When Reality Interferes With Your Goals

At the beginning of this year, I set for myself what I considered to be ambitious but achievable goals: accumulate 75 rejections and edit my second book. Of course, I wasn’t really after 75 rejections; I was hoping that I could find an agent who wanted my book before I hit that number. But querying 75 times was something I could control, so that was the official goal.

I didn’t exactly hit the ground running—I spent the first week of January laid up with the stomach flu. Ugh. Then, I wanted to wait for a response from the two agents from whom I’d won feedback during my Nanowrimo contest participation. If I’m really honest with myself, I wasn’t hoping for feedback. I was hoping for a stamp of approval, something along the lines of, “Yes, this book is ready. Go forth and query! In fact, query me!”

sad Winona Ryder from What I got was a lot of confusion and a very gentle, “You’re not quite there yet.” Oooof. Reality bites.

And yet, better to find out that way than by getting 75 rejections, right? Since an author can usually query an agent only once per story, I didn’t want to waste opportunities if the story wasn’t ready.

Fortunately, I also got some really good suggestions from a knowledgeable friend, who read my story not once but twice! With a little reluctance (how much longer is this process going to take??), but also a lot of motivation (I will work until I succeed!) and some direction, I embarked on yet another edit. I followed Susan Dennard’s amazing revision process, and spent way more time brainstorming than I had hoped to. I reconsidered nearly every aspect of the story, all the way from scratch, and landed not too far away from where I started.

Finishing the edits again took way longer than I wanted—I had hoped to be done by the end of March, and it was almost the end of April—but I was still able to submit to RevPit, an online mentorship contest run by a group of freelance editors. Though I wasn’t selected as a winner, I got unbelievably encouraging feedback from one of the editors. It was so incredibly validating (yes, I’m using all the adverbs today) to see that my deep, deep edits had indeed made the book better—even good enough that someone could be excited about it!

Of course, the feedback, while good, still means that I have another round of editing to do before I will really want to query this story. But I’m almost as happy as if I’d won the contest. When I’m editing by yourself day after day, I get to the point where I can’t tell anymore if I’m actually improving the story. Now I know that my efforts were indeed helping, and I’ll have a clear direction for where to go from here. Hopefully, making the story even better will mean I won’t have to go through 75 agents before I sign one.

But if I do, at least I still have the second book that I’m anxious to get back to!

1 comment

    • Cathy Shouse on May 26, 2018 at 5:03 AM
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing! I have had some similar experiences with revising and also getting helpful feedback although not winning a contest for a mentor.

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