How does anyone do this? I still don’t know.

Wands by my wildly talented friend Sallie. Today I am invoking ALL the moxie and magic.

A writer-friend messaged me recently to ask how on earth anyone can stand this querying business. She’d just started querying a novel, and had received her first few rejections. I love giving pep talks, probably because I always need them myself, so I tried to be reassuring. It wasn’t difficult–her novel is good, really good, and I hope to be shouting about its publication from the rooftops one of these days. In the meantime, though, it’s a long game.

It’s hard to stay optimistic. Yesterday, I achieved a personal rejection record–two rejections from two different agents for two different novels. I vacillate between feeling crushed and bemused.

I’ve sent out 59 queries for my YA contemporary fantasy Water Witch. Of those, 43 have resulted in rejection, whether by form letter or amount of time elapsed. Sometimes you don’t hear back on query letters. Agents are busy peeps. I’ve gotten 16 full or partial manuscript requests, 13 of which have ended in rejection. It’s taken anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to hear back on fulls.

I still have four submissions out. Of those, one was a rejection with lots of helpful feedback from the agent. After I revised, I asked her if I could resubmit, and she sent an encouraging yes. Another was a full request by an agent who’s since switched agencies. I’ve tried contacting her multiple times to find out if she’s still considering my submission since her job change, but have had no response. I’m considering that submission a rejection, so I effectively have three submissions still out to agents. I sent out my first query for this novel on March 7, 2014.

It’s the long game for sure.


This morning, I’m trying to work up the momentum to get started on revisions for Vessel, the next novel I plan to submit. I have revised this thing about four times now, and it still needs a good bit of work to be the best novel it can be. I am fortunate to have a handful of writer-friends who give phen0menal feedback, the kind that pushes me to do my best work.

So how does anyone do this? Some days I still don’t know. I think, at the core of it, that it’s about hope–hope on some microscopic, cellular level that’s embedded in my DNA. I get discouraged all the time. The one thing I don’t do is give up. Maybe it’s just stubbornness. I’m always wondering if I ought to focus on a career and better support my family. I’m always questioning why I feel compelled to travel this particular path. I have many dark nights of the writerly soul, but for some reason I can’t stop. Some teensy tinsy part of me–the part that is certain that there is going to be a snow day, that dragons are real, that the Best Possible Thing is coming–that part holds out, holds on, a spark in the night.

Hold on to your spark. And hit me up if you need a pep talk.

12 thoughts on “How does anyone do this? I still don’t know.

  1. These days, it truly is harder than before. Have you considered going to conferences or conventions where editors and/or agents have “pitch sessions?” Face to face can make a difference. There are fantasy conventions, science fiction conventions, more generic writers conventions and conferences. Guests will include agents and editors who are up to date on what they want and how to get their attention. Back to pitch sessions…this is a relatively new thing but I know people who have sold based on those sessions (which usually last 5 minutes or so). Here’s a major convention. At least it might give you an idea. But again, pitch conference or regular convention, meeting editors and agents and other writers of similar material can help you find that connection….and possibly that sale…you’re looking for.

    – Elizabeth 🙂

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth–I really appreciate your thoughtful response. I have thought about going to conferences–I’d especially love to attend the SCBWI one. Unfortunately I’m not in a place financially where I can afford the travel and registration fees. Have you done the conference/convention thing? If so, I’d love to know how it went!

      1. Sorry to be long in replying! I know conventions or conferences can be expensive…if you find you’re able to go at any point, though, I’d really encourage you to do so. There may be some in VA or DC, or some that aren’t as expensive as you might fear. Agents and editors and publishers do attend smaller cons, not just the big ones. Google and see what you find. I got my first agent by way of a convention and sold my first novel the same way. This was years ago, but the value of meeting and talking face to face hasn’t changed. Of course, a pitch to an agent or editor should only be done during an official pitch session or when someone has asked specifically to see your current work/offering. (Though I don’t think you’re the type to pin some agent against the wall during a con and say, “Hey, read this!” ) In all honesty, though I did make my first short story sales by submission only, I have no idea how long it might have taken to sell my first novel if I hadn’t met editors and agents in person. 🙂

        1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth–I really appreciate your perspective and encouragement! You’ve convinced me. I promise I won’t pin anybody to the wall–but thanks for the nudge to find a way to make this happen. There are some local comic book/fantasy cons I should check out. I’m also working up the moxie to start submitting some shorter work to journals, which may help me build a resume. I hope your writing’s going well!

  2. I’m so glad that spark is still burning in you, Brenna! Your hope gives ME hope but I also appreciate your reality in these statistics. Long game, indeed. I’m right there with you, cheering you on, and getting cheer from you when I need it. Keep that spark ALIVE!

      1. If in being like parenting you mean that writing requires all of your patience, sacrifice beyond measure, plodding ahead not knowing if you’re doing anything right, trying like hell not to compare yourself with others doing the same thing, and wondering if you’re going to be satisfied with the end result? Then, yes – I’d say it’s an awful lot like parenting. :O)

  3. Brenna, you do shine a soft, hopeful light on what is sometimes really is a darkiy, jaggedy path. And yet you still have the generosity to offer up encouragement to the rest of us should we need it. Wow. I say back at you….my virtual door is open and the tea kettle close to hand, should you ever need…

    1. Dear Peggy, thanks so much for this. ❤ I just got a wonderful mug for tea in the mail! 😉 I think writers have got to have each others' backs. We're all in this together, and it's not a zero-sum game–every time one of us succeeds, it feels so amazingly hopeful and inspiring. Let me know how I can best support you in your journey!

Comments are closed.