Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting used to rejection

Writing keeps you up at night, makes you forget everything else in a storm of feverish typing as you frantically try to translate the images in your head to a more physical form. It holds you captive, a slave to your muse's whim.

But when it's all said and done, writing is the easy part. What comes next? Finding an agent. And finding an agent is, I am convinced, one of the seven circles of hell. It takes patience, perseverance, a willingness to edit, submit, edit again, polish it up, edit some more, and above all, a thick skin.

Not every agent is going to like your work. In fact, unless your pen (or keyboard) drips gold, it's more than likely that your first round of submissions is going to result in a whole lot of nothing but "no thank you"s.

This fact may be dispiriting. It may have you asking, "Then what's the point?" Well, as I see it, everything I do in the writing world is a learning experience. My first query letter was embarrassingly long and my first novel was a shambles when I thought I was "done". I jumped into querying way too soon. I started sending letters to agents right after typing "The End", and that was a huge mistake.

What I should have done was put the novel away for a month. Let it stew, and just ignore it. Then I should have gone back to it and started revising and polishing to a mirror shine.

Put away your dreams of being published by Christmas. Stay fluid and flexible, and remember that everything is a learning experience.

What did I learn? That everything I do adds to my knowledge. That spending hundreds of hours online reading about how to query agents and how to write a killer query is time well invested.

Nothing is a waste when you are first feeling your way through this world. My first query letter was a massive, unwieldy 600 words, and that was just the plot. My most recent query is a lean 190 words, and there's still room for improvement. It definitely gets a lot more interest from agents now, with requests for partials and full manuscripts. But I haven't signed with an agency yet. Is it my query, or because my book is not salable? I don't know yet.

But I do know I'm not going to give up. And neither should you. Treat setbacks as stepping stones on the way to success, and you will be much more ready to take on the exhausting, time-consuming, and all too often frustrating world of querying.

Here is a helpful place to begin learning about how to write queries that will get responses:

Do your homework, keep revising your work, and above all, don't give up. We all have to start somewhere!

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