Over eleven years ago, I finished my first novel. I’d written it in about three months, writing during my first baby’s naptime or late at night while she slept and my husband was at work. I wrote feverishly, passionately, uninhibitedly. I wrote the hard stuff, intertwining family history with my fiction. I was extremely proud of the result, and blind to the fact that it was bad, bad, bad.
I didn’t know much about revision back then, besides the fact that you should do it. So I did it, at least I thought I did it. In reality, I did some line edits. Then I did that thing that amateur writers do: I sent out a massive batch of query letters. Seventy, to be exact. And I got back roughly that many rejections. My favorite one was my own query letter sent back with a red “NO” written on top. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but around rejection forty or fifty I began to dread checking the mail.
I wrote another book. And another. And another. I took classes, and went to conferences, but after the fourth book I knew I needed something else. So I came to Hamline.
Now here I am. It’s been over two years since I graduated. I’ve published a nonfiction book. I’m teaching at a local community college. I’m living the dream, really.
And I’m sitting on a novel, the novel I wrote at Hamline, the novel I’ve done extensive revisions on, the novel that I know is the best thing I’ve ever written. I’ve gotten feedback from friends and fellow writers, I’ve used their advice and accepted praise. I know it’s good. Or at least I think it’s good. Or I think it’s somewhat good some of the time.
I know the next step for this project is either paying someone professional to give me feedback (which I can’t really afford to do) or start submitting. I know really I should be submitting. But when I think of submitting, I feel sick, and I see that bright red “NO” in my mind.
Last year I was here too. I made a New Year’s Resolution to try to get published in 2017. But then another nonfiction book opportunity came up, and I decided that counted. Technically I sold a book in 2017. The novel could wait.
Now it’s a new year, 2018, and I’m making the same resolution to try to sell this book. Or at least send out those query letters, and try to thicken my skin some more. The thought makes me feel ill, I’d much rather write a new novel than compose that letter. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat, and are sitting on a novel or a picture book or a poem or a short story.
So I challenge you to join me. Go grab that copy of “Writer’s Market,” dust off that query letter, and send out those submissions!
If I can gather the courage to send those letters, you can too. Cause this book I’m sitting on is good, and should be read. At least, I think it’s good most of the time.
Olivia Ghafoerkhan (MFAC ’15) has an MFA in writing for children and young adults and teaches composition at a community college in Virginia. She is the author of Sexual Assault: The Ultimate Guide and is working on a nonfiction book on siblings. She has a circus of five kids at home.