I remember the moment when I got my first full request for my historical fantasy, THE DESCENDED.
I went into the ugly cry, clutching my laptop to my chest like a beloved friend. “The agent loves it,” I exclaimed through my tears. “She thinks it has potential.” *continued incoherent mumbling*
“I knew it!” my husband shouted. Then there may have been some awkward dancing with the laptop clasped between us.
Because, finally, finally I’d MADE it. Two years of writing and revising my manuscript and months of rejections had led precipitously to this moment when an agent—a fabulous agent whom I liked and admired—opened the hallowed DOOR OF PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITY.
Only . . .not.
I had a lot to learn about the query process then. *shakes head at naive, younger self*
Fast forward months of maniacal email inbox stalking to the kind, but vague rejection. No dancing this time. Straight up despair.
That was it. I sucked. My dream was just the delusion of a crazy person. A talentless crazy person. So I did what any sensitive, creative type would do in my shoes.
There I was, crying on a treadmill at the gym with my husband running beside me. (I was at a sedate, depressed walk) I attuned my heart and mind to the things I could do with my life that didn’t involve, you know, words and imagination.
“Don’t quit,” my husband said. “Use what you learned and write the next one.”
Very Obi Wan Kenobi of him. I scoffed and snot-cried. Then did something that seriously surprised me and my battered ego. I went home and started my first YA, THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY. A story about a girl who’s terrified to speak her dreams aloud and then learns that it’s those very dreams that empower her. (Basically, a long note to myself.) I was not going to fear my dreams—even if they sometimes led to heartache and rejection.
Because, at the end of the day, my passion is to write. I crave an audience like every artist, but something in my soul needs to create these worlds and characters—even if I’m the only one who experiences them.
I was a lot smarter this time making the query rounds. Slog it out in the query trenches long enough and you learn a few things. Mainly–have critique partners comb through your manuscript before you send it out into the world.
DREAMSPEAKER’S did well. I won contests, I got requests. LOTS of requests.
THIS WAS IT. I was poised on the brink of REPRESENTATION. Even the rejections coming in were personalized and detailed, so complimentary that I printed some of them and tacked them to my inspiration board. Then . . .
EVERY. DOOR. CLOSED.
No weeping treadmill pity party this time. No Yoda-like pep talk from my husband.
I was not giving up. Period. So I sent another draft to my CPs and Betas. Took all their critiques on the chin like a champ (some of them were tough) My revised manuscript morphed like a snake shedding its skin. I attended conferences. I read EVERYTHING in my genre (and outside of it). THEN, finally, I sent my polished little baby out into another batch of queries.
But, like I said, I was smarter now. So, instead of focusing on the queries and rejections, I started another speculative YA, SUBPARS.
And this story, I LOVED. The main character is a knock-me-down-but-I’m-getting-back-up kind of protagonist that inspired me and challenged me through the PITS OF QUERY HELL.
I couldn’t wait to query the agents who liked my writing with DREAMSPEAKER”S. In a fit of bravado, I even queried a couple agents I thought were unreachable–the ones I’d admired from afar and Twitter/Blog stalked for years. So with a shaking finger on the send button, and a please, please, please mantra in my head, I sent them SUBPARS.
I heard back right away from THREE AGENTS OF AWESOMENESS. Requests!! And the next few days went something like this:
“Ohmygosh, I’m so HAPPY!!”
“I’ll never make it. This SUCKS. I am in rejection HADES!!!”
I was told great things about my writing, but that the paranormal and speculative markets were FLOODED. And DEAD.
*Cue violin* I slid right into a post-rejection funk.
I may have drank my celebratory champagne spitefully. I may have bought myself a few pairs of shoes to cheer myself up. I zombied out on Twitter, read other writers’ success stories. All I needed was balloons and black crepe paper to make my pity party complete.
It just wasn’t going to happen for me. I was a writer—an author, even. But I just wouldn’t be a published one.
I told myself I was okay with this. And ate excessive amounts of chocolate.
I hoped against all hope for good news in my inbox.
Meanwhile, I completed an R&R (revise and re-submit) with an agent who was interested in DREAMSPEAKER’S. I focused hard on that project. (And re-wrote the novel from start to finish)
I waited. And refreshed my email constantly. And said please, please, please a thousand times in my heart.
I got an offer of representation from the agent who had my R&R. I sent emails to all the agents who had my queries for both manuscripts.
More agents responded.
The UNREACHABLES reached out. They LOVED SUBPARS. They loved my writing.
With my feet floating above the ground, I tried to make sense of the words I was reading in my emails–because all at once, multiple agents were offering me representation.
I drank champagne again. My boys toasted my joy with sparkling cider. We danced around to the song “Happy.” I wore my red rejection shoes just because.
So, here it is, the moral of the story: Dream big. Quit if you need to. But then start over. Dream bigger. Grow. Learn. And above all—HOPE.
This isn’t the end for me. Just a new chapter on a journey that may or may not ultimately lead to my book sitting on a shelf in Barnes and Noble (please, please, please)
I’ve got more rejection to face. Probably more closed doors. Definitely new books to write. But hope is the one essential ingredient in it all.
Well, and puppies. Puppies really do make everything better. And shoes. And friends who “get it.” So there you go, fellow dreamers and writers. I get it. Hang in there. Keep on going after it—your own happy dance might be right around the corner.