Let’s return to April Fool’s of 2016, back when I was innocent creative unaware of the brutality of the publishing world. I had just finished the “final touches” on the sixth draft of my novel RED SKY AT MORNING and with my hastily pulled together query, I believed I was ready! *FORCED SMILE* The morning of the first, I walked into my college dining hall at 11 o’clock, and picked a table off to the corner, hoping no one would stop to chat (they did—go away Jacob). I set up my computer, pulled out my meticulously researched snapshots of Literary Agents and went to grab a cup of Earl Grey tea. Then, I sat down, waiting until 11:11 am (a magical time) and sent off my first query letter. With the click of the mouse and the pounding of my heart, I entered the bloodbath that is PUBLISHING *dun dun DUUUUUN*
Of course, of the eight Literary Agents I sent to, none replied in the affirmative, some didn’t even reply at all. “Ok,” I thought. “Carry on, every aspiring author was once rejected. There must be something I can fix.” So, I trekked on. First, I overhauled my query letter (my fifth query is my “final” query as of yet). I went back through my novel and reworked the first chapter (I would also do that three more times). You can read more about that here.
After attending a Literary Festival in Denver and receiving real-life Agent feedback (wahoo), which I had to pay for (boo, I’m a broke college student), I sent out my second round of queries. By this time, it was late July. Again, I sent out eight queries. This time, however, was different. I received one full manuscript request (from one of my top agents) and a partial manuscript request. *Happy dance marred by obsessive email checking* Even so, rejection still finds a way of sneaking up on you. One week after my partial request, my manuscript was rejected. I went from a skeptical high to a self-pitying low. I’ll elaborate on a later post.
My full request remains in the nether-world of submissions and I’m not sure when I’ll be hearing back. A strong part of me, the self-pitying part, believes with certainty that it will eventually come back as a “No.” This Agent also requests more fulls than usual, though they are very established and honestly AMAZING, but often does not give detailed feedback. *Weeps* As for the rest of the queries, they’re either out, form-rejected or closed-no-response (serious pet-peeve, which I want to talk about later). I also submitted to #PitchWars (which is awesome no matter the outcome), but I haven’t received requests there either, and at this point may not. Ouch.
If you’d like to see my stats, check out the picture below. It comes from this awesome writer’s resource QueryTracker:
Queries Sent = 34
Positive Response: 5.9% (2)
Negative Response: 70.6% (24)
Still Out: 23.5% (8)
As these past few months have gone by, I find myself reflective. Perhaps, not every writer can make it with their first book. Maybe, there are secret shifting markets within the publishing world, which I do not understand. Ones, which decide whether or not readers will devour and pay for my work. Perhaps, even, I am too young or my writing is not mature enough and my prose unrefined. Maybe it’s as simple as not finding the right person, but maybe my work needs a total overhaul. Is RED SKY AT MORNING to be nothing but a practice round of learning to write a novel so I can write THE novel?
Yet, a piece of me still believes in my story. I love my characters, Margaret and Alexander, their burgeoning love story and the challenges they face. I love the memories I made while creating their lives. The long Skype conversations with my mom, every Tuesday, for several hours, discussing edits. Telling anyone who would listen, nerdy facts I learned about the Victorian Era (i.e. did you know that you cannot cut a corset without often inducing fainting?). Two long weeks filled with 10,000 words of edits, working from 5 pm to 1 am. Forsaking my social life and rushing my school work, after my edited manuscript arrived in the mail—holding it in my arms like it was my best friend. The thrill of receiving professional edits from an editor in London and hearing that she LOVED my work. Meeting other inspiring authors in the writing community and learning we’re all in this together. *High School Musical plays in the background* Writer’s rejection, though I’ve barely scratched the surface, leaves me filled with self-doubt and if I am being honest—unhappiness. I enjoy being happy, like most people, and querying does not make me happy. It makes me frustrated, sad, disappointed, disillusioned, filled with self-doubt, and it even makes me dread my favorite thing—writing.
I wrote a book, God damn it, because I LOVE writing. At this point in time, I am considering taking a break from querying, because I want to fall in love again. I want to get to know new characters and create new worlds. I want to once more spend hours researching obscure facts about history, rather than researching literary agents—who seem to want everything but what I have to offer. At this point in my life, I want to be happy over striving for “success.”
I am leaping head first into my sophomore year and I have received many amazing opportunities. For the past two weeks, I have been in intensive Residential Assistant training for my position in this upcoming school year. I will continue to work as a research assistant for the English department under the amazing Dr. Q. By September, I will once more be working with some of my favorite people, first graders from a low-income immigrant community, who always help me know what’s truly important in life. All this, on top of a heavy academic schedule, a need for sleep, and socialization (I don’t want to turn into Gollum).
So, yes, maybe it’s time to take a break from querying and focus on my life as a college student (after all there are only three more years of being a Kidult). By no means, will I stop writing—that’s like forgetting how to breathe. But, for me, querying isn’t breathing but suffocation. I want to breathe again. I want to write again.
Back to April Fool’s Day…In Tarot, “The Fool,” on one hand symbolizes new beginnings, leaps of faith, and unlimited potential. On the other hand, reversed, it symbolizes naivety, foolishness, and risk taking. To me, no other card better symbolizes the writer’s journey. I began my writer’s journey with each of these characteristics. At times, some overtaking others, but as creatives, we are always left with endless possibility. Yes, that possibility can manifest into a heart-wrenching “No,” which screams through your veins with the severity of a hurricane knocking a house down to the foundations. *Pants heavily* However, one “No” or a dozen no’s or even two-dozen no’s does not mean failure nor does it ever stop the stream of possibility. Nothing can.
Let me know about your thoughts on rejection as a writer, artist, etc.?
For updates on my progress click here (10/23/2016) and here (3/24/2017).