Are sitting comfortably?
It all started ten years ago. I had just finished my final exam and celebrated my eighteenth birthday. I had two months to wait until my results would define my future. I had come out of one exam actually crying; ironically that was the exam I didn't fail for that subject. I had convinced myself that I had failed and was going to have to resit them all, so would try university the next year.
Because I had the prospect of another year at school looming over me I wanted to do something fun over the summer. I spent a lot of time with my friends, but I also started something I had never managed to do before (unless it was for homework); write.
I was given Twilight for my birthday and unlike a lot of opinionated people online, I loved it. I read the whole series in two and a half weeks, which for me was incredible. The story of how Stephenie Meyer came up with the idea for Twilight struck something within me. I had dreamt months before about a scene, which coincidentally did not end up in the final book. I wrote the scene out and loved it. Suddenly my head was full of ideas and I began to write more. By the end of the summer I had written more than I had ever written before and it was amazing. This was going to happen!
Then I got my results and everything changed. Technically I hadn't got the grades to get onto my course, I was a grade low. I became excited to have a year to work on my book whilst resitting my exams, but it wasn't to be. When I got home and checked online I was shocked to see that I had actually been accepted onto the course. They must have had low numbers that year, as I said I was a grade low. My stomach plummeted. I hadn't realised until that moment that I didn't actually want to go to university. I wasn't ready and my anxiety certainly wasn't. I panicked and foolishly didn't tell anyone.
I went, but for only four days and returned home to parents who were furious with me. I managed to get a part time job relatively quickly and only a matter of weeks later got a better one. Unfortunately this all put a major halt to any writing. I was seriously busy during the day and shattered by the time I got home, not to mention the uncomfortable atmosphere lingering in the air. I was in no fit state to write.
After things calmed down I started to get little sparks of ideas and would write them down. After a year in the job, which I hated but it paid better than most, I had started to utilise my break times and was writing again. I filled many notebooks and bought myself a laptop. I remember the first time I typed ten thousand words. I was so amazed that I had come up with so much. I was actually beginning to be proud of myself.
I continued to write for a while but then things got worse at work. My firmly fixed anxiety welcomed its good friend depression and all good things stopped; this of course included writing.
It took me another six years to start writing again. Coincidentally my life wasn't particualry better. I had left one crappy job for another. I actually loved my job as a childminder's assistant, I just hated the childminder. Unlike with the first time, I actually wrote more the more depressed I became. I wrote so much that I managed to finish my book.
By the time I was twenty five, and a childminder myself, I had completed my first book and was so pleased with it.
Now came the scary part; querying.
I was bloody terrified. I had never written a query letter before and had never had a professional read my work. It's a very vulnerable position to put yourself in. After many days of research and reading online examples I managed write my own. I was happy with it and knew I now had to face the monster that is the synopsis.
How on earth do you condense a seventy thousand word story into just one page? Well, I didn't. I never managed to do just one page. The agents were going to have to deal with two.
I then started to look up agents. I bought the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, then realised I actually needed the Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. I went through the list of agencies and wrote down the information for every agent I could query. I must have queried every agent in the UK.
I'll do a separate post about how to query a literary agent.
I got my first response and my heart leapt. Opening the email I knew they were going to say no (self-doubt, hello my old friend) and indeed they did. However, they addressed me by my own name and were really lovely about why they were saying no. They even encouraged me to continue looking for an agent.
Did this mean that my writing was actually worth something? That I wasn't crap? That I wasn't a sham?
I received many more rejections; a few were generic, though most were personal replies explaining that they didn't have space for another in my genre, or that my story wasn't the right fit for them. Each one wished me luck with my queries and to continue looking.
Eventually, after many rejections I received a full manuscript request. I was so excited, but she had also asked me to rewrite my synopsis. She had filled me with unbelievable hope yet asked for the worst thing imaginable. Okay, it sounds overly dramatic, but have you written your synopsis yet?
With the help of my mum's online research I managed to rewrite my synopsis. After a long wait I, and a few emails asking, I got a response to my manuscript.
Just a slight aside, please don't push the agent too much if they are reading your manuscript. They do have full time jobs and other clients to contend with also. I sent an email after several months.
The agent who had sent the request had given my ms to a colleague to read. He had sent back a few notes, along with the invitation to resend my ms when I was ready. I agreed with the notes, other than a couple that wouldn't work as I had planned a series, which the agents' didn't know about.
By the time I was sent the notes I had already started on book two. In fact I was already two thirds of the way through. I decided that I would reread book one and simply add in or change the parts that correlated with the notes. Oh I wish it had been that simple. I didn't get past the first page and felt my heart sink. It was terrible.
I hadn't realised how much my writing had matured over the eighteen months of querying. Book one was too juvenile. There was nothing else I could do other than rewrite the whole thing.
And that is where I am today. I've finished the rewrite and am now slowly making my way through the murky world of editing.
I had read so many horror stories about querying that I almost decided against it, but how else was I going to get my book out there; I had no idea about self-publishing. It is a terrifying prospect to send your baby to people who can professionally tear it to pieces, but through the sea of rejections I was praised and my writing ability validated.
If you are too afraid to try querying I would wholeheartedly suggest you send it to a few beat readers first. It's still terrifying but their rejections aren't from a professional who won't want to reread it. They are your potential audience, so their input could be vital.
Also remember that the internet is filled with stories of famous authors being rejected time and time again. Whether you receive two rejections or two hundred, it doesn't necessarily mean the end to your work. Take on board any notes, though don't go against your heart. Your writing is for you, first and foremost. Never forget that.
Oh, and there is an entire world of writers in the same position as you. Find them on Twitter, Facebook, in the real world. Having people who understand what you're going through always helps. you never have to be alone with this. Every writer goes through the same thing.