The common misconception amongst new writers is that finishing your book is the hardest part of writing. Well as someone who has finished writing their book multiple times, I can assure you that you are wrong. Finishing the first draft of your book is arguably the easiest part of the process, something that I outlined better in this blog post.
Here’s a timeline of what happened in the year following when I first finished my book:
July 6th, 2014: Somehow in between 12 hour nannying shifts, a night job, and a wedding, I managed to finish my book an hour before I left for my night job. I had been working on that particular draft for about five years at that point so I nearly cried tears of joy as I typed out those final words. I thought it was over. I thought I would be published within the year. After all my book was the next Divergent, nay, Hunger Games, and agents will be crawling over themselves to represent my book.
July 7th – July 14th, 2014: Friends and family find out I’ve written a book. No seriously, I spent those five years writing my book in complete secret. When I finished it, I had no one to share the excitement with so I informed as many people as I could. There’s still people in my life to this day who have no idea I’ve written a book let alone am trying to publish it, but hey I tried.
July – August 2014: I send the draft to five friends. Only two manage to read the gigantic 140k draft and gladly inform me that while it has promise, it’s too long and boring. This information and my publishing research inform me that a 140k word draft is way too much for an experienced YA author let alone a debut YA author.
August 2014: I repeatedly break my own heart trying to trim down the 140k mammoth before I try to query agents. Once I reached the 115k point though, it was relatively easy to cut it down until I finally reached the coveted 90k.
August 12th, 2014: I finally go crazy from my writing hiatus. After all, I’ve been consistently writing for the past five years. A month long break finally broke me and I started work on the sequel. A lot of people recommend against this, but I never saw this advice until it was too late so there’s that.
August 13th, 2014: Confident in my 90k draft and with the sequel underway, I query my first agent. I insist on only querying one agent at a time because it makes more sense to me. I want to respect my future agent by promising them all of my undivided attention with single queries rather than querying them in groups. I promise myself I won’t query another agent until I hear from the first.
September 11th, 2014: After weeks of waiting for the first agent, I query my second agent. All of my research indicates that this should be fine as long as I personalize each query and never send them out in a group email. This agent also gave me my very first rejection. Although heartbroken, I was thrilled to receive that email during class. Every rejection meant I was heading a step in the right direction and this first rejection was my first step in that direction.
September 2014 – January 2015: As I balance school, writing the sequel, and maintaining my YouTube channel, I query 22 agents. 15 reject it, including the first agent I queried. I still haven’t heard from six of them, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that they’re also rejections. This isn’t the fairytale response I was expecting. I thought it would only take me a handful of agents to get to the one. But yet 22 agents have had the honor of looking at my precious manuscript and none of them wanted it. However, after multiple rewrites of my query, one agent finally requested a partial.
January 27th 2015: I had become somewhat immune to the form rejections from agents. They were constant and I received them while doing menial tasks like fixing a coffee machine or waiting for a magician’s show to start. But the rejection I received from the agent who requested a partial of my book absolutely broke me. Luckily I was visiting home from college at the time so I was able to mourn the loss in due time. I took my feelings for this rejection and put it all into doing something I should’ve done a long time ago: rewriting my opening pages. The 90k word count turned into 85k.
February 10th 2015: #AgentMatch was a contest I entered on a whim. Obviously querying agents wasn’t working, so I tried my hand at a contest. I did participate in #PitchMad with moderate success given how I only sent out two tweets, but overall I wasn’t interested in the small presses interested in my manuscript. I got lucky with #AgentMatch. My revised query that hooked the agent with the partial request put me in the showcase and attracted the attention of eight agents. At the end of the busiest day of my life, I had five full manuscript requests and three partial requests. After receiving nothing but rejection until this point, I was ecstatic and sent all of the agents their requested material very late into the night. This was it. I didn’t have to query any more agents. My fairytale was coming true.
March – April 2015: Six rejections later, I was feeling like the biggest idiot in the querying trenches. Don’t get me wrong, all of the agents were very encouraging in their letters and some even offered advice for my novel, but overall I felt like I wasted an opportunity most writers would kill for. I spent a good chunk of time throwing myself the biggest pity party in the world and editing an old NanoWriMo story I wrote years ago. Although my sequel was sitting at a pretty 60k words with only a handful of chapters left to go, I didn’t feel like writing it after its predecessor was failing so badly. I started to explore other publishing options, like small presses and self-publishing.
May 2015: I couldn’t stand the pity-party anymore. While I was wallowing in the misery of my book’s failure, other authors were fulfilling their dreams and writing these amazing books. I wasn’t about to give up without a fight. Swallowing my pride, I deleted the first half of my book (roughly 10k words) and set to work on rewriting. Most people who managed to make it through my manuscript loved the ending, but balked at the beginning. All of my rewrites to accommodate for publishing had screwed the pacing up anyway so it was about time I did something about it. I probably could’ve chosen a better time to start my rewrites than finals week though.
June 2015: Amidst moving and my night job that prevented me from writing last summer, I finish my rewrites. I send the new manuscript to my friend who helped me with the manuscript at 140k and she reports that this 84k version is much better than the original. With a new sense of confidence, I dive back into the querying process. I participate in #SFFPit to moderate success and slowly start emailing agents again. I almost forgot what it felt like to anticipate each email with a hope that one will give me the fairytale response I’ve been praying for my entire life. I’m swiftly reminded with a rejection sent within the day I emailed the agent.
July 2015: I’m participating in two contests: #pg70pit and Pitch to Publication. Whether or not I’ll succeed will be revealed in due time. But for now, I’ve been thinking about much I’ve learned in the past year. I know now that my book isn’t the next Hunger Games or Divergent and I shouldn’t be treating it with that mindset. I can now readily accept rejection and treat it as a step towards development rather than a reflection of my failure. I know the difference between every type of publication and which one works best for each type of manuscript. More importantly I know that even though this first year was a rough awakening for me regarding publishing, these next couple of years will be equally rough in trying to publish my manuscript. But the biggest part of publishing is perseverance. If you have a story worthy of being told, it will be told. It just takes time, luck, and a whole lot of gumption.