Introduction: One Writer’s Journey through the Query Trenches
Hello and welcome! I have always wanted to start a blog, so here we are! On this page you’ll be able to find my ramblings on the wonderful world of writing. I figured it would be a good idea to kick off this blog with an introduction, and the long, winding path that finally led me to my book deal.
I could start with the very cliché writer line that “I’ve been writing novels since I could hold a pen,” but I won’t. Sure, I wrote some half-baked stories, some poems, a diary entry or two, but I didn’t really start writing seriously until after college.
After four years of busting my ass to earn a very frameable piece of paper, I finally got my first day job. It was… not ideal. It didn’t help that the job consisted of getting cussed out on the phone for 50+ hours a week making next to nothing… but it was more than that. I hadn’t written a novel yet, but I had always taken writing-heavy classes in school. There were always reports and papers and reflections to be written. Now the longest thing I was writing was an email.
And it sucked.
So in the evenings and weekends I started scribbling out the rough shape of what would become my first novel. Obviously, it was a work of utter genius that was flawless in every way. Or, you know, not at all.
By the time I finished writing and editing that first book I had read enough blogs to know that the vast majority of people don’t end up getting their first project published. But I said fuck that. I’m special. My high school creative writing teacher said so. So did my mom. I got this.
I did not “got this.” I queried that first novel for about six months and didn’t even get so much as a personalized email rejection. My husband always knew when I had gotten another form rejection because he would find me crying on the floor in our closet. I was frustrated. I felt worthless and hopeless and stupid for even trying. It felt like my career was over before it even started - like this was the end of my journey. If I’d gotten bitter or resentful it probably would have been. But I didn’t.
Instead, I hunkered down and wrote another book.
I didn’t even bother querying that one. Or the next. Was I just being a perfectionist? Maybe. But more than that, I was scared. Getting told your heart’s work isn’t good enough is hard. It makes your entire being shrivel up into a little ball in the pit of your belly. It makes your cheeks flush and your ears ring. After all, we pour every last inch of ourselves into our books… when someone says “no” to the book it feels a hell of a lot like they’re saying “no” to you as a person. I wasn’t eager to feel that sting again. Who would be?
By my fourth book I finally had the guts to query again… and again, rejections rained down upon my poor unsuspecting head. But this time I didn’t cry in the closet with every “no.” This time I had come prepared with an umbrella of sorts - a new project. While I queried Book 4, I was in the throes of writing Book 5. Having that new project changed my whole outlook. Now the rejections didn’t make me go “I AM HOPELESS AND WILL NEVER MAKE IT,” they just made me go “...well, maybe they’ll like the next one.” That is why my number one piece of advice to querying writers is to work on something new while you wait for those inevitable rejections.
Around that same time I also started using real live strangers from the internet for beta readers instead of friends and family. I started reading books about the craft, and started taking my time with worldbuilding, character construction, and outlining. I participated in my first ever Twitter pitch contest, #PitMad. I attended a local writer’s conference where I met with an agent and did a (terrifying) in-person pitch.
Some combination of all those things worked. On Book 4 I got two offers of rep. Then, holy shit, I had an agent.
My wonderful agent and I edited Book 4 within an inch of its life. It took us almost a full year to get ‘er in fighting shape. Then we sent it out into the world. Book 4 stayed on sub for about nine months. In that time we racked up a ton of rejections, most with feedback. We did more edits, then sent it out again. I was hanging in there, but by the time September hit, I had a realization.
I hated Book 4. Not because no one seemed to want it. I didn’t want it. I had grown beyond it. I didn’t want it to be my debut anymore. My agent agreed and we pulled it so we could get the next project ready for submission.
Book 5. Among Thieves. My pride and joy. The best damn book I’d ever written. It only took three months on sub for us to get an offer that time. Just after the two year anniversary of signing with my agent, I finally had a book deal!!
There are still more steps to come. More edits, more bumps in the road, I’m sure. But I’m confident I can weather the storm! After all, I have my trusty umbrella again - Book 6 is already underway. :)