Advance warning: this post is loooooooooooong. I actually started writing it in August 2014, when I had no idea if I’d ever get to write the ending. But that day has now come.
So. Enjoy! 🙂
Chapter One: The Beginning
Once upon a time, I loved to read and I loved to write, and I did both things profusely. I was six when I wrote my first poem, seven when I wrote my first story (which I illustrated horribly and never actually finished). I wrote and wrote and wrote. I was pretty sure I would turn out to be one of those awesome published teenage novelists. I got a short story published in Stone Soup in 1998 after months and months of submitting various things. With my dad’s abundant help, I put out my own kid’s writing magazine called Kids, Ink. and forced all my friends and all my parents’ friends’ children to submit things in 2000.
In 2001, I finished my very first novel, which wasn’t technically novel length (around 35K), but to me it was my first book-book, and I was super proud of it.
I went away to college from 2001 to 2005, earning my Bachelor’s Degree in piano performance, and was mostly too distracted during the school years to do much writing, although I kept at it during the summer.
Chapter Two: Querying, Take One
From the summer of 2005 on, I got extremely serious about writing books for publication, and I was convinced I would be one of those awesome published early-twenties novelists.
During late 2008 and most of 2009, I did my first round of querying for The Whale and the Tree, a novel I’d originally drafted during NaNoWriMo 2006, and had revised extensively since then. I got some requests! A few partials, a few fulls. One of the full requests came in the summer of 2009, and I did not receive an answer until a year later! It was a lovely email filled with super helpful revision suggestions, but by then I’d moved on from that particular manuscript and was busy with other things.
Chapter Three: The Heartbreaking Saga of How I Almost Got a Book Deal but Didn’t
In December of 2009, I had an Idea. A sparkly, awesome, Super Intriguing Idea that I’m pretty sure came about after reading Hunger Games/Catching Fire (Mockingjay wasn’t out yet), Octavian Nothing, and The Bartimeus Trilogy in short succession. I super hearted this Idea, and I drafted it in seven weeks, starting in January of 2010. I spent the spring and summer and part of the fall rewriting it, and by November/December-ish, felt confident it was ready to send out.
Throughout 2011 I queried my new book, with very little success. I did get a few requests, most notably from the agent of a Super Awesome Author. She read my full and ultimately passed on it with reasons as to why, and invited me to send any new material, which at that time I didn’t have.
I let querying kind of taper off after that… mostly because I spent the majority of 2011 and 2012 falling in love with, getting engaged to, and subsequently marrying the Most Awesome Man of All Time, aka my wonderful husband, Aaron.
In late 2012 and through the spring of 2013, I revised my book again, and sent out a new batch of queries beginning in April. I think I got maybe one request the whole rest of the year, which was disheartening.
In November 2013, I entered Pitch Wars, and didn’t get picked, which was super disappointing, though it was an excellent lesson in the reality of subjectivity. One of the mentors said my language was too old-fashioned for their taste, one said they didn’t like prologues, one didn’t really connect with the story, and one said they would’ve picked me if they had more picks and they thought I’d get an agent soon!
In December I entered PitchMas, a Twitter pitching event, and caught the attention of an editor from an independent press. I subbed to her, and in March received my very first R&R! I took a deep breath, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and revised AGAIN. I chopped nearly 20K words out of the thing, and re-subbed to the editor at the end of April.
At the end of June, I received the most disheartening email of my career: the editor loved my revision—it was exactly what she was looking for, and she would have made me an offer, BUT……… she was leaving the press, and so couldn’t. 🙁
Chapter Four: Just Keep Swimming
I was of course devastated, but tried to console myself with the fact that at least now I had a stronger manuscript. I’d also been working for over a year on a huge revision of The Whale and the Tree, and it was almost finished, so I’d have that to sub, too. And in any case, when it really came down to it… what I wanted was an agent, not a contract with a small press.
Backing up a couple months to January 2014: I stumbled upon the amazing Jen Fulmer during a find-a-critique-partner Twitter event, and we hit it off fabulously. She read and commented on my revision as I was working through it, and her insight was phenomenal. I began to understand why everyone always goes on about critique partners and how they’re so essential to the writing process—because they super, super, are! Without Jen’s enthusiasm, I wouldn’t have finished my revision so soon—if at all!!!
In August of 2014, I finished draft 5 of The Whale and the Tree. I loved this new version—different ending, more characterization, shorter word count (the previous draft was embarrassingly long), all while retaining what I’d originally loved about the story.
And so I drafted a brand new query letter and synopsis, took a deep breath, and sent out a batch of queries.
Chapter Five: Querying, Again
Querying is really, really slow, you guys. Agonizingly, glacially slow. And holy cow, can we talk emotional roller coaster? Because, yeah.
I sent out queries. I got rejections, lots of them, but you know what? I got requests, too. More than I’d ever gotten before. Some partials and a few fulls. The rejections on those were the most painful. It got to the point where I swore to myself after a full rejection that I wasn’t going to tell anyone when I got another request, just so I wouldn’t have to then explain to my husband and my mom and my BFF and my CP and my cat that I got rejected. Again. But every time I got a request, that philosophy went right out the window. It was just SO EXCITING. I couldn’t help it. So my husband and my mom and my BFF and my CP and my cat all got to ride the emotional roller coaster with me (sorry, guys!).
Autumn slipped slowly away. I sent out more queries, received a spattering of more requests, got more rejections.
In December I got a full request as I was checking my email at a stoplight (I know, I know. I have an Inbox addiction). From January through March I got a couple more full and partial requests. I sent out more queries. My outstanding requests were up to six. I figured out how to make my phone ding every time I got an email in my writing inbox so I wouldn’t have to check it at stoplights.
I was halfway through a second draft of a novel I was planning on querying by summer if The Whale and the Tree didn’t pan out. I’d told myself I’d submit it until a year had passed or I hit 100 queries. I wasn’t super looking forward to starting the whole agonizing process over again, but I wasn’t about to give up, either!
Chapter Six: AND THEN……
And then I received an email from one of the agents who’d requested a full who wanted to TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE. I think I blacked out for a few minutes. But then I collected my wits, emailed her back to set up the call, and proceeded to jump about the apartment hollering excitedly at the cat and trying to brace myself in case it was one of those R&R with no offer of rep. calls one hears horror stories about.
But it wasn’t one of those.
It was a straight-up, no-holds-barred OFFER OF REPRESENTATION.
I kind of lost my mind with excitement. And then my husband got home early from work so I got to freak out at him instead of frightening the cat. 😀
(Let me just stop for a second right there, and tell you a side story.
So there’s this website called QueryTracker that helps writers keep track of the agents they query, as well as comment about response times, request or rejections they receive, etc. It’s a super helpful tool, and if you’re querying and you’re not using it, do please check it out!
Back in February, I just-so-happened to meet a writer on a QueryTracker thread because we’d both gotten partial requests from the same agent. We started emailing and struck up a friendship, and found that our querying journeys were remarkably similar. The day before my first offer of rep, my writer friend (who is Hanna Howard, and completely awesome), got TWO offers of rep, and we got to go along on the journey of shock, elation, and agonizing decision making pretty much simultaneously! She wound up having to choose between four amazing agents (and is now repped by Jenny Bent!). We were constantly telling each other: “Deep breaths, more tea,” and that became our mantra for her crazed week and a half and my two weeks before our decision deadlines. She even painted us matching mugs, and they’re AMAZING, and Hanna, you rock.)
But anyways. I had two weeks before my deadline, April 9th. I still had a lot of outstanding queries (and some partials/fulls), so I sent out my OFFER OF REP nudge emails, and got a flood of replies, that day and the next, and then a bunch more over the next week. Some were super nice step-asides. Many were requests for fulls. At one point my full requests numbered NINE. 0_o
And then I got a SECOND offer of representation.
And then I got a THIRD.
And then, you guys, I got a FOURTH.
A fourth offer of representation.
From SARAH DAVIES.
That’s right. THE Sarah Davies. She offered with the understanding that she would want to see some extensive revisions, but her suggestions and ideas resonated strongly with me, and made me excited to dig back into Whale and make it better!
You can probably tell how this story is going to end. 🙂
I am amazingly excited to announce that I am now represented by Sarah Davies, and am joining the Greenhouse Literary family! I’m so looking forward to the next step of this crazy writing adventure!
And a note to querying authors: there were many, many times when I thought I would never get to write a post like this. In fact, I can’t really believe it’s happening now.
This is a long, arduous process, but you can absolutely do it.
Don’t give up.
Keep trying, keep writing, and don’t you dare stop dreaming!
Cheers, all. Happy writing!
P. S. This blog post is so long it could be an entire novel chapter—or two!! I’m super impressed if you made it all the way from beginning to end.
P. P. S. Hugs and kitties and tea and ice cream and SPARKLES and CRAZY HAPPY DANCING!!!