Back to the Drawing Board

 (This is normal, right?)

I received a lot of support after my post “Acknowledging My Fears of Submission.” Many commenters were very familiar with the fear of sending your work off to agentland. But, overwhelmingly, they encouraged me to push through that fear and get over my reluctance. I would be better for it. I would learn. And eventually I would succeed. In theory.

So I did. Well, I tried. And it worked. Umm, maybe?

I sent out a query. Two, actually. To two agents actively seeking romance projects. One had just opened her inbox to queries after a lengthy hiatus and the other was doing a big push for romance submissions. I couldn’t ignore either opportunity, even though the timing wasn’t ideal. But when is it ever? So carpe diem and all that. The one agent had been recommended to me by awesome Editor X, and the other was a part of a highly respected agency. How could I not query? So I clicked ‘Send.’ Twice. Both queries sent within a week of each other.

Small Victory #1 – Bluestocking is ready to play with the big girls.

While I’m still waiting to hear one way or another from the one agent, the other requested pages right away. Whoa.

Small Victory #2 – Bluestocking’s query doesn’t suck.

So I sent off the requested partial and allowed myself a few hours of unadulterated delusions of grandeur (a bad habit of mine after small victories). And then, just before bed that night, it happened. The inevitable rejection.

BUT, it wasn’t a ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ form rejection. It was personalized; it was tailored – just for me. And even though some parts stung (a lot), it was clear from the agent’s note that some aspects of the novel worked.

Small Victory #3 – Bluestocking’s work is strong enough to merit a personalized rejection.

I read Rachelle Gardner’s post on “Dealing with Contradictory Feedback” earlier this week, which talked about how to weigh different types of feedback. Juliette Wade has also tackled this issue in the past. I know I can’t just brush off the rejection and turn a blind eye to the comments I received. This agent is a professional who evaluates stories on a daily basis. But I don’t want to risk making changes that are reactionary and not well thought out or serve only the person who’s already passed on the project. Plus I know how subjective writing can be. Maybe some other agent will like the story as it stands. I can hope.

But I think what I’m struggling with the most is that I just don’t have enough information right now to decide the best way to proceed. I need a bigger sample, and I don’t mean my critique group. I need to earn a few more rejections to see if this particular agent’s response is on target with others. If the same issues with my work keep cropping up, that would certainly signal the need for a major overhaul. But at this moment, I just don’t know.

So where does this leave me? I know I’ll be getting a critique back on the novel thanks to a contest I entered back in early May. Editor X is still out there with my full somewhere in her reading queue. And then there’s that other agent with my query sitting in her inbox. Hopefully the accumulation of responses from these various sources will suggest a course of action I should take with my work.

And I’m going to stack the deck in my favor too. I recently found out about the Golden Rose, a contest put on by the Rose City Romance Writers out of Portland, Oregon, and plan to enter my first 50 pages. The nice thing about this contest is that the scoring sheets are returned in time for me to tweak my entry for the RWA’s Golden Heart, which I’ve been thinking about entering as well.

I’m also going to take a hard look at my novel and dig out some of my craft books I thought I was done with (for this particular project), and see what I can do to strengthen my work. 

Small Victory #4 – Bluestocking is not going to give up.

I know I have a lot to be thankful for – confirmation my query can capture interest, professional and pointed feedback, and a completed MS I’m still proud of. But even with all these small victories under my belt, I feel like I’m going back the drawing board.

I just have to remember how far I’ve come since this time last year. Onward!

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9 thoughts on “Back to the Drawing Board

  1. Café Lopez says:

    Those are some terrific silver linings, and one fantastic attitude. I admire your optimism, so many writers stand to gain from it. Good luck!

  2. Shmologna says:

    This is a wonderful post. I want to congratulate you on all of your victories. I think you have a great strategy.

    And, most importantly, you are pushing forward. This encourages me so much. I, too, am terribly afraid of the submission process. Will I be laughed out of someone's inbox?

    God bless you for sharing.

    ~Britt Mitchell

  3. Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams says:

    I think the fact you got a response at all, let alone a personal one is wonderful!

    I've kept most of my rejections (at least, the ones sent in the mail. The email ones have just archived somewhere.) Agent rejections must have totaled at least 50 (I was also rejected once or twice by my current agent.) 🙂 They expect us to be persistent to make it in the industry, I think.

  4. Bluestocking says:

    Thanks for all the warm fuzzies! Certainly alleviates the sting of rejection. But it is also my first personalized rejection — a milestone for sure. Must keep my chin up. Thanks!

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