New Year's Resolution off to a Shaky (?) Start

Last week I wrote about how I want to submit once a week in 2013. I attempted this in 2009, and it lasted a few weeks. Last year, I did okay committing to one submission a month, but even that was a bit of a challenge. Because, like many writers, I really dislike the submission process. My introverted nature makes me uncomfortable with “selling myself,” even though I really do believe in the stories I have to tell, and even though it’s clearer than ever to me now that what I truly want to be is a writer.

But there’s a certain despair from knowing something will never be perfect, that there are in fact hundreds of ways to tell the same story, and you could go crazy uncovering which one is “right.” I began submitting Ever This Day after I had put it through enough rounds that it felt “done” to me. All the writing advice urges you to revise, revise, and revise some more. But revision can be a black hole; if you’re so paralyzed about whether the story is the best it can possibly be, it’s still just as unpublished as something you’ve created as a one-off first draft. At some point, you need to “abandon” revisions and see how the world responds. (Orson Scott Card is a little notorious for wanting to revise his books after they’ve already been published, proof that that urge never really goes away.)

So the question weighing on my mind is: at what point do you stop revising? I told myself I would submit Ever This Day for a year; after that, I would re-evaluate it, possibly considering whether I wanted to put it through another round or two of revisions before submitting it again. That year is up now, and the book has earned about 10 rejections — which, in the big scheme of things, isn’t actually that many. I read once that you shouldn’t make major changes or assume something isn’t ready for publication until you get at least 30 rejections; up to that point, you can assume rejections are just a matter of personal taste. So I’m tempted to make 30 rejections, rather than a year, my new “benchmark.”

Here’s what it comes down to: my intent to re-evaluate Ever This Day after a year of sending it out and my intent to submit once a week in 2013 are at odds with one another. And the truth is, I balk at the thought of revising ETD again without professional guidance (meaning, I’d be more than happy to give it a major rework on the advice of an agent or editor). I’m not ready to be done with the story; it still hooks into me in a way that keeps me believing in it. But I don’t want to revise it right now. I’d rather start a reworking of my Rapunzel story from NaNoWriMo, which has managed to get me more excited than any fiction has in a long, long time. I don’t want to lose that momentum. And, on a more short-term note, I really want to have a bit of it ready to show my writers group when I meet with them in person at the end of the month.

So I’m going to keep submitting Ever This Day this year, while revising the Rapunzel and Rumplestiltskin stories, blogging, engaging in various promotions for Hungering and Thirsting for Justice (which recently got a good review here and a mention in the National Catholic Reporter), and continuing to study the craft and the industry. Already, my writing energy is divided in so many directions — but at the same time, I feel like I’ve never loved or wanted to do this more.

I’ve debated posting my query here before, and I’ve ultimately decided to reserve it for agents’ and editors’ eyes, especially since each submission is tailored to the recipient. But I am going to post the synopsis below (which is revised from the one I used last year), in case anyone is curious about what this story is actually about. Feedback is welcome.

All Maddy wants is for life to go back to how it was.

Before her dad lost his job. Before her mom was working all the time. Before the bullying. And before an experimental kiss with her best friend that cost her their friendship.

When she falls into the stream behind her house after her thirteenth birthday, she decides not to come up for air.

But then the angel appears.

Maddy is convinced the angel is Katherine, her mother’s sister who died as a baby. After their brief encounter, Maddy becomes obsessed with bringing Katherine back. When she finally returns, it comes at a high price: she’s now trapped on earth.

But Maddy promises to be at the angel’s side throughout her exile. Soon, Katherine fills every empty space in Maddy’s life. She’s as loyal as a best friend, as nurturing as a parent, and as exciting as a new crush. Maddy learns to ignore the bullying and distance herself from her family’s hardships. She shares Katherine with only one person: her two-year-old sister, Kiana.

When Kiana develops a life-threatening illness, Maddy turns to Katherine for help. Katherine refuses, and Maddy sees a dark side of the angel that may be worse than the reality Maddy sought to escape. Maddy focuses on saving Kiana first. Then, she must find a way to face life on her own—and set the angel free.