The last four days I have watched about ten movies. I sort of lost count, and I even stopped watching two other ones after ten or so minutes, and there was one that I wish I had turned off after ten minutes. My husband is away for two weeks, so I thought I would watch all the chick flicks, dramas and anything in between that he wouldn't be interested in while he was gone. His favorite movies are Tombstone and Sparticus. Cowboys and gladiators--I guess you can say they technically are period dramas, but not my kind, although Val Kilmer was fabulous as Doc Holiday. :0)
So in the line up tonight was Julie and Julia. I had a friend from work tell me that I really needed to see it, so I did. And I felt a little exposed. Both Julie and Julia were at pivotal life stages and each feeling a little useless and lost. They threw themselves into something they had a passion for and after a lot of struggle and pain, their dreams were realized.
It was a sweet movie, but it left me with an ache in my stomach and also left me feeling a little guilty, so I'm letting you all in on a secret. I've told no one. Until now.
I heard back from a publisher a couple of weeks ago--maybe even three weeks now. The publishers who do Pride and Prejudice fanfic. The one I was grooming my book for. I was so excited to hear back from them that I read the email first thing when I got to work. NOT a good idea.
The editor told me that my writing was "weak" along with a few other things--she absolutely hated the title. I actually felt sick to my stomach and did my best not to cry for five whole hours while at work. I somehow got through my day. I was so embarrassed and devastated that I didn't even want to tell my husband. Isn't that pitiful? He immediately knew that something was wrong. I did my best to act like everything was normal, but that darn man knows me so well. I couldn't get the words out without crying and I felt like there was a massive "L" burned into my forehead (Loser). I couldn't get the words out. After he made sure that it wasn't life threatening and that it wasn't something he had done, he told me that he would wait until I was ready to tell him.
How many movies or novels for that matter deal with this exact issue--someone in authority or with expertise squashing someone's dreams? I should have a thick skin and I should keep plugging away until someone believes in me. Or I should go back and look at what I have written and figure out how to make it better. That would be what a true heroine would do. But I'm a sensitive writer with paper thin skin, who was so pumped up and admittedly high by the literally hundreds and hundreds of reviews from everyday people who said they loved my book and wanted to read it over and over again. I just wasn't prepared for anything else. The disillusioned heroine stumbles.
I haven't looked at my book or written a word on my new one since. My real life plot is so frustratingly predictable--our heroine licks her wounds and needs to somehow believe in herself again. I'm actually embarrassed to admit that one little email did that to me. So completely infantile. Meanwhile, I keep getting reviews from complete strangers telling me that this was the best P&P fanfic they have ever read, and I don't know what to do with the information. Part of me wants to forward each and every one of them to the publisher and the other half of me wants to yell at them to stop sending me raving reviews because it just doesn't matter.
So tonight Julie and Julia each kicked my butt a little. Julia Child worked years and years on her cookbook before she found someone willing to publish it. And she kept cooking the whole time. And little Julie cooked her little heart out every night after work while blogging about it for an entire year, encountering great disappointment, kitchen disasters and even marital troubles. I've only been at this for a few months. My kitchen and marriage is still intact. I have nothing to complain about.
I thought about the one thing that got people's dander up with my book--the fact that I let Elizabeth question herself and lose some confidence after she got kicked out of Kent. I had a few people really let me know how out of character that was for our dear Lizzy. But I heartily disagreed and now I think that I will cut myself the same slack and have the same patience with myself. I just needed a little time.
All this to say, I promise to get back to my newest book this week. I will tell my husband what happened when he calls tomorrow night, and I will not yell at the reviews as they still trickle in, but I will also try to figure out just what was weak about my work. I will also email the agent that I had contact with (who was going to poke around and see if she could find anyone interested) and see if she is still interested.
Thank you Julie and Julia for plugging away, for doing what you love with all your heart and for my little butt kicking. And thank you Jane for not giving up on getting your work published two-hundred years ago when it literally was a man's world. I'm in awe of you, your wit and your elegant way of making us fall in love with your characters over and over again. I hope you all will forgive me for stumbling.