Some time ago I set out to blog about my process and progress getting my manuscript into the hands of three agents who requested it: Agents A, B, and C. (See my original blog posts here.)
During that first week of blogging, I sent 50 pages to Agent A as per her request. A short time after that I received her rejection with a note that the project wasn’t right for her.
At that point I celebrated, remember? And even though I really meant it at the time, there was a part of me that was inclined to listen to my demons:
“Your manuscript isn’t good enough. It will never be good enough.” — Harpy, the demon of perfectionism
“No matter how hard you try, you’re still going to fail.” — Aunt Fay, the demon house-guest of fatalism
“She didn’t like your manuscript because it SUCKS!” — Spike, the ever-direct naysayer
After that I kept working on revisions, trying to drown out the demons with the sound of my fingers clacking away at the keyboard. But some days the demons were simply too loud. Some days doubt crept in. Some days I felt more inclined to believe that Agent A rejected my manuscript because, like Spike says, it SUCKS.
Lucky for me I got to see Agent A last week at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in Denver. Agent A and I were chatting with another agent (hereafter known as Agent D) when Agent A said the most incredible thing. She told Agent D that my story was good, it just wasn’t the kind of post-apocalyptic she was looking for. I wish I’d recorded it to play back at times when the demons are loud, but I thought it would be uncool to ask her to repeat it into my phone.
Anyway, empowered and emboldened by Agent A’s compliment, I asked Agent D if he’d like to take a look at the manuscript. He said yes, so after the conference I sat down to email him the first five pages as per his submission guidelines. As I was getting ready to hit “send,” my demons began to raise a ruckus again.
“What if there’s not enough action in the first five pages?”
“Maybe you should revise it twenty more times, just to make sure it’s perfect.”
“What if he doesn’t like it?”
“What if he thinks it sucks???”
They were so loud, it was impossible to ignore them. But then I remembered what Agent A said just as clearly as if I had recorded it. I elbowed the demons aside, resisted the urge to revise, and hit “send” on the email to Agent D.
Is he going to like my first five pages? Is he going to request more?
I don’t know. But if he doesn’t, it doesn’t mean my story or my writing suck. It may simply mean he’s not the right agent for this project.
Besides, I’ll be sending off the full manuscript next week to Agents B and C. Maybe one of them will be right for my project. Or maybe it will be Agent K, or Q, or even Z before I find the right fit.
Regardless, I’m grateful I ran into Agent A at the RMFW conference because I learned some lessons that will stick with me:
• Just because an agent rejects your manuscript doesn’t necessarily mean it sucks.
• Don’t change your story to please an agent; write a story you love, and then find an agent who loves it.
• Compliments are powerful weapons against demons.
• Writers’ conferences are a good thing.