First of all, I must wish my dear Chameleon (aka The Little Novel That Hopefully Can), a happy belated 1st birthday. It was on May 28th, 2008, as I lounged poolside at a resort in Cuba that the idea for Chameleon first came thundering into my brain. I couldn't write fast enough that day, not wanting to miss a single character detail or line of dialogue as certain scenes fell into place. We've come a long way my dear and I hope we continue on quite a ways more.
Secondly, I'm VERY excited to say that I've received my third partial request! Since I'm still waiting to hear back from dream agent #1 about my previous partial request, I now officially have two partials out in the world, trying their hardest to shine for two amazing agents. You go little partials! You can do it!
So here are the current QQ09 rankings:
Partial Requests: 3!!!
Partial Rejections: 1
I'm quite happy with these stats and I have to say, I've also moved into sort of a zen place when it comes to rejections, which is why today, I want to talk about a bit about my take on them and how it's changed with every one I've received.
I knew going into this process that I would be rejected. And no, I don't mean I knew in the way the dorkiest kid in school knows he'll be rejected by the most popular girl, but secretly hopes that movies don't lie and she'll fall for him anyway. I mean I knew because I work in publishing and I know how it goes and I know that every single one of my favourite authors have experienced rejection. I knew. I was ready. To an extent.
You see, though I was ready for the rejection itself, I wasn't really ready for the ensuing uncertainty. I thought that knowing meant I'd endure unscathed, but knowing you'll be rejected doesn't mean you can convince yourself to not take it personally. Even if you know you shouldn't, you do. At least at first. And, like I said, for me, it wasn't a matter of "I can't believe they rejected me" as much as it was a matter of, "Oh man, was I crazy to think anyone else would like this? What if I'm delusional? What if no agent is going to feel the same way about Brynn and co. as I do?"
But then the first request for a partial came and it was like a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the partial was (kindly and encouragingly) rejected the very next day and I felt like I was back at square one. It felt good that somebody took notice (and to know my query letter, on some level, worked), but it wasn't enough to stop me from questioning the worth of my writing.
And then more rejections came. Many were positive and kind, which made them easier to read, but nothing was calming my fears that the story I'd written just wasn't enough.
Then, when the second partial request came, things changed. Not only was the second partial request from one of the agents at the top of my list, it also served as a form of assurance that calmed me into a new way of thinking about rejection. That second partial request was like a second kiss. The first might have been impulsive, maybe even a fluke, but the second, oh, the second means something is right.
Since part of my job is to reject slush unfit for our imprints, I have a pretty good base knowledge of the varied reasons a manuscript might be rejected. Almost everything rejected at my level is either horrendously written or completely wrong for our programs. I think somewhere in my brain, I began to equate rejection with something that was completely off-target, a conclusion which couldn't have helped my uncertainty, but what I had to remember was that in my job, I send rejections on behalf of a major publisher to people who didn't bother to read submission guidelines and the stuff I reject is only a small fraction of what we receive so the reasons I reject projects don't really translate into the reasons why an agent rejects them.
If something in my slush pile looks decent, I can pass it along to an editor for a second opinion, and they can send it out to a freelancer for a reader's report, if it's positive, other editors will look at it, and eventually, it might work its way up the totem pole. If it's acquired, recognition doesn't really go to the person who found it in a slush pile. At that point, it sort of belongs to the publisher, a good find by the team, and if it fails, the publisher will endure.
While a publisher as large as the one I work for has a wide variety of editorial making its way through many editors and imprints, an agent is one person, who can and should only take on projects that really speak to them. At the end of the day, they have to put their personal reputation on the line for you and that's a huge favour to ask of anyone, let alone an essential stranger. Unlike the slush decisions I make, their rejections aren't based on "this doesn't work" or "this might work". Those two thoughts only mean rejection for an agent. "This might work" isn't enough. It has to be "This is brilliant. It speaks to me and I can't put it down!", which, let's face it, is really subjective. It's hard to feel bitter about a rejection when you start to understand that it's really not necessarily you, or your writing, it's the agent and his/her tastes, and availability/time, and whether or not they personally can go out on a limb for you, again, an essential stranger. Even if your book is amazing, they don't owe you anything. It's either there or it isn't and that has no influence over whether or not it will catch the eye of someone else.
So yeah, long story short, twelve query rejections (so far) don't have me down. If anything, they've brought me to this twelve rejection calm, where I'm over the initial uncertainties and I've settled in for the long haul. I have no plans to give up on something I've been working toward and dreaming of almost all my life. Sure, it's very likely that the rejection blues will drop by for a visit whenever a new rejection shows up in my inbox, but they won't be staying long. I won't let them. Feeling down is fine, but feeling bitter about rejection isn't fair to the book I've written, the agents I've queried, or me, and I have three partial requests to re-read if I need a reminder that my writing has worth.
Nobody said this would be easy and I've accepted that. I'm ready for whatever comes next.
Speaking of what comes next, I've been working on my WIP a lot lately and I'm pleased with the way things are going. Unlike Chameleon, my WIP is intended to stand alone (I don't want to start on Chameleon II until I know what's happening with it). I realize it's a bit odd to post an excerpt from my WIP when I haven't posted boo from Chameleon, but here's a little something from the openining (tentatively titled All That Comes After):
Lying in the freshly cut grass, he doesn't look like himself. His eyes are all wrong. The usual dark brown is clouded like a stream of milk trying to find its way through unstirred black coffee.
And they're so still, so peaceful; unmoving, unseeing, but somehow staring at the brilliant sun in a way the eyes of the living never could.
If we left him here, would the grass grow tall around him, covering his pale blue skin in brambles as it drinks up the water trailing from the corner of his mouth? Would he become one with the lawn, enabling him to stay forever near? I can't bear the thought of someone moving him. Can't fathom a world where we'd ever allow tall men in respectful suits to carry him away, while we return to a life without him. He isn't theirs to take.
I reach out a hand to trace two lines down his pallid face, my trembling fingers drawing across his eyelids, closing them, and he's transformed. Only sleeping. But no, he isn't sleeping. This isn't even him.
Here lies my brother's body, yet, he's nowhere to be seen.