Back in May, I took a leap of faith and sent a query letter for my newest book to a literary agent I felt would be interested. She was looking for young adult literature of the creepy, semi-supernatural, Lois Duncan variety. My book fit that description perfectly.
To my surprise and delight, she asked for a partial. That partial turned into a request to revise and resubmit. It was the furthest I’ve ever gone in the querying process and I took every suggestion she made to heart. She asked me to enrich my main character’s personality, so I spent hours giving her a stronger back story, fleshing out her likes and dislikes, and making her personality shine despite her crippling depression. The agent asked me to reduce my unneeded characters. I cut them without mercy. I had several people read my changes and received positive feedback. By the end of July, I was ready to send her the revised manuscript.
And yet, I couldn’t.
At first, ignoring my edited manuscript was easy. It was still summer and I had almost three weeks left before I needed to go back to work, which gave me plenty of time. Then, I was in a car accident (you can read about the struggle to write when you have a concussion here) and I wasn’t allowed to use the computer at all, which gave me a valid excuse for not sending the agent my edited novel.
But two weeks ago, when I was cleared to use the computer again and still hadn’t sent her the revisions, I had to face the ugly truth: I was terrified the agent would reject it.
It’s not as though I haven’t experienced rejection before. Query rejections, sadly, are a dime-a-dozen for some of us – myself included. This was different. This was a revise and resubmit – a whole new level of investment. I was so close to finding an agent. If I sent it and she passed . . . well, you can imagine the hurt.
I held out. Work started, which made my manuscript easier to ignore. I started to wonder how long I could avoid the dilemma. Luckily, my husband brought me back to reality. “If you don’t send it,” he said, “I’m going to hijack your computer and do it for you.” Then he hugged me and told me that, no matter what, he knew I’d keep on writing. If this book didn’t find an agent, the next one would.
I sent it that afternoon. Yes, I've been checking my inbox like a crazy person every since.
The fear of rejection is an unforgiving beast. The key is to slay that beast – sometimes with a little help from our partners – and move on. Maybe the agent will love my edits. Maybe she won’t. Either way, I’ll add this to my writing tool-box of valuable experiences.
Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.