As you may have heard, Western Washington has received a lot of snow in the past few days. A lot of snow for us at least.
One picturesque scene caught my eye as I was driving through this unusual wintery world. A worn old fence was deep in the snow and a thick buildup of snow coated the top of it in white. It was beautiful and a thought flashed through my mind that I’d love to stop and get a picture of that fence. The road conditions were not the best though, so I passed by as I continued to think about that snow covered fence. What would I have done with a picture of it? I mean it was beautiful, no doubt, but was it unique enough for anyone to see my picture and really care?
Suddenly I realized something about writing, querying, publishing and rejections. I see my manuscripts as unique. To me they are. To me they are stories crafted from my soul, rare and beautiful things. But are they unique? What is it that truly separates them from the hundreds of similar books on similar subjects out there? There has to be something, completely, utterly different about them. I have to recognize that thing which makes them different, no matter how many books I have or haven’t read in my genre.
Ok, back to my fence. My fence was beautiful. As someone who doesn’t get to see a fence deep in snow every day, I thought it was unique and special. Even I could tell though, that there was nothing about it which would seem unique to others. It was plain, it was ordinary, and there are probably hundreds of similar scenes and pictures happening all over the country and the world. That doesn’t mean my fence, as viewed by me, was any less beautiful. It was, and I’m happy I noticed it. But it was not worthy of taking a photo and spreading it around in mass publication.
Could I change that though? Could I make that fence worthy of world viewing? Yes, I could. If I could get that fence at such a unique angle that it went from ordinary to work of art. Or, if I could move to a location where the backdrop was stunning or unexpected, perhaps. What if I added a little splash of color or texture? Yes, I see. I could turn ordinary into extraordinary. I could do that, even if I loved my fence the way it originally appeared to me.
Ok, back to the literary side. If my manuscript is not worthy of a query that can catch an agent’s eye, what can I do? Chuck it? Well, yes, but that seems silly. Maybe instead I can identify what could take it from average to something more. What element is missing that would set it apart?
Maybe I’m happy with it the way it is. That’s ok too. But if I feel it must be published, then I have to be willing to see it through eyes that are not my own.
The choice lies in my hands. To take a thing of beauty and rarity to me and turn it in to something of beauty and rarity to the masses. The masses have read more than I have read, the masses have felt more than I will feel. I cannot compete with the masses as a collective. So I must be willing to stand out above them and shout in a voice and a language they can hear. Or I must be content to whisper quietly to the few.
I’ve chosen to walk down this road to publication. I’ve felt the sting as people turn away from things that I find beautiful and unique. If I’ve chosen to walk this road though, then I must find a way to walk it boldly, with footsteps that are sure. I must find the beauty, not only in my own eyes, but in the eyes of others. I must take the beautiful and make it speak to the world, without losing the qualities which make it beautiful to me, but enhancing the language in which that beauty is revealed.
There is my quest. There is my challenge.
I will not grow weary, but persevere. I will reveal the beauty that my eyes behold to the world in a way they can see it anew.
It’s amazing what one little snow covered fence can say, if you just stop to listen.