DID I JUST WRITE THAT?
And I realize I haven’t posted anything here in over a year, but I’ll explain about that later. For now, let’s dance.
I’m going to break it down for you. Writing is hard. Writing a book is even harder. Querying a book that is adorned with your blood, sweat and tears? The hardest part yet. However, in the wise words of Jimmy Dugan, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”
Mine isn’t a cinderella story. I didn’t write a manuscript in a few weeks, send it off to a couple of agents and have an offer the following week. We all see stories like that and although we’re genuinely happy for the success of our fellow writers, we secretly want to poke their eyeballs with a spork to hopefully dislodge the horseshoe they obviously swallowed.
Mine has been a journey. Retrospect? I’m glad it has been . It has taken me right here, and it is exactly where I want to be.
I’ll give you the condensed version. (HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah. Right.)
This wasn’t my first manuscript. It also wasn’t my first ride on the Query Rollercoaster. It is my fourth manuscript and the third project I queried. Like I said, retrospect is a hell of a thing. The first 2 projects, while I love dearly, were a bit self-indulgent and a lesson in listening to my writer’s brain. With both, neither felt *right* at times, even though I loved them so. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was there.
So, I took a step back and after a chat with a good friend, I decided to revisit something I wrote over five years ago. (Full disclosure: It was fanfiction. I’m not embarrassed to even admit it because the fandom I wrote for has produced some of the finest writers I know today. I’m so lucky to have been surrounded by so many amazing women, some of which I call dear friends to this day. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this post today if it wasn’t for fandom and the people in it. I owe everything to it. So, when someone says ‘fandom’ to you, know it’s so much more than just a bunch of nerds who like a book/show/movie. So much more.)
For the next few months, I tore that product apart. I had a new outlook for how to make it better, stronger because truth be told, five years was a long time (and many words) ago. I’d grown as a writer so much that it was satisfying work to recreate. Once done, I started querying it. A few months I’d had many requests and was asked to do a Revise and Resubmit for an agent. I did, but in the end, she still wasn’t feeling it and passed.
Back to querying and after another couple months, I had an offer for another Revise and Resubmit. I was really unsure if I wanted to go through it again, but in the end, I decided to do it. I felt confidence sending it back because I knew I’d addressed her areas of concern. A few weeks later, I got an email with a super painful rejection. I’d done everything she asked, but what I didn’t do was the things she hadn’t asked for. Here is where I round back around to that retrospect thing–It was in that moment I realized that this project, my entire future career was in my hands, and not in an agents. We think it’s the other way around, but this is untrue. I didn’t ask the right questions because I was afraid of coming across as confrontational or stupid. What was stupid was me not asking for clarity. At the time, I didn’t think of it like this. All I could think was…my spirit was broken.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or how much further I wanted to go with this project so, I did the only thing I knew I could do. I threw myself into a new project and it was a wonderful distraction from trying to decide how to proceed. One evening, I got an email from agent asking if I was still looking for representation–she’d had my full manuscript for 3 months and was only just able to get it it. I told her I was, and didn’t think much of it.
A week later, I got a response from the agent mentioned. She liked it. She liked it a lot…but…yeah. She wanted to see some changes. I’d already told myself I wasn’t going to do any more R&R’s because I didn’t feel like I had it in me. Plus, I was cranking on the new project so hard and it was almost completely drafted. However, she asked if we could talk on the phone, and I agreed because it was a lovely offer. The next day, we talked for over a half hour, and she was very clear on what she wanted done. It was going to require a lot of work, but her enthusiasm and receptiveness of my thoughts left me conflicted. I said I wouldn’t do another R&R, but…I was feeling it. I compromised with myself. I told her I’d be willing to do the revisions, but I wanted to concentrate on finishing the project I was working on. She was fine with that, and life went on for a few weeks.
Then the Midwest Writers Workshop happened. I’ve blogged in the past about this AMAZING conference, and this year, my third year there, was no different. I was able to talk to fellow writers, and professionals about where I was. I couldn’t shake the revision thoughts. Her comments were so refreshing, and well thought out, I started itching to get back in to it. However, do I leave the current project and go against my self-imposed “rules?”
The overall consensus?
So I did.
After a few days home, I contacted the agent and told her I was moving forward with the revisions. When I was unsure of something, I’d email her, asking for clarity, or making suggestions of my own. She always responded promptly, and with the same enthusiasm she’d always shown. It made me push harder, and dig deeper. Those revisions were the hardest work I’ve ever done. Even having known this manuscript for so long, and so many revisions, I was making it BRAND NEW…and I was loving it. I had pre-readers give their input, and I was feeling better and better about it. But along with all the positive feelings, my anxiety was through the roof. What if this was another rejection? What if my best wasn’t good enough. I finally swallowed all my fears, and sent off the revisions. She got back to me immediately asked me to give her a week and she’d let me know then.
At 11:00 p.m. on a Friday, exactly a week later, she got back to me as promised.
‘Hi Melissa. So I know I said I’d get back to you today with an answer, but I’d like to hold off on delivering my notes til Monday if that is okay with you. I’d like to take the weekend to fully think through.’
I responded telling her, of course, that was fine and looked forward to Monday.
A few minutes…
‘Just so you don’t think I’m wasting your time, if you agree with some of my notes/suggestions, then I’d like to take this project on. I didn’t want you to think I was going to have you wait til Monday just for me to say no.’
As promised, Monday morning I got her notes and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. It was minor changes, and suggestions. She wanted me to think about it, and let her know my thoughts. I was so impressed with her, and felt such a joint vision between the two of us, I didn’t need to think about it long. We set up a time to talk the next day.
We talked for an hour. It was easy, and exciting. Now, while I would always encourage writers to think over offers, etc, I had spent so much time in conversation with her in the course of 2 months. That, combined with the revisions, and I wasn’t going into any decision blindly. I just knew she was the one. The manuscript was still out with four other agents, and I did something I never thought I’d do. I withdrew the manuscript from consideration from all of them. While I always imagined it would be in my best interest to hear all offers, and have a range of consideration, there was no point for me. I didn’t want to waste the other agent’s time when I was positive the outcome would be the same.
I signed with my agent, Kimberly Brower of the Rebecca Friedman Agency the next day. She is amazing and I couldn’t be more tickled that she sees something in me that she’s willing to take a chance on.
All that time chasing dreams, and I feel like I’m one step closer. All that time, and all the self-doubt brought me to where I am.