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Agents are like kryptonite.

Posted by Kristen Selleck on August 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (2)

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Writing a novel isn't the hard part.  It's fun.  You get to create another world, people it with exactly the characters you chose (though sometimes you may not be able to get them to do exactly what you want), and throw the obstacles and events that you have determined are plot/character building in front of them.

 

And...let's admit it... while you write, you have the ability to daydream a little bit.  'Now, will it be New-York-Times-Best-selling-Author Jane Blow, or shall I just have them refer to me as winner-of-the-Pulitzer-prize-for-literature Jane Blow?  Decisions, decisions...'  If you're like me, you can tell yourself that all those little errors (plot gaps, grammatical, etc.) will be cleaned up when you edit, because meanwhile, the awesome writing train needs to plow full-steam ahead.

 

Then you finish.

 

The last words of the book are perfect, it's wrapped up, the story is complete, you have 10,000 pages and a six million word count of unmitigated genius, and you turn around and start to do a read-over, and.... and...you realize that maybe vodka isn't quite the inspirational nector you thought it was.  (Of course, it's vodka's fault because you... are a genius,) 

 

(and if you've never had to edit any of my work, the above run-on is intented to illustrate a groan-worthy point.)

 

Anyhow, now it's time to edit.  Let's take the gloves off and decide what works and what doesn't.  This is what seperates the amateurs from the worthy-of-publishing.   So you put periods where there were commas, eliminate a bunch of 'had''s from in front of verbs, and send it out to your closest pals that enjoy reading.  At this point, if you're honest with yourself, you know full-well that the reviews that are going to come back will all be varying degrees of "It's good" or "It's good, but...". Because nobody that loves you will say: "This plot has already been done a million times and you have no new perspective on it, don't bother editing it."

 

You've finished your work, polished your gem, and it's time to query.  Which is where I am.  Which is the point I always come to... before waving a white flag, tossing my MS in a box, and retreating to my laboratory to grumble for a year before starting the process anew.

 

If you think it's because I can't stomach the rejections, you'd be wrong.  It's worse than that.  I can't work up the courage to send a query.  I have three complete MS under my bed whose little querying tentacles have never seen the inside of an agent's inbox.

 

But this time, it's going to be different.  This time I had a plan. Before I even finished the novel, I started researching agents.  If they blogged, I read their blogs. I looked up the authors they represented and read their blogs to see if the agent was talked about.  I researched titles they had sold and to what publishers.  I read blogs and websites about how to query, what works, what the correct format is.  I made lists of who I wanted to query and how I was going to pitch Asylum specifically to each.

 

And then I finished the MS.  And then I edited the MS.  And then I took two weeks to write two one page queries, and spent another week just working up the nerve to email them.

 

But I did it, and I wrote the names and time of query on a piece of paper and hung it up in the fridge, right next to my son's depiction of himself riding a spaceship to the mall (exectued entirely in green crayon).  --No jokes about apt metaphors, please.

 

Anyhow, I was proud of myself.  For about five hours, which is when I received my first rejection.  It was a form "thanks, but no thanks", and it came so quickly that I must have fouled something up in the process big-time, right?  Yes, exactly right.  I cut-and-pasted my letter into my email and the formatting was a mess!  Sentences were all out of place, nothing made sense.

 

Now, I started freaking out.  The rejection didn't come from my first choice, but when I checked my sent box, the email I had sent to my first choice was just as messed up.  I banged my head on a desk repeatedly for awhile.  This is the sort of thing that reeks of amateur, it's one of the first things they tell you to check when you're querying... right up there with spelling the agent's name correctly, and not sending abusive emails to them when they reject you.

 

I was ready to chalk up another failure.  Maybe not throw the MS under a bed yet, but decide my first attempts at querying were a fail and wait a while, build the courage up and try again.  But a friend convinced me to send them another query explaining what had happened. Because what's the worst they can do, reject you twice?

 

I did. I sent an 'ummm...I'm an idiot, but...' email, and fourteen days later, I got a request for pages.  Really!

 

And no matter what comes of it, whether it's another 'thanks, but no', or a 'we'd like to see more', it's enough for me at this point.  It's enough to keep me trying.  I was able to query a third agent because one said, "I'll look."  Baby steps.