While the hunt for my agent didn’t involve slaying rabid jabberwockies or esurient krakens, it did require me to master an equally ferocious R&R routine. By “R&R” I don’t mean rest and relaxation—I’m talking about soul-crushing research and revision. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the rules that helped me find my splendiferous agent, Natalie M. Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.
I. RESEARCH. Plunder the cyberspace treasuries.
Only a lackwit would condemn their manuscript to slush pile oblivion by sending off a query without carefully reading an agent/agency’s specific submission guidelines. I think it’s equally irresponsible not to ransack online resources for any additional scraps of information before querying. I felt like I hit the jackpot every time I discovered another agent blog, interview, conference transcript, or guest post. These highlight both personality and preference, and sometimes the particular peeves in an agent’s pet collection! Casey McCormick’s meticulously researched Agent Spotlight on Natalie M. Fischer included several links to interviews that ultimately led me to query her about my middle grade fantasy.
II. REVISE. Pick up the gauntlet.
In my opinion, rejections are not unlike a medieval challenge to a duel, a slap to the writer’s ego that demands an immediate response: revise or slink off. Sometimes the pursuit of revision leads to joining critique groups and attending writer’s conferences and workshops. Sometimes it leads to an entirely new book, and the first project must be set aside, or in my case, the first several. Good. Don’t be afraid of massive change because writing is never static, it’s an act of constant creative eclosion pushing us to improve our craft.
III. REVIVIFY. Never surrender the quill!
I’ve come to believe that writers are a peculiar breed of zombie, and we need to trust in our reanimation powers and just keep writing even if it means the words bleed from our finger tips. I didn’t seriously concentrate on my writing until I finished my bachelor’s degree, and it took me almost four years of revisions and rejections to reach this point in my career. But I never would’ve found my fabulous agent if I’d let the rejections slaughter me indefinitely and quit scribbling, researching, and allowing my stories and identity as a writer to evolve.
While each new rejection hits the writer’s “epic fail’ button and obliterates any leftover shards of ego, we can’t allow it to kill the story. The venerable poetess Emily Dickinson once said, “We play at paste / till qualified for pearl” (1-2). Never let failure, or the fear of it, keep you from seeking that same pearlescence in your own writing.
Dickinson, Emily. “Poem 320.” The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1961: 151.
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