won a contest, and I fixed my YA fantasy (again), so it wasn't a complete waste? But I'm going to have to start querying again soon, and I'm not looking forward to it at all. I feel better than I did before, but a part of me almost doesn't even want to do it.


I know the rejection is never going to end. I'm not naive. I've spent too long in the Twitter community to not understand how publishing works. Rejection's a part of it. And so is struggling with writing and insecurity and the vulnerability in putting a piece of your heart out there for others to criticize and dismiss. And while I've toyed with the idea of going back to school for something else, it'll never compare to how badly I want my dream of being an author to come true. So I'm going to keep trying, and I'm going to make lofty goals and I'm going to say fuck you to the awfulness of 2019. It's 2020; it's time for a fresh start. Because I have so many stories in me that deserve to be written.

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