Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hope conquers all

Well, it happened. It was bound to, of course. I received a thumbs down on my partial. My smart phone buzzed at 11:40 last night and, figuring it was junk mail, I impulsively checked it while watching Craig Ferguson's monologue.

Hi Terry,

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to look at this.

I don't think I'm the right agent for this project -- you're a fine writer, but my interest wasn't maintained for the length of the partial, and as a result, I didn't find myself invested enough in the lives of your characters to continue reading.

Considering the subjective nature of the business, I encourage you to query widely and I hope that you will find someone who thinks differently. Best of luck in your search for representation.



Ouch. This was no rejection of my query or even the first few pages. This was a rejection of the very foundation of my story. The idea. The plot. The characters. The work itself.

I'll be honest about my reaction, lying there in bed with my wife snoozing next to me: I was relieved. Numb but relieved. I don't know why, except maybe that knowing the answer -- to me, anyway -- is far better than waiting.

This morning, after sleeping surprisingly well, I experienced the more typical reactions: Anger, sadness, pity.

But not once did I consider giving up. For some reason, this has made me even more committed to getting TDYDK published. The agent was right, of course. This is a very subjective business. Hell, I needn't look beyond my wife to know that. We are very much alike, in many ways. And our reading tastes do overlap. But there are authors and books she loves that I loathe, and vice-versa. I couldn't tell you why. It's just so.

Sometimes, a story touches us because of something that happened in our lives. We can relate in a very subjective kind of way. Sometimes, the writing just clicks with us, and we're willing to follow the author anywhere. Who knows?

I'm convinced the perfect agent is out there somewhere right now, sipping coffee and reading queries and just waiting for my book. I really do believe this.

I think part of the reason I'm taking this so well (other than I know that rejections are the norm in this business, unfortunately) is that I was under no illusions. While some accuse me of negativity, I prefer to see myself as realistic. I expect rejection, and when it comes, I soldier on. No big deal.

Part of this comes from my recovery. I was taught long ago to "play the tape all the way through." That means that when I'm holding something shiny in my hands, whether it's a drink or a sent-out partial, I need to think things through. All the way through. If I allow my brain to caress it and want it bad enough, it's Katy bar the door.

So on the rare occasions when I think of a drink, I make myself see the entire process through -- until I see myself waking up the next morning hung over and wishing I was dead. It's a surprisingly effective way to avoid doing something stupid, I've found.

Same with querying. If I see myself at some point down the road, published and rich, I am setting myself up for misery. When the inevitable "no" comes, it can be devastating. But if I see myself getting rejected and then working even harder to succeed, well, it takes away the sting.

So, I am rolling up my sleeves and querying more. And I'm going to work on my new book, which I'm convinced will be better than the first (as they often are). If I don't get this one published, perhaps I'll get the next one there.

Hope, it turns out, is frighteningly persistent. And so am I.


  1. Is this your first rejection from a request? If so, don't feel bad - think of the stats from writers who have agents. Some of them are like 96 queries - 8 fulls - 3 partials - all rejected before "The Call" came. You have the right attitude about hope I think. It is imperative to be persistent.

  2. Ariel; Yep. First request, first rejection. And I agree, persistence is everything in this business. Thanks for the comment. :)

  3. 'I'm convinced the perfect agent is out there somewhere right now, sipping coffee and reading queries and just waiting for my book. I really do believe this.'

    You took the words right out of my mouth. It's just time, Terry. Excruciating time I know ...

    Keep at it.

  4. Thanks, Wendy. I agree. And yes, as most of us know, it IS excruciating.

  5. Awesome attitude Terry. I really love the last line: Hope, it turns out, is frighteningly persistent. And so am I. Words to live by :)

    Good luck with your continued Agent search. It will happen.


  6. Thasnks Donna. After I wrote the last line, it did occur to me that I sound a bit like a stalker.

    I'm not, of course. Unless it might land me an agent ... ;)

  7. I'm sorry to hear about the rejection. Life would be so much simpler if we didn't have to do the whole "struggle" part of it.

    Not that getting rejected is any fun, but after I got mine I realized it wasn't as bad as I was ultimately expecting. It hurt like hell the first day, but then surprisingly I was over it the next. Keep on, keepin' on T.

  8. I think I have a lot to learn from your attitude. Best wishes going forward, and thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Tracy: While it's true that the whole "struggle" thing sucks, it's funny how that's always the part of the journey we look back on fondly when it's over. If it wasn't a struggle, it wouldn't be worth cherishing when it happens.

    Adam: Thank you. And welcome to the blog. I really appreciate your comments. :)

  10. Ugh. Im sorry you didnt get the response you wanted. But I applaud your determination and conviction to stick with it!

  11. I think it's encouraging that the agent gave at least a clue as to what he/she thought didn't work. Only one has ever done that in my rejections. It is really frustrating to have no idea what agents think is wrong.

  12. Perseverance and then some. When I start querying (and getting rejected) I hope I'm as tough-minded as you are.

    Keep at it, Terry. You've inspired me.

  13. Mel: Thanks. I'm hanging in there.

    Ted: True, although finding out the first fifty pages of my book bored said agent wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. Nonetheless, you're right -- it beats not knowing! And I have a feeling you are going to make it, Ted. :)

    Perri: I'm tough-minded in my blog posts. Sometimes here in real life, I don't feel so tough ...

  14. Sorry about the rejection--glad you're going to persevere, though. Waiting is a challenging thing (I'm waiting right now) so it is nice to have an answer. Good that you're working on another project, too. The best thing we can do as writers is grow. Have a great weekend!

  15. Thanks Cindy. Good luck with your waiting. And welcome! I hope you have a nice weekend, too.

  16. Just dropping by (from across the pond) - what a sensible, professional atitude! I wish you all the very best with your novel.

  17. Thank you, Frances. I appreciate you stopping by!

  18. I'm a realist, too. Odds are we are going to be rejected. Again and again. And rejection hurts. But if you're a writer, you soldier on.

    As for this particular rejection, I'm not sure your pages are dull because of the story; you might zero in on the characters and make sure you've made them as interesting as possible.

    And I love your drinking analogy. Maybe writing IS an addiction.

  19. Cheryl: It's funny, but nearly every single editor and beta reader who has read TDYDK has told me they loved the characters, that they are well drawn and complex.

    And yet that seemed to be what this particular agent disliked. Sigh. I suspect it was more the religion thing rather than the characters or the story itself. No religion in the next one.

  20. I feel your pain Terry. I had been waiting patiently all summer for a call-back on one of my short stories that got past the first round of acceptance cuts at a well-known horror literary magazine, only to receive a form rejection for my troubles.

    Luckily it was only a mistake on the editor's part (he apologized profusely for the mix up and let me know that my story did indeed get further consideration) but unfortunately it was still a no. Boo.

    Oh well, like you say, it's all part of the process. I'm with you though - I'd rather have a "no" than a "maybe...we'll check back with you in a season." I was relieved to be rejected on the above story too, for the same reason.

    Keep on keepin' on! :)

  21. Thanks Kellye! Good luck. I love horror stories.