Rejected

If you want to be a traditionally published author, the route looks pretty much like this:

  1. Write a book (the easiest part of the process)
  2. Edit your book (woof)
  3. Query your book (pitch it to literary agents)
  4. Get lots of rejections (agents don’t like your book, and therefore dont’t want to represent you)
  5. Sometimes do an R&R (Revise & Resubmit) when an agent is somewhat interested
  6. Land an agent
  7. Your agent pitches your book to publishers.
  8. More rejections, possibly
  9. Your agent sells your book to a publisher
  10. Your book is published
  11. Your book is sold in bookstores
  12. You live happily ever after (well, that’s what I’d like to believe, anyway).

A different kind of 12-step program, you might say, but one that’s also filled with pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. (Also joy! But I have not gotten to those steps yet.)

So far, I have only made it as far as Step 4.

And then *right* back to Step 3.

After many, many, many months of querying agents in Canada and the U.S., I had a “bite” on Sept. 8, 2021 when an agent was “intrigued” with my pitch (synopsis, first chapter, and query letter) and asked to see the full manuscript.

She was the FIRST agent to ask for this. *happy tears*

I made it to Step 4 on Oct. 27, 2021 (exactly 49 days later). The agent really seemed to like my book, and said the loveliest things!

“From the first page, I was fascinated …”

“You do a great job of delving into those moments …”

“… such great details.”

“… little things like that really kept me engaged throughout the book.”

“… there’s something really interesting here and I love your writing style.”

BUT she had some suggestions on how to make it better. (She was completely correct, with everything she pointed out, but I needed a professional to say it before I admitted it.)

And so it began! My first R&R!

Baby’s First R&R! What a milestone!

She wanted to see three specific changes (all valid points), so I excitedly set to work. It felt amazing to have actual guidance from an industry professional!

I started a new notebook to log my R&R progress and shared updates each day over on Instagram Stories. Entire chapters were cut! Other chapters were fully rewritten! Tons of work, but I was happy to do it because a real, live agent (in NEW YORK CITY, no less) had suggested the changes.

Over the next 11 days, here’s what I did:

1. Cut two character perspectives (with involved either deleting their chapters or rewriting them in someone else’s perspective.

2. Cut some stream 💋💋💋 to speed things along and help with the word count. (Don’t worry, it’s still 🥵 and I’ll have fun releasing the “deleted scenes” someday!)

3. Reduced the word count to get it under 100,000 words. This novel has gone up and down over the last couple of years, as I tinker with it, but it’s never been that short. Over 11 days, I cut 37,829 words (!!!) to make it a tight, fast-paced 99,866 words.

11 days of my first R&R

Now, here’s the disclaimer: I have HEARD that it’s not good to complete an R&R too quickly because it might seem like you skipped through your manuscript and didn’t take the suggestions seriously.

But I had a few reasons for moving as quickly as I did:

  1. I was careful to make EVERY change the agent wanted to see, and didn’t skimp
  2. I’m a fast writer/editor, so it wasn’t a problem to make the changes quickly
  3. I worked on it DAILY, with an intense ferver some people may not possess
  4. I wanted to resubmit while the project was still fresh in the agent’s mind, so she’d remember her original interest
My first R&R timeline (Oct. 28-Nov. 7, 2021)

So I sent it back to her on Nov. 7, 2021. It was a significantly revised novel, and I felt so confident she was going to be pleased that I’d made the changes she wanted.

(You can see where this is going.)

I waited.

And waited.

I could have checked in after 4-6 weeks, or maybe 6-8 weeks (which is sometimes recommended when an agent is considering a full manuscript).

But honestly? I didn’t want to check in because I was too scared I’d get a “No” back.

In this industry, it’s so much easier to keep your spirits up when you have “maybes” floating around out there. Agents who have your full manuscript (or even a partial, or just a query) and could theoretically be reading it RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE, falling in love with your plot and characters and writing style. Agents who are RIGHT NOW in the process of drafting an email or glancing down at your phone number so they can reach out and set up The Call That Could Change Your Life.

I liked having a really solid “Maybe” out there. (Two, actually, as agent in Toronto requested the full manuscript on Oct. 6, 2021.)

So I quietly waited, and hoped.

The email shocked me when it did arrive, 76 days later. I saw her name, and almost couldn’t believe it. I have gotten very good at skimming these emails to see if it’s good news or bad news, and when I saw “However” and “But,” my heart sank.

“You did a great job of cutting down the word count and making this a tighter story …”

“While you do a great job of …”

“I absolutely love the plot point of …”

“While I loved so many elements of this novel and appreciate the time you took to revise, I’m afraid I just don’t have the kind of clear vision I would need to represent this novel.”

“I’m sorry I don’t have better news, but I wish you nothing but the best of luck in your publishing journey.”

So … it was a pass.

As soon as the email came in, I recorded my reaction in an Instagram Reel (and ironically nailed it on my first take, which is not usually the case with Reels).

“Am I gonna cry? Am I about to cry? … No. Okay.”

While it always hurts to get rejected, I took this one really well. I appreciate getting the opportunity to have completed an R&R (and it really did make the book better!) and who knows, maybe this agent and I will work together someday in the future.

This industry is all about rejection, and we’ve all heard the stories about Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, being rejected more than 30 times (after his wife fished it out of the trash because he’d thrown it away). Rejection doesn’t mean our work isn’t good. It just means we haven’t found the right agent to champion it yet.

I heard this news on Monday, and I’ve kept plowing ahead without hesitation (listening to a few of my pick-me-up songs, of course). I’ve kept getting up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. and making time to write before I get the kids ready for school and begin my workday. I’ve kept working away on Novel 3 (in the LAST NIGHT series), even though it hurts that Novel 1 isn’t going to get picked up as quickly as I’d hoped.

(Don’t get me started on poor Novel 2, the classic neglected middle child.)

While I’ve been sharing a LOT about this journey over on Instagram, I’m going to try to share more about it here, too. It’s important to document all of this so that someday, WHEN my books sell, I can look back and remember what it felt like to be starting out in the process.

What it felt like to be pushing ahead on nothing but dreams and stamina.

CREDIT: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, as shown on my Kobo e-reader

“People with stamina aren’t made any differently to anyone else,” she was saying. “The only difference is they have a clear goal in mind, and a determination to get there. Stamina is essential to stay focused in a life filled with distraction. It is the ability to stick to a task when your body and mind are at their limit, the ability to keep your head down, swimming in your own lane, without looking around, worrying who might overtake you.”

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

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