On Rejection and Time Spent (Machinations)


Someone left a thoughtful ask over on my Goodreads page, and I figured I’d share my answer here as well, for those interested. These questions come from Jennifer:

How long was your process from writing the first words on a page to actually holding your finished, published book in your hands?

I began writing Machinations in 2011, during my second year of college, and finished the first draft in early 2012. So about 4-5 years between when I wrote it and when it got published. Mind you, a lot of that wasn’t me being stalled by rejection; it was me being lazy and not editing. Oh, and going to college. Not wasted time, I hope. I believe I grew into the writer I needed to be in order to make those changes.

Did you face a lot of rejection before you finally faced that magical yes?

I faced some rejection, though not as much as I probably should have. This might sound like a weird answer, but let me explain.

I queried maybe ten agents back when I first finished and got resounding NO’s. Then I briefly gave up.

Let me repeat that: only ten agents. (Oh, young me, so easily dissuaded…)

I took it as a sign that the book was garbage and resolved to write a better one. And when that didn’t happen, when I kept being drawn back to Machinations, I finally rolled up my sleeves and got to work. When I queried again, I’d queried maybe 12 agents, got some full requests, and as it turned out, the very first one I queried (Marlene Stringer) ended up loving the book and offering representation.*

The harder rejections came during submission. There are a lot less editors than there are agents, and it can feel like crucial doors closing when they reject. Plus, many times, they’re very complimentary about the work, which somehow makes it hurt more. They’ll also—not always, but sometimes—explain why they didn’t connect, or what wasn’t working for them.

Which leads me to your final question…

How did you deal with the rejection?

I didn’t query long enough to really get bogged down by those rejections. Whenever one came in, I’d usually send out two or more fresh queries to other agents. Revenge queries, as they’re called. They’re like little notifications to the universe that you’re not going to lay down and quit. Quite satisfying, really.

Editor rejections, as I mentioned, were somewhat harder to process. It’d make me sad and pessimistic for a few hours, I’d complain to my family or friends, like WOE IS ME NO ONE WILL EVER WANT THIS BOOK I’M GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE UP PIRACY ON THE HIGH SEAS MAYBE GET A PARROT I DON’T KNOW THEY’RE MESSY MAYBE AN EYEPATCH??? and then I got over it. I have a quick emotional rebound rate and a lot of confidence. It helped.

Note: You can discuss with your agent whether you even want to *see* the rejections. Some writers don’t, and their agents keep them from them. That’s totally fine. Me? I’m nosy and like to have all the facts.

The important thing is to feel what you’re feeling, let it wash over you, and then release it back into the world in a healthy, productive way. Whether that’s by getting back to work on a new book, or sending out some revenge queries. Always keep going. Keep writing. If this is what you want to do, if this is the passion that drives you and you’re willing to work for it, you’ll get there. I firmly believe that.

And lastly, please remember: everyone’s journey is different. Try not to compare yourself to other writers, especially with regards to how long it’s taking you to get an agent, or land a book deal, or whatever. It takes as long as it takes. Plus, this industry can be sloooow, so bear that in mind. Instead, focus on writing, improving, and learning. And again, write. Write. Write.

Best of luck!

*This is by no means a usual number for querying. A lot of writers will tell you that they queried 50+ before landing their agent. Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer!

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