Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 11, 2015

Life on the other side of “The Call”

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to write. She wasn’t thinking about getting published or becoming rich and famous (okay, maybe a little), she just wanted to write. She took writing classes, joined writer’s groups, and let the words pour forth. With a finished manuscript in hand, a writer friend suggested she should try to get published. Huh, why not?

So she joined more writer’s groups, took more workshops, partnered up with a critique buddy, wrote a query letter, researched agents, rewrote the query letter, researched more agents, joined more writer’s groups (even helped found one 😉 ), wrote another manuscript, created a website, developed a platform, wrote another query letter … yeah, okay, you get it.

She devoured every bit of generous advice from her just agented, just published author friends. And she played out scenarios of what it would be like to get “The Call” and what life would be like after “The Call.”

Then one day, she got “The Call.” She knew she was ready. She’d been working for this moment for years. The call came and the girl stood in her living room waiting for everything to change, for the harps to play, the birds to sing, for the big-girl author panties to finally fit.

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Guess what happened next.

Are you ready?

No harps, no birds (other than the one who pooped on the grill), and the big-girl author panties promptly gave me a wedgie.

Seriously? All those years imagining the perfect scenarios for revealing my big news, the way I’d feel, the changes that news would unveil … all wrong.

I thought I’d scream the news from the top of the house, squee on social media, change every bio I’ve ever written. I told my two closest writing friends and my family. Then spent the next couple of weeks texting Laura some variation of “ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod” (actually, the only variation was the punctuation at the end of those texts). And Laura would respond with some variation of “Get over yourself and announce it already” (Actually, the only variation was the level of expletives as time went on).

I was totally unprepared for how possessive I would feel about the news. After that many years, and so many near misses, I’d connected with someone who loved my writing and believed in my ability. I kept staring at my new agent’s website and my name under her client list, hitting refresh a gazillion times just to make sure. I updated my website with “represented by,” and I’d answer the “any news” questions with “actually, yes.” But the idea of broadcasting the news—that scenario I’d played out, written and edited in my head countless times—no longer appealed. This was my happy place that I’d been working so hard for and I wanted to savor it.

I thought I had all the pieces of my platform perfectly placed and ready to take me to the next level. I’d followed all the “should dos” you read about. I had a website, twitter account that I remembered to access every so often, I was active on Facebook, even had a Pinterest account although I’d never gotten around to setting up a board for the book that actually got me the agent and sold to an editor. The more I looked at everything I’d worked so hard to build, the more I realized how much more work I had ahead of me.

My to-do list went from revisions and start new project, to revisions, start new project, get author photo taken, redesign website, develop Pinterest boards, outline/research marking ideas, catch up on Goodreads reviews, go meet local bookshop owners, set up Facebook author page, and on and on and oh my god how did I ever think I was ready?!

The other side of “The Call” was suddenly looking way more stressful than I’d imagined.

I didn’t think it would change the way I felt about writing. In all the years I was querying, I never doubted my path to traditional publishing. I wanted to work with an agent who saw something in me and could help me build a career. I wanted an editor who believed in my writing and could help me polish those word rocks into diamonds. Having those people in my corner gave me a confidence boost. Suddenly the new story I’d been noodling for ages felt doable.

And yet the moment I sat down to begin writing on that new project, I got hit with a “holy poop can I do this again” panic. Now if I don’t deliver, it’s not just me I’m letting down.

For years I watched my friends sign with agents, get publishing contracts, release books into the world. I watched how they acted and reacted in public,  and I devoured their advice in private. I thought I knew exactly how I’d feel and how I would act when my time came. Not even close!

Maybe it’s because I’m not a public spectacle kinda of gal. Or maybe because I’ve embraced my inner troll. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve matured as a writer and what I thought would be the fireworks end of the journey is more of a comforting hug during the journey.

That journey, like the writing, is personal and often surprising. You may think you know where you’re headed, but things don’t always go as planned. I’ve had plenty of characters in my stories throw me plot curves. So I suppose it’s not that surprising that the well thought out scenarios for my writing career would meet with a couple of plot curves as well. The key … acknowledge and adjust.

What surprises have you found on your path to publication? Have you surprised yourself with your reaction or have you stayed the course with the mental picture you drew early on?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Orly

orly1.jpgAfter years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.

Orly's debut novel, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonigLopez or on her website, www.orlykoniglopez.com.

32 comments on “Life on the other side of “The Call””

  1. Love the post, Orly. I've often wondered what my reaction to the call would be (still waiting), but I think it will be along the same lines. Good or bad--we all react differently and isn't that what makes the world go around.

  2. "Or maybe it’s just that I’ve matured as a writer and what I thought would be the fireworks end of the journey is more of a comforting hug during the journey."

    Wow. I've read a lot of similarly timed posts, but that is the most profound thing I've ever seen in one of them. Congratulations, Orly!

    A writer friend of mine often offers this salutation, and I've only come to really appreciate it in the last year or so: Blessed be your journey.

    1. Thanks, Vaughn! 🙂

      "Blessed by your journey" ... love that. The trick is to take time to enjoy the journey and see what's happening around you rather than head down working to one goal then another then another without ever stoping to enjoy the success of each step.

  3. Exactly this!!! I couldn't imagine what life was like agented or with a book sold or whatever the next step was. It's way less glamorous than I thought!! Loved this post. Congrats on your GREAT NEWS Orly, I'm thrilled for you!! 🙂

    1. Maybe that's the "advantage" of having it take so long ... I didn't think it was overly glamorous after hearing the stories from all of my writing buds who blazed that path before me. 🙂

      But it's definitely added a layer of calm I didn't have before. Well, calm until I sit to write and the words are off sipping fru-fru drinks on a beach someplace instead. 😉

  4. I DID shout mine from the rooftops, but that probably surprises exactly no one. But besides the ones you listed, Orly, I was surprised that I MISSED querying! Yes, masochistic tendencies - and I'm in good company with all the writers out there.

    The other thing that surprised me was . . . crickets.

    I had a huge support group of other 'aspiring to sell writers', and I guess I thought there would be a similar group waiting, beyond the veil.

    Not so much.

    See, the journey to an agent (or a sale) is pretty much the same. But after, everyone heads down different paths, with different agents, publishers, and experiences. Much harder to find your 'tribe'.

    But don't think I'm complaining - I'm not!

    1. I still twitch and cringe when I see an email pop in from an agent, even when I KNOW it's not query related. Does that ever go away?

      And your tribe is still there. 🙂

    2. Your tribe is still totally here! I'm really glad that you were still living locally though and able to celebrate with OCC when you sold.

      Question: when I finally get my querying britches on and sell, will you come to the meeting? 🙂

  5. Still waiting for the call. Not expecting fireworks, though that would be awesome. Congratulations to you, and best wishes! The words won't stay on vacation forever.

    1. I'm not a fan of fireworks. Noisy and they're gone before you can fully begin to enjoy them. 🙂

      Hang true to your plan, Chris! Believe in what you want and what you're doing ... someone gave me that advice early on and I repeated it every time I started to doubt.

    1. Every step in this journey has a "holy poop" moment or fifteen. 🙂

      I think that's why I love what Vaughn's friend said so much ... You have to find the positive at each stage or you'll find yourself in a corner of a padded room playing with squeaky toys.

  6. Congrats again, Orly! I didn't shout your news from the rooftop, but I did tell my husband. Does that count? For better or worse, I still hear the "what if I can't do this again" voice in my head whenever I start a new writing project. But I'm here to say there's nothing like all the firsts you'll experience this year. Seeing your name on your agent's site, like you said, seeing your name on your publisher's site, seeing your book listed on sale sites, bookstore shelves. Well, you get the idea. Savor each and every one of them in any way that gives you joy.

    1. That totally counts, Lorrie!!! And thanks. 🙂
      I don't think those pesky what ifs ever go away, they just morph into new anxieties.

  7. It's all so very interesting. I've known a few to scream on Twitter. Some to shout and cheer, but most seem quiet to me, much like you. The shock of it al. I'm not sure how I would react, but I do know when I had full drafts requested, I had panic attacks, thinking of all I was getting myself into. So I think you handled it perfectly for you.

    Wonderful post! Thank you for putting this here. I'm sure I'll think of it time and time again!

    1. Thank you for the lovely response. 🙂

      The panic attacks ... I had a massive one over the idea of having to do readings and book clubs. Told Laura I may just bag the whole idea of getting published so I won't have to deal with it. I won't repeat what she said in polite company. 😉

  8. Orly, I understand that need to hug great news to your chest. Especially because each milestone we pass - no matter how much we wished for it - brings tremendous change.

    I'm so proud of you, and excited for you. And I can't wait to see where this journey will lead you!

  9. I love this. Especially the idea of the fireworks vs. the hug. I was definitely a fireworks gal when I first signed with my agent, and again when my book sold, but now with this next book, I feel this changing. I want to keep more to myself because I'm enjoying the quietness of it. It really is such a journey, and in some ways, it changes us, in other ways, it doesn't change much at all.

    So happy for you, Orly. Congratulations again!

    1. "in some ways, it changes us, in other ways, it doesn’t change much at all" ... So yes!!!!!!! And embracing both is important.

      Thanks so much for the sweet words, Natalia! 🙂

  10. Well, Orly, I would have been organizing a party for you if you were on the West Coast. I was so excited to hear your news. Bam! An agent. Bam! Sold book. That sure happened as a one-two knockout. Congratulations! It's okay to be proud of your accomplishment. You worked really hard for a long, long time for this. Yeah!

  11. Orly, thanks so much for sharing your "after the call" time. I'm a "soon to be published author" and had no I idea what was in store for me when it happened. My dream was a lot like yours but I'm not surprised since it was the same for me when I accomplished a dream I never truly thought would happen. But it might be that you have been so busy giving birth to an idea that has helped so many of us and caring for it for 2 years growing it into a prime organization you just never noticed all of us that still think you sit on a throne to write. Thanks for so much of your time and effort given so freely to all us writers. Now you, after turning over the reigns of WFWA to the workers you have trained, will be able to look around and see how bright your star shines. It's all out there for you to reach out and grab. You have no idea how much the writing world admires you and tries to follow you example. Just relax and have a large glass of wine. Things will come into your view and you will be amazed.

    1. Oh you just made me cry!!! 🙂
      The biggest gift from this journey is the friendship of so many amazing people. Thank you for being one of those!! And I can't wait to celebrate your release with you.

  12. I, too, relate to this, having also recently landed my first publishing contract (like yours, a two-book deal, book two of which is only just underway). You dream of the day and anticipate the excitement, of course, but not the fear and sense of overwhelm that inevitably comes along with it.

    Another wise writer friend from WFWA told me that the pressure never goes away, but the fear does. Perhaps we should order ourselves some of those "Keep Calm and Write On" posters? 🙂

    In the meantime, it's nice to have friends for the journey ahead. Thanks for being one of them, Orly--and for this post.

  13. Orly, congrats a thousand times. I totally get what you're going through. It seems we all have these moments in our lives that we strive so hard to get to and then once they've arrived there is no confetti thrown, no marching bands, no burst of confidence. We're still the same, sitting in our yoga pants, drinking coffee in front of a computer screen. You have to remind yourself on a regular basis what a huge accomplishment this is, stand up straight, throw your shoulders back and get ready to climb that next rung on the career ladder. If you can wrangle WFWA, you can do this!

  14. Sorry I'm so late replying. I believe you should celebrate your tremendous accomplishment in whatever way is most meaningful to YOU. Cannot wait to read your book. Much success!

  15. Here I am! Late to the party, but I'm here! Sorry. I've had my nose to the grindstone and just found this in my email. Congrats Orly! I am so happy for you. How many times have we thought about something for so long and then when it finally takes place, it's not at all what we thought it would be. It's crazy, right? Even though the heavens didn't open up and the birds didn't sing, still, you've been recognized for all your efforts and are on your way girl! This is fantastic news! Yay! 🙂

  16. Oh my goodness, the truth in this line: "Now if I don’t deliver, it’s not just me I’m letting down." I've totally felt that! I want to make my writing something worth all of these people banking on. Thanks for sharing your experience! And congrats.

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