Pre-pub Journey: Feeling like the Who’s in Who-ville

Always when I am at the beach, I’m reminded how big the world really is. Hearing the vast ocean crash and watching the horizon that stretches farther than my screen-weary eyes can see makes me feel tiny, like a speck. Inevitably I marvel at the scope of the universe, the secrets of space, the wonder of the sea, the size of the earth and it’s many continents—and more practically, the billions of people that exist. I am only the teeniest fraction of all that. This summer especially, I’m feeling inconsequential and left behind. This year has been huge for the Femmes. Many of these amazing writers have been offered contracts and are soon to be officially published. Yay, Ladies! So incredibly proud of you! So honored to work with you, and call you my friends! And yet, of course, I’d have to call myself a robot if I didn’t feel the inevitable tug of worry and doubt: what about me? When will it be my turn? It’s so easy to beat myself up: I don’t write fast enough, I’m missing a fab hook, I targeted the wrong places, I didn’t write to the market, I broke too many rules…


Photo courtesy of Jenna Blue, 2013

Of course, I’m making writing analogies as I sit in my beach chair, feeling smaller than ever. I am a speck, a grain of sand, one author among zillions, fighting against the tide. And any mention of a speck, brings me directly to the Who’s in Who-ville.

Like those teensy-weensy Who’s, I know I have to keep yelling to be heard (keep querying, keep submitting). I must plan and work hard (keep learning, write better stories), return to that megaphone again and again (hit that keyboard, keep producing words), enlist all the Who’s in Who-ville to help (critique partners, beta readers, agents, etc). Until finally, one day, rejoice, I will be heard (my book will be published, someone other than the Who’s will read it, even perhaps, pay money to do so). Maybe someday, those few first readers will tell friends and my megaphone will get a sonic boost, rippling out, making me feel a tad bit more significant, making my writing matter to someone other than me.


The Mayor of Who-ville, from my copy of Horton Hears a Who! TM & © 1954, renewed 1982 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.

There’s no goal in this blog post. I’m not sharing in order to get any of you readers (or Femmes) to stroke my ego or pat my back or add salty tears of sympathy to my beach margarita. It’s just that we Femmes talked recently about our various journeys. This is mine. This is where I’m at. The excitement of landing an agent and sending out submissions has faded with the tough work of keeping my chin up during rejections. The fun of free-flow writing continues to alternate with butt-kicking revisions. My overall faith in my abilities takes nose dives but always resurfaces like the dolphins, arching over the waves that wallop me now and then.

I might feel small-ish, facing the ocean, battling the weather that comes along with the pre-pub journey, but, I know, I really do, that if I persevere, my time will come. So I will keep on yopp-ing and sounding my bazooka, too. My Hortons will hear me. We’ll build a bigger, better megaphone together. I’ll still be a speck-ish grain of sand in this huge world, but hey, I’ll be sitting on that beach—or a clover—with a contract in my hand and a giant smile on my face.

As always, thanks loads for reading. A fun question today, to lighten the mood: in that handful of sand picture, do you see what I see?

Leave a comment


  1. Welcome back from vacation, Jenna! I think this is a post that most any writer can relate to, as we’ve ALL felt this way at one time or another. I won’t go on and on about how talented you are (because I could) and how I know it’s only a matter of time (because it is), but I will say that no two journeys are the same. And I totally get the frustration and the self-doubt. I mean, if SEP still doubts her abilities, then who am I to think I *shouldn’t* question mine?!

    Who knows what the future holds for you? It’s an exciting, thrilling, equally frustrating prospect. There is something great out there for you in the vast universe, JB, and it’s your job to FIND it. Don’t wait for it to wash up on the shore and bite you. Go digging.

    (And I see it, but don’t want to ruin it for the other commenters. Love it!)


    • Joanna, I promise to keep digging. And thank you! So true, even the big big authors still struggle with the emotional end of this writing thing. And I know they struggle with the product too. Remember Eloisa James saying she had to throw out a huge portion of the pirate story…The good new is, we shall, none of us, ever be bored!

    • Oh, Joanna…pulling out the “JB”! You know what that makes me think of? The long-suffering Job…in MacLeish’s play, “J.B.” lol

  2. Good Morning dear Jenna! I hear ya sistah! And, yes, I too see it in the picture. Joanna is so articulate in saying all she said too. It’s easy to get discouraged in this crazy writing world. I find that all my confidence in my abilities, as I’m sure you have with your phenomenal artistic talents and more, wanes. When it comes to this subjective journey of getting our precious words out to the world, the confidence factor goes out to lunch.
    Like you, all of my dear CPs are now published (and multi-publshed) YAY!! I couldn’t be more thrilled for them, but sometimes I feel “what about little ole me?” Do I put enough time in? Am I as motivated as they are? Do my gazillion (it seems) outside responsibilities hinder me? There are times when I envy those people who have less to do each day, but you know, in the end I believe things all happen for a reason and also “in good time”. So my dear talented-terrific-person-kindred spirit-suspense writer-like-me… you will have your time and get there. A road less travelled? A road longer? Who knows, but when you do, know I’ll be there cheering you on.

    • And I, you, Nicole! I shall cheer you on. Didn’t realize you and I are in the same boat. I shall also paddle beside you! I know you are carrying lots of weight in that boat this year especially, hope some things get easier this year. So well said, and you are right–perhaps the road less traveled, or the longer route. Things work out as the should in the end, though it’s never clear until then!

    • Well said! I’ll be cheering you both as well!

  3. Hi Jenna. I actually like to lose myself in the crowd and have no problem sitting back and watching, like the little sandy creature in your hand (I saw a bunch of them at LBI this weekend). But that doesn’t mean I don’t want time in the limelight, or that I’m not scared I’ll be too timid and I’ll be a flop. I believe the doubt never goes away, no matter who you are. And like Joanna said, each journey is different. Individually, we each may feel small, but collectively, we’re a force not to be reckoned with. Hugs!

  4. Wonderful post. I have felt the same way. I finally decided to independently publish my first novel. The paperback is on its way and the Kindle version is live and active. Sometimes we have to take control of our own destiny. Plus, my repetitive strain injuries from keyboarding make it impossible for me to spend the time it takes querying and submitting, so I decided to use my time and energy to go my own way. It’s a lot of work, but satisfying. Let the readers decide. Sometimes I think the odds of being published by a traditional publisher are stacked against us newbies. I have a pile of rejections from editors and agents who never read the book. It’s discouraging and I’d had enough. Oh yes, I see the little sand crab in your hand. Isn’t he cute? What beach is this?

    • Good for you, Marianne! I’ve been following the indie publishing avidly. Not quiet there myself, but it’s absolutely a consideration if things don’t give. It’s the Outer Banks in NC. One of my favorite places. I feel so lucky to have been able to go for a week and unwind. Need the hiatus desperately. Wishing you lots of luck!

  5. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  September 3, 2013

    Dearest, beloved, talented, Jenna. First of all…may I say there is much in the way of beauty and artistry in this post alone that tells anyone reading this, your time will come? It is a vast huge world, and we are all taking different paths. It’s important to keep in mind that this is not a race, but a journey. I recently bought a card that read, Good things come to those who wait. Great things come to those who go for it. You are going for it. You put yourself out there. You are constantly honing your craft and learning the industry. When your time comes, you will be ready. We all feel insignificant and small, terrified even. I look at the sea of authors and books out there, and feel just like that spec of sand you so beautifully described. I want to run and hide with the overwhelming thought…who am I kidding? But I keep going to back to how much I love the work, and the journey and on this journey, like Maria said, collectively, we are a force.

    • I love that you are all playing on my post with your sand and sea references! : ) Don’t run and hide, pretty please RoseAnn, the romance readers out there are going to love your stories! I, too, love the work, and although I am often thankful for the time spent journeying (lord, you need years to learn all this stuff–it will never end!), I’ll be damn glad someday to have a stick to measure with (meaning a first sale, a bench mark sales number, a best-seller list, some actual income). I was struck this morning but the 64-yr-old woman, Diana Nyad, who successfully swam from FL to Cuba—chasing a dream 35 yrs in the making. She basically said (and this is totally paraphrasing): the journey’s all well and good, but the success is euphoria!

  6. Mia

     /  September 3, 2013

    Hello Jenna,

    Everybody’s road is different. I am alone in my journey. So rejection, revision, and writing is all on me. I paid $375 to a charity last November for a critique on my manuscript. the person who was supposed to do it still hasn’t. Honestly when I’m in the funk you are in I don’t turn to the person lower than me. I turn to the success stories and learn. So I really am not much help to you today. I can tell you with your personality I do believe you will get published. Keep positive in your heart and you’ll find your contract.

    • Mia, may I first say: that is so not right!!!! Otherwise, great point: learn from the success stories. Everybody has lots to teach us, and we are so lucky in that Romance Writers are a sharing, generous bunch. Thanks for your words of encouragement, and please remember, you are not alone!!!

    • That is absolutely AWFUL. Have you gone back to the charity to ask if there’s anything that can be done? At the very least, you’re owed your money back. (I realize it’s for charity, but…really.)

      And you are NOT alone, Mia! I’m happy to critique a ms any time for you. Feel free to ask, or just complain about the journey. If we haven’t exactly been where you are, we can certainly relate.

    • That’s so completely horrible, Mia. I agree with Joanna about pushing back to at least get another person from that charity group to critique your MS. Things like that only add to the frustration of the journey. But for every nasty person who tries to knock you down, know that there are many, MANY more who support and are here for you.

    • Mia, that is awful about your critique! Really, they should hold that person to a timeframe. You paid (really) good money for that opportunity.

      As the others have said, you are not alone. You always have the group of us at NJRW for support, even if you don’t have a specific critique partner. But hey, why don’t you? Why don’t you check with the chapter and request a CP?

      I’d be happy to read what you’re writing.


  7. Mia

     /  September 3, 2013

    Hey Jenna,

    Okay this is just a thought, but I remember a post awhile ago by you saying your romantic suspense was more contemporary romance. Why not take a break from your normal and try a contemporary? Go only 60k and market toward Entangled or Carina.


    • Thank you, Mia, for the suggestion! I’ve actually been toying with the idea of mixing it up…there’s a 2/3 completed ms in the dark recesses of the closet and I’ve been wondering…it IS a contemporary and I’ve got lots of ideas for those. I’m also thinking of seeing if it could be enhanced with some suspense running through. On the other hand, there’s a character or two in the current series that might demand their own book, even if it’s a short novella or something. If the new one doesn’t sell, or does, it’ll narrow things down!

  8. Welcome back from vacation. Great post! We have all been there and will be there again. Being a writer has its ups and downs, but it’s something we just can’t give up. Hope to see you soon!

    • Agreed, Tina! Serious ups and downs, throughout the career, but like you, it’s something I gotta do! Thanks for reading and posting!

  9. I don’t think there is a writer out there who hasn’t experienced what you’ve experienced, but few are brave enough to express their feelings so candidly. Thank you for being so honest. This beautifully-rendered post is a testament to your talent, but having read two of your manuscripts, I already knew that! As Kristan Higgins said at RWA13, “The beauty of writing is that no one can bench you, but you.” And that’s why we all have to keep after each other to keep on keeping on…

  10. Awww, thank you, Diana! I promised when I started my facebook page (and then it was sort of reinforced with our Femmes slogan) that I’d share my journey–the good and bad. Definitely harder to share the bad. The whole thing can leave you raw sometimes. We all hate to admit to any weakness, even though we know everybody else feels the same way, and besides, I do try hard to stay positive. It’s like wearing a smile or laughing–the more you do it the easier it comes! Nobody’s gonna bench me for sure! And soon, I’m aiming to start! ; )

  11. I haven’t read what anyone else guessed…Looks like the head of a gargoyle to me, Jenna! What a fun game, like looking for shapes in the clouds. 🙂

    I know how you feel, but honestly, I do think our day will come. We both feel the tug of so many other things in our lives right now, and the frustration of not reaching that “published” goal only gets compounded, for me, by the frustration of not being able to find time to write. Unless, of course, I choose not to sleep, lol!

    Everyone has their own journey, but one thing I can assure you…if you persevere, you will get there. You’re a terrific writer. Your day (and mine) will come.


  12. You nailed it, Jaye. “The frustration….gets compounded…by not being able to find time to write!” So true…I also completely agree, because I’ve read your amazing writing: Your day and mine will come! : ) Hugs, Jaye!

    And, I think it’s time: some of you got it: The teensiest sand crab is hanging out on that pile of sand in my daughter’s hand! : ) But I like the head of a gargoyle! You and I need to road trip and check out some clouds!

  13. Hi Jenna, what a great post! I was compelled to read it, because you remind me so much of the way I have been feeling lately. I am a published author, but not with a New York House, and I wonder constantly about the decisions I’ve made and whether or not I will ever achieve my goals. It’s a great big universe out there, and we’re all just trying to find our place in it. And especially with regards to the publishing industry, there is so much talent, and only a small window of opportunity is open to us. For both you and I, I think we must look within ourselves and know that we tell the stories that we do because we are driven to write them, There’s a force larger than us, and it’s all part of a bigger plan. I have every confidence that you will excel in your writing career, and we will be reading great books from you very soon!!

    • Jenna Blue

       /  September 8, 2013

      Likewise, Jessica! But don’t discount what you have already accomplished! You should be so proud! I am constantly reminded that the path is almost never a straight one, and there really is no “overnight success.” This is just the beginning for you, me, and so many of us.

  14. Hi Jenna, I’m late to the game posting here! Another terrific post, and terrific comments responding to the post. I think like most worthwhile ventures, perseverance goes a long way. You want to build a brand, not just sell a book. That’s going to take time and effort, and many knocks that you have to get up from, wipe off the dust, and keep moving forward. You are going to get published – I KNOW IT!!!

    And readers are going to LOVE your work. 🙂

  15. Jenna Blue

     /  September 9, 2013

    Don’t worry about being late, Michele–I love any and every response. I feel so touched that this post seemed to resonate with so many of you! Yeeks- building a brand scares me. I try to remember that if you stay true to your voice, that’s your deep brand. The trick is in deciphering the voice, so that the feel of the website, splashy tag lines, and cool cover designs convey that brand right off the bat. Thank you loads for faith in me, Michele!


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