The Quest for the Holy Grail

I just sent out a query letter that included the first two chapters of my novel and a plot synopsis.

It is no coincidence that the word “query” is only two letters off from “queasy.”

Seriously, I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I could barf.

About 5,000 times a day, I check my email, hoping against hope for the holy grail–that response from a publisher saying, “Yes!  You are the one we’ve been waiting for!  Please run away with us to fame and fortune and publishing success beyond your wildest dreams!”

Well, okay, so that’s not what it would sound like.  And it also won’t sound like, “Twilight, schmilight!” or “you must be the long-lost love-child of J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien!” or “forget the Hunger Games, girl, you are on fire!”

But I’m aspiring to become a Professional Liar, and it’s fun to pretend.

Here’s what I’ve realized, though, as I’ve researched and observed and desperately hoped and wildly dreamed and bared my fragile ego to the horrors of the  slush pile:  I’d love the grail, but I’d settle happily for a thoughtful rejection.  I’ve got a little stack of rejection letters already.  I’m proud of them, because they’re tangible evidence that I’m trying, that I’m working at living a writerly life.  I keep them in a binder in my writing room, and I contemplate papering the walls with them.  Without exception, they are form letters.   What I’ve learned from them is this:  “your manuscript does not seem right for our list at this time.”  I’m not even totally sure what that means.  Other than rejection, of course.  But the real disappointment of those letters, for me, is that they don’t come with a why.

Criticism stings, but I’m slowly learning to appreciate it, because it’s the best way for me to grow as a writer.  Well, constructive criticism, anyway.  I long for the grail, but I’d love a letter that pointed out my faults, so that I could work on them and improve my writing.

So here’s hoping for the grail–or at least for that magical rejection letter that will help temper my words in the fires of criticism.

And if I ever get a real doozy of a rejection letter, I will post it here for our shared amusement and a reminder to myself that writing isn’t about publishing or fame or fortune.  It’s about writing.

5 thoughts on “The Quest for the Holy Grail

  1. Good to know I’m not the only one who basically spam checks her email for even the rejection letter.
    When I do see an email on my phone I think to myself “Wouldn’t it be nice if I wasn’t even expecting this to be from an agent, then to my delight, not only is it an agent, but a letter stating they want to see more? How awesome…” But even as I’m thinking that it’s like Hello! You’re still thinking about it being an agent!!
    The best rejection I’ve gotten so far is that the agent wasn’re exactly sure what was going on in the query because there was so much info in there. It’s good feedback, but at the same time it’s what the story is about, and it’s in like 400 words. I can’t make it any bigger or smaller, right there, in a nutshell, is what the story is about.

    You’ll get your personalized rejection, Brenna, and then eventually, you’ll get yoiur acceptance letter. Then you probably will throw up (I’m pretty sure I will when it happens to me, hell even you :-P) Keep your chin up girl!

    1. Well, Sue, when you put it that way, here’s to throwing up! 😀 Seriously, this submissions stuff makes us pretty neurotic, doesn’t it? But I’m glad to be in the trenches with you.

  2. It’s hard to put your heart and soul out there for strangers to view, but, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -RFK I have faith in you. I think you are a beautiful, talented woman and your time will come.

    1. Cara, I admire you for putting your photography out there–and it’s really good. Lovely quote–thanks for sharing. And thanks for your vote of confidence. How did we peeps with self-confidence issues decide to delve into these artsy-type pursuits with all their attendant risks of rejection, anyway? It must be good for us. I’m gonna stick with that story. 😉

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