Friday, August 6, 2010

My Path to Getting an Agent Pt. 3

Okay, I'm just warning you guys now. Telling you the whole path to getting my agent is probably going to take a few more posts. I was joking with some of the ladies in a writer's group tonight that if I told you ALL the details, I could stretch this out for four months. Wait! Don't pass out yet--I'm not planning on actually doing that. I will try to condense it enough to keep it to a couple more posts, while still sharing the ups and downs of my story in case anyone out there is benefiting from hearing this.

So, where did I leave off? Oh yes, the lesson I learned. Wanna know what it was? All those red marks on my manuscript meant that she liked it enough to actually take the time and effort to give me such a detailed edit. Because honestly, that must have taken her a LOT of time. And possibly more than one red pen, due to the ink running out from all of my mistakes she marked and her notes on the pages. (It was so bad, she actually stopped marking it after about page 60 and said, "you keep repeating the same mistakes, so try and catch them yourself from here on out and I will go through it again after you revise it.")

The thing that helped me not get completely depressed about her edit, was that she took the time to explain how much she liked my book and my writing, and that the things she'd marked were actually relatively minor, common "pre-published" mistakes, and easily fixed. I learned that when someone takes the time to give you a detailed edit, it means they like it and care. Not that they hate it. If she'd hated it, or thought I had no talent, she would have told me "it was good, maybe you could try and work on ____" and handed me back my manuscript unmarked.

I got down to work, and did pretty much every edit she gave me. My manuscript had a complete make-over. Suddenly, I wasn't thinking "How could Jodi have rejected me?!" -- I was thinking, "Why in the world did she even request this in the first place??" Obviously it had potential, and the story was still there, but wow. I really tightened it up a ton. At that time in my path I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I'd queried Jodi AFTER the revision from Stephanni. However, I may never have asked Stephanni to look at it without Jodi's rejection. Her feedback is what spurred me to ask Stephanni to look at it and help me figure out what I was missing. (Just so you know, I eventually realized that there were lots of other amazing agents out there--the one that represents me included! She was just the only I really knew about at the beginning of foray into this industry because of Stephenie Meyer's acknowledgements. Again, can you say naive?)

Phwew. That was a rough month. But I was ready to get back in the saddle. I was going to start querying again. I revised my query with Stephanni (and her writer's group's) help. I used my new discoveries (! agent blogs! absolutewrite! the list goes on...) to compile a HUGE list of agents to query. I, and two of my friends, spent days and days (morning, noon, and night) researching every agent on that list and then "rating" them from best fit for my book to least, based on what we could find about their likes/dislikes/submissions/etc. I finally picked ten of my "5's" (the highest score we gave them), and I prepared to jump back into the waters, my confidence completely restored. I was definitely getting an agent this time! First round baby! Those two friends gave me so much support and time, I am also forever indebted to them for their belief in me. They got me through more rough patches than you can believe.

Within a couple of months, I'd gotten quite a few requests for partials, and a whole lot more rejections. The ability to query by email was nice for speed and convenience, but it kind of sucked how quickly they could send you a form rejection back. The rejections hurt every. single. time. The first one, the tenth one, the fortieth one. They all hurt bad. But I kept going.

About this time, I finally got the miracle my husband, son and I (and family and friends) had been praying for--after almost two years of trying, procedures, surgeries, losses, hopes and devastation, we were finally having a successful pregnancy with our second child. We'd made it through the scary time when I'd lost a baby the year before right before the second trimester in a "missed miscarriage." Over the ensuing nine months, I had many ups and downs. Some weeks I queried a bunch, and other times I was having complications with my pregnancy, and writing/querying got put on hold. I got requests, I got rejections. I'd revise some more and keep trying. I'd spend hours researching an agent to personalize a query only to get a form rejection the next day or week -- or in some cases, the next hour. Requests, rejections. Lots of rejections.

I was able to carry my baby full term (which was a wonderful miracle), and in the meantime nothing new happened with my querying. I was due the beginning of January, so I figured I'd take a break for Christmas and the New Year (since the industry pretty much shuts down anyway), and start putting my nose to the grindstone again a few weeks after he was born.

After talking about possibly having to deliver him at 25 weeks to try and save his life, then having the situation recover enough for him to hold on until the end, I ended up having to be scheduled for an induction. Not one to ever let us dictate how his life would be run even in utero, Son B decided to come the day before his induction in the most excruciating labor imaginable. (He was face up and turned to the side, the only thing harder to deliver is breech apparently.) But we both did just fine, and there he was! My miracle baby, alive, healthy, beautiful. I had bright hopes for our future, and felt really excited about getting back to work in a few weeks. I was deliriously happy.

And then... I wasn't. Something went wrong. Very, very wrong.

Okay, I think that's long enough, so I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to cut you off again. Sorry it isn't the happiest ending place, but things do get better. I promise. Stay tuned! Until then, happy weekend! (P.S. SonB's test and appointment went pretty well. Not fabulous, but the doctors will be able to help him and it isn't as bad as it could have been. Thank you for you prayers and well wishes.)


Mary E Campbell said...

Thank you for writing this - it's really interesting and I appreciate you taking the time to do it. The cliffhangers have kept me reading, but this one is a hard spot to leave us at. I'm all concerned about your baby now.

Sara B. Larson said...

Mary - If it makes you feel better, nothing went wrong with my baby, it was with me.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, you went through an ordeal, both with pregnancies and writing. Thanks for sharing your story.

Windy Aphayrath said...

I'd just like to say ... this story is even more awesome when you get it live - with the hand gestures and facial expressions! :)

Can't wait for more!

Steena Holmes said...

Thank you for posting this!

Larissa said...


Also, DUDE. If you end chapters like this in your books, I will be buying a lot of them. Just sayin'.

Lisa Gail Green said...

OH the painful cliffhangers!! I'm dying to know what happens next. And I'm very glad to hear all is working out well with you son.

Jennie Bailey said...

I'm with Larissa. I've been hanging on your every word. Four months would be worth the entire story when you write this well. Thanks, as always, for sharing!

Sara B. Larson said...

I'm so glad to hear that you are all enjoying this. Now that I'm looking at writing pt. 4 with the end still a ways off, I'm thinking "should I have shared this much detail? Or just tried to guestimate my numbers and do the really short version?" I'm so grateful for the comments to know that sharing my story is meaningful and hopefully somewhat entertaining to you.

And yes, some of my chapters do have pretty awesome cliffhangers, but not every single one. That would start to feel contrived after a while in a book, don't you think? But with these blog posts, I'm all about the cliffhangers. There are so many to choose from in this crazy, winding path of mine... ;)

Belle Wong said...

Another cliffhanger! And here I was, thinking I was already hooked. Didn't think I could feel even more hooked on finding out what happens!

Unknown said...

This is a fascinating story, Sara--thanks for sharing!

I once got an email rejection SIX MINUTES after sending the query.