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.)
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.)
“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
I’m Heather Laura Clarke. I’m writer living in beautiful Nova Scotia, I have a 11-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter, I married my high school sweetheart, and this is the story of my handmade life.
I have depression and anxiety, and I fight like hell every day to keep it from taking over my life. Creating things helps.
Whether I’m writing novels, decorating a room, busting out my power tools to build furniture, getting muddy in the pottery studio, sewing clothes for my kids, or cross-stitching a swear word, I’m all about using my creativity to craft a life I love.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2009, so if you dig deep into the archives, you’ll meet a bright-eyed 25-year-old newlywed who was basically obsessed with having kids, buying a cozy house, and supporting herself full-time as a writer. (Spoiler alert: she got exactly what she wanted.)
© Heather Laura Clarke and Heather’s Handmade Life, 2009-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heather Laura Clarke and Heather’s Handmade Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.