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...
READ SECOND INSTALLMENT HERE
READ THIRD INSTALLMENT HERE
*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.)