Fiction is unfair

This could be an ongoing series: "How Fiction is Unfair," Parts I-X, but I don't want to always whine here about it. But I'm mentioning it today because I just saw an example (not from my own experience) of how the road to being published is difficult, which makes the overall fiction process seemingly unfair (and part of the larger category of L.I.F.--Life isn't Fair).

I'm not going to mention any names, but it's true: unless you're Madonna or Oprah or some other superstar, it doesn't matter if you have contacts in the publishing or agent world--it doesn't guarantee that you will get published, let alone seriously considered. It happened to me a couple of times, and it just happened to someone else. They contacted an agent of a successful writer, and they were even referred by that successful writer, but the agent wasn't interested.

If you are considering writing fiction, this is what is required: you have to complete the entire book (unlike non-fiction, where you need an outline, a marketing plan, and a few chapters). Yes, there are some lucky fiction writers who've gotten a deal from a partial manuscript or even a summary, but that's not common.

And you can't just do one draft and then contact an agent (though a few talented people do)--you have to do several drafts. That means working alone, wondering if anyone will ever be interested, and wondering if what you're doing is a waste of time.

Actually, writing isn't a waste of time. Sure, I've written a lot and I'm not yet published, but it's been both enjoyable and challenging. But what's difficult about it is that you could be working in isolation your whole life, and your words will just disappear into the ether. You might have a writing group, but you may never find a larger audience with whom you want to share your creation.

One of the satisfying aspects is writing is knowing that others are receiving it. But writing fiction is sometimes like writing in a cave, where the only response is the echo of your struggle to convey your vision.

I don't know if the person who experienced the recent disappointment feels the same way, but I wouldn't be surprised if other people have had the same experience I have: you train (through classes, writing exercises, writing groups, and reading) and write to the best of your ability to create something (sweating over the words and doing rewrites). You have no editor, no one in the business to let you know if what you're doing is acceptable. You just hope that all the time and energy you've spent will lead to tangible results. But you have no idea if you will see any fruits of your labor, because no one will let you know, except for other hopeful (even misguided) unpublished writers.

And then you get rejected. Not only do you get rejected on what you've created, but they have no interest in anything else you will write. You could say, "I'm working on X now," but they won't care, because they've deemed all your current and potential work as unacceptable.

I haven't been rejected lately, though I might be, because I submitted something somewhere. But at least I've got other things going, including some non-fiction projects, which are satisfying because there is an end to my work--I can see the results. But it doesn't mean that I'm going to give up writing fiction, because it taps into a part of myself that doesn't find an outlet elsewhere, even though teaching is still a creative endeavor.

I just know that whenever I see someone else work diligently, honestly, consistently, and responsibly and then they're shot down, I can relate.

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