I’ve had two requests for full manuscript from literary agents …and two rejections. It feels as bad as you think – you finally break through the steel walls only to get tossed back over the side. You know you have to start over, if you can recover from the jolt. Four or five weeks of imagining that “maybe” might turn into paper and ink and glory and everything you’ve been working for. But instead it feels like everything is breaking.
Two choices: Give up or don’t. I don’t have the magic formula for getting through but so far this is what’s worked for me:
1. Wallow. Let yourself have the moment but put a time limit on it, as hard as that is. Stop thinking about what might have been and focus on what will be.
2. Contact friends and/or mentors and tell them the sky is falling. They’ll remind you that it isn’t. (One wise friend told me that if it’s too easy, people will hate me and I won’t have a good story to tell…)
3. Realize that if you got that far, your query letter must be pretty good. So that’s one less thing to worry about.
4. If you got feedback, accept it as a gift and say ‘thank you.’ Take another honest read of your manuscript. Do they have a point? Will integrating their suggestions or addressing their issues make the story stronger? Take what you can use. (I received feedback both times – the first made sense, the second maybe not as much.) Realize that agents have widely varying tastes and it could be simply a matter of finding the right person.
5. Revise. Going through your manuscript again can help remind you why you fell in love with this in the first place. Madly in love. That you and writing were made for each other.
6. Don’t lose the magic while pursuing the magic moment. Dive back into your novels where the magic lives.
7. Write. Write some more. Keep going. Are you writing?
8. Send out more queries. My advisor tells me about another student who sent out 99 query letters and struck on the 100th. (Which makes me wonder why it’s never the first or second? But he does have a good story to tell...)
Got some work to do.