Today I begin querying my new queer YA thriller to literary agents.
And I’m currently dealing with all sorts of emotions.
I’m nervous for sure, since I’ve been through this process ten times before. Ten times in ten years, and only once has a literary agent taken a chance on me.
A few times I thought signing with an agent was going to happen for me… and it didn’t. In the spring of 2016 I queried a novel called Toothache that received twenty full requests from agents in the course of a few months. I thought I had it made. I thought at least one or more agents would agree to take me on. But none did. They all said no. And I was crushed for awhile there.
Even when you pour your heart and soul into your book for many months and even years doesn’t necessarily mean a literary agent is going to take a chance on it, or you. There’s no guarantee of anything. And I have to remember that moving forward.
However, I’m still cautiously optimistic as I begin the querying process again, since I did have success with an agent once before and I feel like in the past three years since I signed with that person, my writing has improved considerably and my querying writing skills have improved a lot too.
I was lucky to work with an individual who showed me the power of revision and how strong of a writer I could be after lots of hard work and dedication. I’ve certainly come a long way.
And I’m also super excited, since I’ve been writing and revising this novel for three years now.
I’m ready to finally send a pitch for this book into the universe and see what happens!
I started working on this manuscript in February 2017, and I finished the first draft that August. It’s the novel I wrote for my MFA thesis at the University of Nevada, Reno. It was a novel I wanted to write years before, but I felt I wasn’t ready yet. I felt like I needed some time to mature as a writer, and I also knew how insanely hard this particular project was going to be.
And hard it definitely was. I put it off and put it off. I thought about it for the longest time (years, really), then finally wrote the first draft when I decided I wanted to make it my MFA thesis. I spent a long summer in dark rooms creating the first draft, messing up and making mistakes, but finally writing the thing and finishing it after so much time.
And in the past two and a half years I’ve completed eleven additional drafts. Twelve drafts total, and it’s been through so many different versions and iterations. In the second draft I gutted eighty-two pages from the middle. In the third draft I deleted two characters and added a new one.
I had seven beta readers read the novel for me and give me feedback in 2018. My MFA thesis advisor read it three times during my final year in the graduate program and helped me immensely in shaping it into something great. My former literary agent read four drafts and gave me awesome notes.
The book kept changing and changing. I kept making it better. Even in the eleventh draft I wrote three brand new scenes. And in the twelfth draft I just completed, I removed four thousand words from the book, stripping out any sentences, phrases, or words that didn’t need to be there.
The first draft was 110,000 words. The second draft was 80,000 words. After many more revisions the book got all the way down to 65,000 words, then went back up to 76,000 words. The draft I’m ultimately querying is 72,000 words, a good word count I think for a young adult thriller.
For three years now this story and these characters have been a part of me. Have obsessed me. Have given me reason to sit down at my computer again and again for another focused writing session.
But you can’t hold onto your novels forever. At a certain point you need to send them out into the world and see what happens.
After two and a half years working together, I unfortunately parted ways with my literary agent at the end of last year, for reasons I won’t go into here. She’s a tremendous agent and person. I wish her only the best.
I needed a fresh start at the beginning of 2020, and now it’s time to finally take my favorite novel, the project that has totally consumed me since 2017, the manuscript I’ve spent far more time on than any other, and start pitching it to literary agents to see if they might want to take it on.
I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will bring. I don’t know if one or more agents will take a chance on this thing. I sure hope somebody does.
All I know is I’ve put everything I have into this novel, and I know after three years of hard work it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s the manuscript I always hoped it would be and more.
If there’s anything I’ve written in the last ten years I want to be my first traditionally published novel, it’s this one.
So keep your fingers crossed for me, okay? The querying… begins now.