Being a writer is a tough gig. There’s very little payback and we generally work alone. Yes, it’s true, this new age of blogging has allowed us to reach out and connect with others, more so than we would have been able to at any other time. But still, we are pretty much alone, stuck in our own heads, making up strange tales set in strange lands with strange people.
We experience minor victories from time to time. We string together coherent sentences, then paragraphs and chapters, plots and subplots, until, finally, we have a book. We are so proud. Not many people even attempt to write a book let alone finish one. Afterwards, we read and revise, edit and add content. We scrub and buff until it shines like an uncut diamond. Then, if we’re lucky, we find amazing critique partners who help us polish our gem until its sparkles like Edward Cullen on a sunny day.
When we’re ready, we go through the whole process again with our query letter. Scribble, scratch, buff and shine. We are not daunted by the research necessary to find the appropriate agents to send our query. We compile our list and format our submissions, cringing with raw nerves when we hit the send button.
Then we wait. And wait some more—more and more and more and more. Every time we get a new email, we wonder if it could be the one. And when it’s not, when it’s nothing more than another rejection, we shrink a little lower in our seats, lose a little more confidence. We may even cry.
But then we get one, maybe even two or three, or—good God almighty—four: a request for pages, a partial or the whole damn thing. A happy dance ensues, perhaps a bit of screaming and raising of one’s arms towards God in heaven.
But not for long. Gotta get those pages out.
Then we wait. And wait some more—more and more and more and more. We thought we were tense before, but now with our baby out in the big, bad world, we’re ready to spin like a top we’re so wound up. Again, every time a new email arrives, we wonder. But it’s been so long, we almost forget. Until we see that agent’s name above the subject line with our book title right below. Our hands shake, our breathing gets shorter and more labored as we open it.
Then the world comes crashing down around our ears. Utter devastation. That first rejection of our full manuscript is unbearably painful, but eventually, after days of tears and heartbreak, we brush ourselves off and move forward.
The next rejection hurts, as well, but there’s nothing really to glean from it because, once again, it’s just a simple no thanks, but good luck to you. Nothing to tell us we’re on the right track or not. So, though our pride is stinging and our confidence is waning, we trudge onward, perhaps making a revision or two, just a tweak here and there to make us feel like we’re improving it somehow. And out go more queries in sporadic bursts.
Then we wait. Again. But this time, we’re a bit numb. Our skin is definitely getting thicker. We’ve learned to put those queries out of mind and get on with life. And so, when another request comes in, we’re excited, but wary, especially since we know this is likely just a favor from our friend’s agent. But it’s a request nonetheless. So out go those pages, one more time. We sigh, thinking of the long wait before us, cringing at that stupid typo in the very first paragraph on the very first page that we didn’t notice until after we’d already sent it.
But then another request comes in. Hope! Pages go out. Another long sigh. Another long wait. And then another request. Even more hope! Sigh. Wait. And wait some more. And more and more and more.
Then something remarkable happens. It’s not a good thing, mind you, but neither is it entirely bad. Yeah, it’s a rejection and so it hurts a little, but the skin is pretty tough now and the pain is just a tingle of disappointment rather than a ripping out of the heart. It was improbable anyway. This was, after all, that favor request. But this time the email is not a one line denial of interest. And while the agent is “just short of enthusiastic enough to take it on and fight for it,” she says “there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in there” and “goodness knows, it was very close.” So even though she suggests a change in the protagonist’s name, it’s cool. It’s an easy fix. And if that’s the worst thing she can think of, there’s reason to feel good. That’s the best rejection letter ever!
My point here is that we get a lot more bad news than good, but bad news is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it lifts our sagging confidence, offers a push back onto the road, granted with a little coarse correction. We know we’re getting closer to our destination. We can feel it. The trick is to not give up, even when the bad news is really bad. You never know when a little ray of sunshine will come along and brighten your otherwise dreary day. And hey, there are still a few requested pages out there. And after that, there are always more agents to query. It’s not the end game yet.