Hello, hello! I thought I’d share a little update on the agent search saga. I received a rejection from the agent who requested a full copy of my manuscript. It was the first rejection that I couldn’t attribute to slush reader denial, and I admit it threw me a bit, emotionally. They loved Bailey (the main character), but they suggested reworking it into a non-fantasy book because they felt my writing was strongest in the non-fantastical parts. I panicked. How was I supposed to rewrite this particular story without fantasy and keep it from turning into a memoir or something similar (there’s too much of my younger self in Bailey to keep her in the realm of literary fiction even if I managed to peel the fantastical parts away)? I’ve always been against crossing into CNF, especially when it involves elements of my own life (I’m not that interesting, I swear). I have nothing against people who want to write that type of stuff, but it’s just not who I am. So, I let myself be overcome by doubt for a couple of days.
It’s been a long time since I’ve received a critique (no matter how small) from someone who held my inner writer’s fragile little ego in their hands and had the ability to crush it. I love my critique group dearly, but I know they’ll give honest feedback in a friendly manner. When I was in school, I actually liked the people who were brutal with their feedback. I welcomed it. But over the past couple of years, I kind of forgot that a critique is just someone else’s opinions, whether that someone is a friend or a teacher or an agent or whoever. It’s simply one person’s opinion. Yeah, it’s harder to hear some people’s thoughts than others, but the story is still mine. I can’t help but feel like I’ve gotten a little weak for forgetting that.
For a couple of days after I received the rejection, I stopped working on my current WIP (the second book in the series). What was the point if I was just going to have to change the first book completely? Then, I remembered something my mentor for my thesis semester (Elizabeth Hand) wrote in my evaluation. She basically said that I was always extremely open to suggestions for edits and revisions, but that I had zero qualms about saying no to things because I knew what was best for my story. That was when I started working on my WIP again. This series started as litfic and went nowhere. It wasn’t until someone suggested I write it as the kind of stuff I actually enjoyed reading that it started moving forward on its own. I just can’t abandon that story yet.
Sometimes, we all need a little reminder that we’re the creator of the worlds we write about. We choose which suggestions and comments to implement and which ones to ignore. That’s our decision to make as writers. I know it’s hard to ignore some people’s critiques, especially when they’ve been in the business a lot longer than you and when they’re successful and you’re just getting started. Be open to suggestions, but don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t feel right. You know what’s best for your stories.
So yeah, when in doubt, trust yourself. I’m going to try to remember this as future rejections roll in. I can’t promise I won’t temporarily panic, but I’ll get over it given time. If you’re in a similar situation, you’ll be okay too. Let yourself freak out a little if that’s your thing (I, personally, prefer to avoid that step), but then remember that you know what you’re doing. We will succeed… eventually.