Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stubborn or Stupid?

Okay, so today, I invited Gretchen McNeil to take over the blog. I wanted to post on perseverance, but you've all heard (and are bored by) my story. So welcome Gretchen!

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I'm Irish, so this question comes up frequently. In my personal life ("But mom, a street magician can totally make a decent living!"), in my choice of careers ("Okay, so I'm making the move from opera singer to circus clown. Awesome, right?") my existence has been a series of questionable choices.

Writing was really just par for the course.

(Both of those quotes were from real conversations I had with my mom, by the way. Bless her.)

Stubborn or stupid. When you write your first novel, there's an element of each that comes into play. I was stupid because I literally had no idea what I was getting into - both in terms of the actual technique of writing and the business of getting published. I was stubborn because in the face of insurmountable odds, I kept at it.

I wrote a novel. My first. And let me be frank: it sucked donkey balls. No joke. I pull it out sometimes just to remind myself how far I've come. I queried 137 agents with that manuscript and surprise, surprise - no takers. SHOCKING.

On the upside, I learned how to write. It's a craft (as much as I loathe myself for saying that) and you have to learn not only the tricks and pitfalls of the trade, but how you as an individual writer work. I learned how to write, and when I finished my next manuscript, I believed I had something special on my hands.

So did some other people. I had four offers of representation within two weeks.

Cue Beethoven's 9th Symphony complete with fireworks. I've arrived! This is it! I'm going to sell this book at auction and two years from now I'll be accepting the Oscar for the screenplay I adapted FROM MY OWN NOVEL!!!!

No joke, I half composed the acceptance speech in my head.

But things don't always happen the way we think they will. That manuscript didn't sell. It languished in submission land with a few close calls and a lot of passes.

Cue Chopin's Funeral March and crack open a bottle of wine, por favor.

It was a tough time. On the one hand I had an agent who really believed in me. On the other, I was convinced I'd never have a good idea again and would never be able to finish another manuscript and OH MY GOD WHY DON'T I JUST GIVE UP NOW AND SAVE MYSELF THE MISERY!

My inner monologues are so dramatic sometimes.

Stubborn or stupid. I refused to give up. Through fits and starts I wrote another manuscript. Better. Faster. Stronger. I loved it. My agent loved it.

An editor loved it.

POSSESS was born from a tough time. I had gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and was half-convinced I'd never write anything ever again. But I'm stubborn. And a little bit stupid. I absolutely refused to give up, and trust me, if POSSESS hadn't sold I'd have been looking at some major life reevaluation. But because I refused to give up, here I am with a book coming out in just a few months. It wasn't the book I thought I'd publish first, but I'm still here.

Stubborn and stupid. And loving every minute.

Gretchen McNeil writes. YA mostly and she's repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown. Her debut YA novel POSSESS will be published by Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins, August 23, 2011. She's a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she currently sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. She's a founding member of vlog group the YARebels where she can be seen as "Monday" and an active member of The Enchanted Inkpot, a group blog of YA and middle grade fantasy writers.

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I won't lie, I'm sort of a fangirl for Gretchen. Be sure to follow her blog!

And are you stubborn or stupid? Wait. Don't answer that... Or do...

52 comments:

Debra L. Schubert said...

Love this post! Thanks, Elana, for your wonderful blog, and thank you Gretchen, for eloquently voicing writer's angst and making me smile in the process. I think, "It sucked donkey balls" is now my favorite phrase.

I hope to be on submission one of these days, and know it can be a brutal time. (I imagine it will suck donkey balls.) Can't wait to read your book. Thanks for the inspiration.

Theresa Milstein said...

Great guest post, Gretchen. Believing in yourself and having an agent believing in you has paid off. Good luck with the book! Gorgeous cover.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post Gretchen. Your story is so inspiring. I've been working on my first manuscript for years and have learned so much about the craft of writing from revising it. Good luck with your book. Can't wait to read it.

Paul Greci said...

Love this post, Gretchen!! Way more stubborn than stupid, that's what I think!

Renae said...

Love this post Gretchen. What an inspiring story. I wish you the best with your book, I can't wait to read it!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post, Gretchen. It's a great reminder that landing an agent (or four) doesn't necessarily mean your novel will sell, but if you give up, you most certainly won't sell anything.

Matthew Rush said...

I love this.

Lydia Sharp said...

"It wasn't the book I thought I'd publish first, but I'm still here."

Fabulous post! I always think the book I'm currently writing is going to be IT, but alas, none of them have been IT yet. But still, I keep going. And whether it's from stubbornness or stupidity, I'm not sure.

Jen Daiker said...

Gretchen you rock my world. Of course you would, otherwise Elana wouldn't have put you on here (lucky).

That being said I needed this. I'm currently in the waiting game for publication and I think you just opened up a door for me. The ability to keep writing while waiting.

It's important to keep on. Stubborn and stupid I think go hand and hand and as a writer I think we're supposed to have both, lol. It's the only way to survive.

Tracy said...

I know it's a little redundant to say "great post" at this point, but it is what it is. :)

I think the biggest fear/hurdle we have to overcome is realizing we have GOT to push through that fear of "Crap, what if this is the only good idea I ever have and it's not good enough?!?"

Yay for the stubborn and stupid!!

Michelle McLean said...

I'm stubborn AND stupid and proud of it :) Awesome post!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great guest post, Gretchen. I can't wait until I can get my hands on your book. It looks awesome.

Thanks for having her over, Elana. I guess I'm both stubborn and stupid. (I hope more of the former than the latter after all this time). Here's hoping someday I'll find the right balance between the two and join you in the published author circle. =o)

Ishta Mercurio said...

GREAT post! And, um... I'm both stubborn AND stupid. Just ask my parents. And my spouse.

And POSSESS looks AMAZING.

Angela Felsted said...

Here's to being a little bit stupid and a little bit stubborn. I love this post!

Hannah Kincade said...

Stubborn...no, stupid! Okay, I'm both. I love this post! I have to be stubborn and stupid for still writing this long with slim results. LOL!

Tracey Neithercott said...

I think I'm a little bit of both. I'm going to tell myself I'm more stubborn than stupid, though.

I had no idea Gretchen was a circus performer. That makes her so much cooler.

A. Grey said...

I am both. Stupid because I keep trying (still looking for an agent) and stubborn because I won't stop writing until they pull the pen from my cold dead fingers.

Thankfully, I am Irish/Italian. So I can first suffer fits of Sicilian hair-rending and then stand with a clenched fist and vow never to give up the fight.

Robert Guthrie said...

It's great that the gut doesn't listen to rationality.

Carolyn V said...

Great post Gretchen! I had no idea what I was getting into when I started writing either. But...I still love it. =)

L.J. Boldyrev said...

Great post, Gretchen! Can't wait for POSSESS!

Kelly Lyman said...

Thanks for this post. It really is encouraging to me as an aspiring writer to hear about the perseverance that others have in this writing world. I am both stubborn and stupid. Sometimes they balance each other out and other times, one takes the front seat. It just depends on the day!

Shari said...

It was wonderful to meet you, Gretchen. Best of luck with your book. Your cover is quite amazing. And, yes, I'm stupid.

Laura Marcella said...

I'm a healthy combination of both stubbornness and stupidity, ha!

Christine Fonseca said...

Gretchen - THIS is why I LOVE YOU!!! Your post was every bit as fab as I knew it would be! HUGS

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great, great story. Thank you so much Gretchen for sharing it. And thank you Elana for asking her to! :-)

Patti said...

I think you have to be a little of both in this business. Great story and that cover is awesome.

Joylene Butler said...

Wow, what a fabulous cover. I couldn't take my eyes off it. Have a wonderful adventure, Gretchen. I'm betting it'll be quite a ride.

Gretchen McNeil said...

Is it just me or should we get TEAM STUBBORN AND STUPID t-shirts made?

:)

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, my first ms was so bad it sucked camel balls!

Thanks for the post, Gretchen! It helps to know that persistence (and craft) pays off in the end!

T C Mckee said...

Loved this post. Brings it all into perspective. We're all different but much the same. She also had me at donkey balls. Just saying.

lbdiamond said...

Congrats, Gretchen! Lovely post.

Sara B. Larson said...

THank you for this post Gretchen, it could have been written solely for me, except that I know others will love it, too. This path sounds familiar to my own, I just hope mine ends as happily as yours.

I am both stupid and stubborn, and will be until the bitter end. Which had better be publication! ;)

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Congrats on the book! I never tire of hearing stories like these.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

What an amazing and inspiring story. Thank you so much for sharing, Gretchen! :) That cover is SO amazing!! :D

Donea Lee said...

Ok - that was awesome. Donkey-ball suckage in my writing? I relate. So, yes - I'm probably a bit stupid. But, I keep at it. So, guess I'm stubborn, too! Thanks for the inspiring words and love the "Possess" cover, btw!

Sharla Scroggs said...

This was so funny and true and relatable!!! I remember when you were writing the second, and when you got your agent. Such growing up we've done together...lol :)

My first sucked too, and my second got me my agent and is now on sub....deep breaths. So I can relate to stupid and stubborn.

Kudos to you, girl! I'm proud of you! And can't wait to read your book...that is what our dreams are made of, right there.

Ghenet said...

Such an inspiring story! I think all writers have to be a bit stubborn and stupid to get through the crazy journey to publication.

POSSESS looks awesome!

Stephsco said...

This is definitely encouraging, thanks! I tend to think it's so hard to get an agent and get published, why bother, but then I remember how much I like writing! I want to get better and publishing gives me something to strive for. Thanks for not giving up, you provided a good story for the rest of us :)

Marsha Sigman said...

How cool is she???

I'm a fan already.lol Of course, she does not compare to you...wait, do you sing? hahha

I saw the cutest pic today and thought of you. Going to email it.

Jeff King said...

Congrats, Gretchen--love the post.

M.B. West said...

Great post! Thanks, Gretchen and Elana. :)

Stephanie Faris said...

I say neither stubborn nor stupid but persevering!

Oh gosh, my first book didn't sell, nor did my second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. I'd been writing for years before I finally landed an agent and we've already put two of my books out there and no bites. If I can stick it out, anyone can! I just keep writing because I love to write and if I die tomorrow, at least I can say I spent my life doing something I loved doing. (When I wasn't working full-time at my day job!)

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm both. I wish I was a little more stubborn and a little less stupid, though. It would help with the foot-in-mouth, part.

Jessica Love said...

What a fantastic post, Gretchen! I love your story!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great story - thanks so much for sharing! I'm afraid I've got some stubborn and some stupid floating around in this messy old brain :)

Keely said...

So I totally need a stubborn and stupid T-shirt!
Love the post Gretchen I'm on my third right now and hoping to follow in your sparkly footsteps. I can't wait to read POSSESS, I know it's going to be simply dazzling!

Francesca Amendolia said...

"Be stubborn." This was perhaps what I most needed to hear this week. The serendipity of the interwebs is clearly insisting that I persevere (even though right now it feels like a stupid choice) and I will oblige. Thanks!

No Thought 2 Small said...

Thanks for the post! It was a great uplift! Makes me want to go home and keep working at it!

ali said...

Brilliant. Thanks Gretchen and Elana! And holy freakin-gorgeous cover, Gretchen! Congratulations!

Christina Lee said...

OH Gretchen I heart you for this post (and for other reasons as well)!! xoxo

HowLynnTime said...

Wait you only wrote ONE that did that? Lol freaking genius show-er off-er! hehehe

Maybe I am a bit more stupid-er - cause I have a few more. My Queries Still perform in that realm - shading toward green I believe - grin.

Hey great post and thanks so much for sharing!

Aleeza said...

OMG GRETCHEN'S AWESOME...! seriously, i had no idea she'd gone through so much! so inspiring, this post, really. :)

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