It has been about four years exactly since the first time I told S — “I am writing a novel.” He nodded at the time, clearly unaware that ~this was important~. So I added, “I’m serious about this. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’m going to finish this book and do everything I can to get a literary agent and get published.”
…to which he nodded again, mildly. So I rolled my eyes and went back to writing my book.
I queried that book months later. I got a lot of form rejections and one SUPER encouraging query-rejection from an agent I admired…who pointed out that my writing needed polish.
So I went out and bought books to jog my memory on how to write WELL. I had changed my major in college from English Writing to Psychology since everyone said I’d get nowhere with an English degree (FYI I currently run a business that doesn’t even come close to using my Psych degree either ). The single most useful book I read during this time? SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne and King. I blushed reading that book, realizing everything I was doing wrong.
So I rewrote the first book with my new skillz! And I queried AGAIN! This time I got a couple of full requests! And a lot of rejections. I didn’t get any agent-feedback at this time, but I was trying out some critique groups and learning more than I could’ve read in ANY book from the experience.
Still unwilling to give up on my Brilliant First Book Idea, I started rewriting it…AGAIN. Along the way, I finally met some GOLDEN critique partners I meshed with, and I truly believe we made that book as polished as a square peg in a round hole can get! So I queried it…AGAIN (3rd time same book, if you lost track)! This time I got AWESOME detailed feedback from several agents. They weren’t outright rejections…more like suggestions for HEAVY revision with an invitation to submit again. The problem with that was–I was sick of Brilliant First Book Idea by this point. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still in love with the concept. But the characters and I were so sick of each other, I finally decided (through many tears and threats to quit writing, naturally) that maybe the best thing to do was work on something else while trying to gain some perspective on that book.
So I wrote a New Book. It’s called THROUGH TO YOU. I queried it recently and I am THRILLED (THRILLED!!!) to announce that writing a different book was exactly the right decision for me because…
I have just signed with agent Mary Kole at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Mary astounded me with her enthusiasm and drive–she gets my novel, maybe even better than I do! But the best part? Mary was one of the agents on the last round who was enthusiastic about my writing, but told me (SUPER SWEETLY) that the Brilliant First Book Idea…wasn’t working.
And the most important thing I did? Acknowledge that she was right.
I think what can be taken from this how-I-got-my-agent story is pretty clear: PERSEVERE. If you want to get an agent, write the very best book you can, and query it! Pay attention to the feedback you get — good AND bad, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a project — even when it seems brilliant! You can always return to it (maybe I’ll revisit that first book too someday). But if you’re having trouble with a project and you just CAN’T make the peg fit the hole…maybe you’re working on the wrong thing. That manuscript you love will always be special because that’s where you started. But you’ll never know what OTHER projects might be successful if you can’t let the current one go…
WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. And see what happens!