I guess it’s no secret I’ve finished writing a book. Well, up till last week, I thought it was finished. After 5 years of slaving away on paragraphs and polishing each sentence, I thought The Plucky Orflings was complete. I liked it, my sister liked it, and my friends loved it, so I figured it was just a matter of time until some agent agreed. Well, if so, that time isn’t now.
Now, I suspect most agents are decent people. They work incredibly hard in a difficult industry that gets more challenging by the day. And, so far, not one of those that turned me down has said the dreaded words, “You can’t write.” But none of them are interested in representing my book. They say, it’s “not right for us” or “not what we’re looking for” and then they wish me well finding somebody else. Since I only write to agents who work in the genre my story falls within (Historical Fiction for Middle-Grade readers), I had no idea why my book was wrong. It’s like being told you aren’t some guy’s type when you resemble his last three girlfriends. Okay, what am I doing wrong?
Last month, my rejected novel moved one baby step forward. An agent I had written to asked to see more of the manuscript. (If you don’t know, agents specify how much of your work they want to read, and you’d better give them just what they’re looking for if you want their attention.) After jumping up and down for fifteen minutes, I pulled up the material she requested, re-read and polished it for the umpteenth time and sent it off, fingers crossed through the email.
Eight days later, she turned me down.
But this rejection letter was different from the rest. Instead of the usual “thanks, but no thanks,” this agent told me what problems she saw. How the book focused on a supporting character for too much time before the main players took the stage. How I built expectations on the first few pages that weren’t supported later on. That the main conflict wasn’t all that conflicted. As many times as I’ve read these pages, I didn’t see all this. But I looked again and what the agent said is true.
So, I’m going back to the drawing board, to re-write the darn story again and this time I’ve got some help. Even if I end up publishing The Plucky Orflings without an agent, it will still be a better book than it is right now. And it will be better because an agent that turned me down. I may not like rejection letters but this one feels pretty darn good.