They Call it the Trenches
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
To be an effective writer, you have to live with your emotions on the surface, all exposed and raw. You must dig deep into the pit of fear and vulnerability and live there for a good, long while. Let me tell you, it's draining. But it's also worth it.
Now, take that vulnerable, bleeding heart, and throw it into a competition where the gatekeepers decide what projects have a heartbeat and which ones get thrown back to the pit of despair. By the way, I never pass up a chance for a good Princess Bride reference...
To do the writing bit, you must be willing to be soft and open but then in a blink, it's now time to thicken your skin and don your armor, because rejection will be flying at you at warp speed. Some responses will be swift, like a guillotine. I've seen some come in as quick as one hour. Others will be a slow, painful death where the agents ask for a partial or full manuscript, only to tell you months later that your work belongs back in the drawer of projects that will never see the light of day.
Agents are generally kind people who care about books and authors and the beauty of the written word. But they also live in the cut-throat world of publishing where marketability reigns supreme. You must wow them, and you must do it by the first line. Ninety-nine percent of submissions will be rejected, and even wonderful manuscripts get passed over for various unknown reasons. That's the cold, hard truth of it. You have to be talented, tenacious, and so full of grit you eat rejections for breakfast and carry on without a flinch. You must be resilient and believe in your project with everything you have because when your email piles up with nos there needs to be something that breathes inside of you, keep going.
Maybe your manuscript isn't good enough, or maybe it isn't ready, or maybe YOU aren't ready. But you can't close up shop because you love this crazy, wild book world and you might die if you don't write the stories that are in your heart. That is not an exaggeration. Through all the rejections and tears and disappointments, you can't lose that vulnerability that your next project demands. You can't lose your voice.
They call it the trenches for a reason. We are in a battle for our art, a battle to be seen and heard. A sliver of hope keeps us trying because someday, you'll get that yes and your life will change. You'll still be the same writer, of course, but you'll have proved to everyone and yourself that you're good enough.
The truth is, it's not about being good enough. It's a journey of discovery. Where we find out what makes us believe and hope and better understand the human condition. Connect to that. Celebrate that. Because that is where the real writers live, not in the query trenches.
But I'll still be out there with the rest of the authors, vying for our moment in the sun. It's in the early morning hours that I write my stories and dream of my future as an author. And I'll continue doing that until my old mind someday gives out (hopefully not for a very, very long time). But on the side, I'll be querying.
See you out there, warriors.