Friday, April 15, 2016

The Writer's Voice: Where Is Noelle Henry Now?

One of the very first entries I read during TWV 2012 was for FACE THE MUSIC, a YA contemporary romance about a deaf cellist who gets paired up with a boy who's the opposite of her type in a coveted scholarship competition. I knew I wanted it right away, so it didn't surprise me when it and its author, Noelle Henry, got snatched up by a Writers House agent several months after the contest. What DID surprise me was when the project didn't sell. And when Noelle's next project didn't sell. And when--well, I guess I'll let Noelle tell her own story. Inspiration ahead:

When Krista first announced she was bringing the old Writer’s Voice gang back together for a special feature on her blog, I was thrilled to take part. But then reality set in. To update everyone on what has been going on with me since The Writer’s Voice contest was to essentially admit I’d been standing still for four years. And that...made this blog all the more difficult to write.

I signed with an amazing agent in 2012, not long after The Writer’s Voice contest, and I guess I sort of thought that meant success was right around the corner. I know, I know, I hear you all groaning at my naivete, but I’d written other books that had gone nowhere. I honestly felt Face the Music was the one. I’d been told over and over again how good books will always find a home. I’d written a good book. I believed in it. My agent believed in it. Wasn’t that enough?

Most of us have dealt with our fair share of rejection, so when the passes started rolling in on that book, I told myself it was no big deal. I wrote another book and another one. I poured my heart and soul into them, believed in them with everything I had. And still, at the end of the day, they went nowhere. I understood all about the subjective nature of this business, I got that publishing was just as much timing and luck as it was perseverance, but with each new rejection, every close call that fell through, my self-confidence broke more and more.

I’d tied all of my self-worth into getting that elusive book deal, and without it, I felt like a failure. Regardless of the fact that I’d written several great books I’d once been so proud of, I had nothing. I was nothing. Writing wasn’t fun anymore. It was torture. I’d let all my disappointments rob me of the joy of doing what I’d once loved best. Every time I sat at the computer, I was paralyzed by anxiety and doubt. Was this sentence strong enough? Were my characters interesting enough? Was I just wasting my time on another book that wouldn’t sell? 

Now, I hope you’re rolling your eyes at me saying you don’t relate to this. I hope you’ve taken every moment of your writing journey in stride and are still putting one foot in front of the other. But just in case you are like me, and you’re finding that belt of disappointment getting so heavy around your waist you can’t take another step, take some time to remember why you started writing in the first place--way before the idea of selling a book was ever on your radar. Write it down if you can.

Next, remember that writing is what you do, not who you are. I’m betting all of you have other creative pursuits in your life. Whether that’s music, art, gardening, decorating, or maybe something completely different, the point is, we are all so much more. So why do so many of us tie our happiness and fulfillment into whether or not our book sells?

Lastly, step away if you need to. If writing has just become too frustrating and stressful, don’t feel guilty about taking a break. It’s okay. No one will think badly of you. The world will not end if you don’t write. Your writer friends will not disown you. Your agent won’t decide you’re too much of a burden and cut you loose. Shift your focus onto living an amazing life. Fill your days with everything you love, and I guarantee your love of words will come back to you when you’re ready.

In many ways, your words could be my words, Noelle. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Noelle. You are an amazing writer, and--like your agent--I believe in your stories. But as you say, being published doesn't define you. It's an important message for all of us who are still waiting in the wings to remember.

Unknown said...

This post meant a lot to me. Thanks for sharing your story and helping me shift my focus back where it needs to be: the joy of creating art!

Noelle Henry said...

Thank you Michelle & RC for taking the time to read and comment!