When Words Fail

Back in the end of September 2013, I happened across a Tweet that would change the course of my writing life. The Mighty Chuck Wendig, crazy ninja writer of books and everything else under the sun, mentioned that a little publishing imprint called Strange Chemistry was accepting unagented submissions for potential publishing. The URL contained within said Tweet was forever burned into my mind:

Strange Chemistry Unagented Submissions 2013 

I eagerly read through the rules and regulations. One page, containing your name, address, social media outlets and a one line pitch for your novel; two pages, containing your two page synopsis of your novel; 5 chapters of your novel, or 10,000 words (depending on the length of your chapters). Check, check, and… er, I just started writing this thing.

Yep. I had only recently started writing my first full-fledged novel. At roughly 6,000 words, I was worlds away from finished, but only 4,000 from submission. I spent the last few weeks before the Halloween deadline carefully crafting those 10,000 words, the outline, and fleshing out the story that still lived on the fringe of my imagination. On October 16th, after a frenzy of writing, pulling hair out, and listening to “Party Hard” by Jesper Kyd on repeat for weeks, I submitted my little slice of heart to their open arms.

And the waiting game began.

The submissions page indicated that it could take six months to hear anything back– perfect, I thought, I can finish the damned thing! I tried to write every weekday from that point on, pushing myself to get at least 700 words on paper each day. Since life happens, that wasn’t always the case, but I was pushing. I was working towards a life goal. My little Wordbird had been pushed out of the nest, into the ferocious world, and all I could do was give it the best chance of survival. And, as a bonus for a person like me, I had a rough deadline.

I wish I could tell you I finished it that quickly. April 2014 rolled around, and my Wordbird was still only partially complete. My mind reeled at the sheer size that the creature had become; the story seemed to write itself as I watched on, changing and adding new things every time I put finger to keyboard or pencil to paper. The only problem with that? Sometimes your story needs direction that your fingers don’t know how to point to. Many days were spent writing a hundred different outlines, each one borne from the strayed thoughts of another. But I enjoyed the process- it’s fun to write a finite, solid form (my favorite being poetry), but it’s even more awe-inspiring to see your story sprawl out before you.

The editor indicated that writers were free to inquire about the process if they hadn’t heard any information within six months. As April rolled into May, I shot an email their way. In quick response, I was told that my little Wordbird was under consideration. Elated, I pushed myself even harder, pumping out 2,500 words a day, knowing that soon, I would hear the final word from the editors at SC. Of course, I knew that the most likely outcome would be a rejection letter, and that would be fine- I took a chance and threw myself out to the world, ready for judgement. I was proud of myself for that. But, in case of awesome, spontaneous acceptance, I knew I had to finish the tale.

And then, things… well, to say they went downhill is an understatement; said-hill fell into the sea, never to be seen again. I received an email, stating that my novel couldn’t be taken on, because of the following news:

On June 20th, Angry Robot, the overlords of Strange Chemistry, announced that the YA imprint was closing its doors, cancelling everything that was in motion- all future books and contracts, all prints, everything.

I was fine- it was never a sure thing, anyway, I told myself. There were thousands of submissions, I knew. I’d keep writing, finish the story, and submit it to another agent or company. I wasn’t giving up!

I have read that e-mail and news announcement about a hundred times since then. My writing has slowed to an awkward crawl. It seemed to surreal to me- one doesn’t usually hear that their novel can’t be published because the company is gone. No was fine. Yes would have been amazing. But the unfortunate in-between state of  Schrödinger’s cat was weighing on me. It could have been, but isn’t, but not because “no,” but you’ll never know what anyone thought of your work. 

I’ve written 650 words since then. This won’t stop me- that would be absolutely ridiculous; there are authors that were several books in to confirmed, contracted, bona fide series at SC- I have no space to wail and moan about something that never entirely was. Let’s be clear: I am not delusional about that part. My heart is broken for authors that got infinitely farther than myself, that are now homeless with their little wordbirds. This was just a setback that affected me in a way I didn’t expect– that I had to get off my chest, is all. Gray things, in all matters of life, make feelings complicated. I expect rejection, first and foremost- it is a business, and not everyone wins. I don’t expect worlds to collapse in on themselves, leaving hundreds of people who released their Wordbirds, stranded. It showed me that the journey doesn’t end at the signed dotted line, that things are never stable and finished.

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