Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Year of Near-Misses

It's an apt title, truly.

2010 is hardly the start of my journey, though.  The first thing you need to know is that it took me more than five years to land an agent.

That's right.  Five years, three projects, and more rejections than I'd like to think about.

Those of you who have read AGENT: DEMYSTIFIED already know my agent-from-hell story.  So I won't start there.  Suffice it to say that...I had an agent from hell.*  And once I disentangled myself from her, I began the Real Journey.

The one that's led me here.

Mind you, despite my vast amount of research prior to beginning the Query Quest, I still had a tiny problem about which I was sadly unaware:  It was my first novel, so it sucked.

Really, it was rife with every beginning-novelist problem you can imagine.  POV problems (head-hopping like you wouldn't believe). Revoltingly purple prose. Stilted dialogue.  And an attempt to express two storylines from two perspectives:  12-year-old Maralyth and her 15-year-old brother, whose combined destinies would SAVE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE!

Well, sort of.  You can imagine, right?  I called it "YA Fantasy," which was problematic from the start since my primary character was a 12-year-old.  It had all sorts of overdone fantasy elements, like glowing stones and mysterious, ageless wizard-type people.  (Not that I have anything against overdone fantasy elements.  Fantasy is my First Love Forever.  But...well.  The novel was bad.  'Nuff said.)

I actually got two partial requests on it, though, so my query must've been halfway decent.  (Point number one: A good query only goes so far.  It's all about the writing.)

I wrote a second novel--MG fantasy--that was marginally better than the first and queried it with gusto.  My first full request (from a big, juicy, well-known kidlit agency!) was consequently dashed to bits by a (poorly photo-copied) form rejection.  And on it went from there.  A decent number of requests for partials and fulls, all coming to absolutely nothing.

Thus began the Growing of Impenetrable Skin.  (Point number two: If you can't take the pain and grow from it, you're in the wrong game.)

I wrote another novel that, technically, I shouldn't have written.  Because it was a "book 2" to the novel I was querying.  Silly, because why write a sequel to something that hasn't even landed you an agent?  But looking back, it was good for me to go ahead and do that.  I needed the practice.

And then I wrote the YA dystopian that I had conceived two years earlier.  (Point number three:  All things in their own time.)

Jodi Meadows ripped the second draft to shreds.  Which is exactly what it needed.  (No, you can't have her.  She's mine.  Well, she's a few others', too.  But she's mostly mine.  I may put her name in a 26-point font on my acknowledgments page.)

After a heck of a lot of work, I began querying the project in January.  And some Very Exciting Things happened.

First Very Exciting Thing:  Requests for the full on my first day of querying, including one from a Very Big Agent Who Had Never Sniffed In My Direction Before.

Second Very Exciting Thing: A revision request from one of the agents who'd requested the full.  An agent, I might add, whom I adore and with whom I would have loved to work.

Third Very Exciting Thing:  The Very Big Agent, after rejecting the full, said he'd be happy to read a revised version, or anything else I wrote.

Three things that had never happened before!  Definitely a sign of moving forward, yes?  So I spent a month revising and sent the new baby out, as requested.

Nope.  Didn't cut it.

My collection of reasons-agents-gave-for-saying-no continued to grow.  And the amount of names on my to-be-queried list continued to shrink.  I even emailed the agents who had requested the full before the revisions, asking if they'd like the new-and-improved version (they did).  Everything still ended in big, fat no-thank-yous.  It was clear that something was Wrong with my novel.

Yes, Wrong.  Capitalized.  Holly Bodger's critique was brilliant (as you can imagine), but I still didn't know how to fix what wasn't ultimately working.  And I was having trouble connecting the dots between the varied comments from agents.  If there was a common thread, I wasn't seeing it.

I threw myself into a complete rewrite of my Second Novel (the MG fantasy), figuring I'd query a select group of agents (i.e., those who'd said, "Send me other things any time!") with that project while the YA ran its course.  Meanwhile, Beth Revis offered to critique the YA for me.  Awesome, yes? A sci/fi diva ripping into my sci/fi!  Couldn't be more perfect.  Terrifying, but perfect.  So I sent her the manuscript, sure that it was now in its final death throes.

And then I queried Josh Getzler.


to be continued...




*The agent in question was a legitimate agent who "discovered" my self-pubbed non-fiction and thought she could sell it.  At the time, I didn't even know what literary agents did.  (No, really.  I was that uninformed.)

22 comments:

Theresa Romain said...

Authoress, you tease. I am looking forward to the end of your story! I'm so delighted that it has a happy ending. You've done so much "paying it forward," it's great that your kindness to the writing community is being paid back. :)

I'm wishing you sales for 2011!

Krista V. said...

Thanks for sharing the first half of your journey, Authoress. As someone who's followed/following a similar path (first manuscript was a stinker, second manuscript got some decent requests but still didn't work out, third manuscript has some really great leads), I appreciate it. I'm glad the third time was the charm:)

Vicki Schultz said...

What a cliffhanger! Can't wait to read more. Your story truly gives me hope. My first novel also sucked. :-) My second one has gotten a bunch of interest from agents, but no offers of representation yet. I'm still hopeful!

A. Grey said...

Gravy! I'm on the edge of my seat and I can't wait to read the continuation of your journey! I gasped a couple of times out loud because the exact same things have happened to me. I'm still without an agent at this point, and I've been dance on the line of hopelessness, but after reading the first half of your journey I'm ready to plow onward! Oh and how I LOVE dystopians! *<3* So thrilled to hear that another is heading towards bookdom!

A. Grey said...

And randomly my security word just now was 'squee' only spelled 'squi' completely amusing.

rhea said...

Only a writer would end the chapter with a HOOK :-)

kellyrfineman said...

Loving this story.

Jennie Englund said...

Oh my gosh, you've worked your tail off -- and you tell the whole story, tears and sweat and rejection and revision.

If anyone, ANYONE, has worked for an incredible agent like JG, it's you.

No luck here, just hard, hard work. Persistence. And a good story!

PS: Sometime might you post about the brilliant edits Beth revis suggested?

Lisa Blandford said...

Never, never, never, never, NEVER give up. :)

K. M. Walton said...

Your journey is a lesson in determination! And it finally paid off. Kudos to you and never giving up.

Brooklyn Ann said...

What an exciting year! It took me 3 novels to get my agent. I will never forget the feeling of despair when I realized a book wasn't working and I'd have to trunk it.

Joan Strading said...

Nice cliffhanger there. Looking forward to "the rest of the story."

RK Charron said...

*Groan*
You definitely have how to hook the reader down!
I wanted to turn the page for the rest of the story!
Thank you for sharing part one of your journey.
Happy New Year!
Rob

Merc said...

ARGH, cliffhangers. *shakes fist*

Hurry up with the next part, Authoress! ;)

Will-o'-Writer said...

Sweetness! This is a great story :)
Can't wait for the next part.

Miss Aspirant said...

So great to read your success story! It's motivating me to get off my butt and get back to work! Congrats once again and can't wait for the next installment!

Jay said...

You leave us with a cliffhanger? Really? LOL Great stuff and I can't wait for the next installment.

Marybk said...

Oh, boy. Now I'm waiting for the next installment! :)

Amanda said...

Love it! Can't wait for part II.

bfav said...

You give me hope.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Can't wait for part two. Always love getting into agents heads. :)

Christina Farley said...

yes! love your story. i need to hear this!