Last December, I began querying my novel RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER. Overall, it’s been a great ride for me so far, but that doesn’t change the fact that querying is a soul-crushing-I-might-just-eat-forty-dollars-worth-of-McDonald’s-experience. If there’s one thing that’s helped me, it’s been the writers who I’ve befriended, and have taken me under their wing. Some have been querying longer than me, some have agents already, and some are on the same struggle bus as I am, but are so funny, they make me forget how nervous I am.
There is so much that goes into querying successfully, but once your book is out there, all you can really do is wait. Having someone, or a team of someones, on your side to calm you down or make you laugh after a bad day is not only a good idea, it’s the fucking key.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from my writing fairy godparents. I hope it helps you not punch yourself in the face, too.
Make a list of all the good things anyone has ever said about your writing.
This is important for the days you feel like your writing is a giant dumpster fire. Have a list of all the praise you’ve gotten for your words, even if it’s from your mom. Doesn’t matter. Reading kind words, when everything inside you is telling you, you suck, can turn your day around. Or it might not. But it’s better than staring at a rejection, or sitting alone with destructive thoughts all day. It’s so much easier to believe the bad things about your writing are true, than the good things. So hammer it into your brain if you need to, but realize every book has flaws, and every book has good parts too. Including yours.
Everybody gets lots of rejections, but nobody talks about it.
I can’t count the number of “how I got my agent stories” I’ve read in these past few months. Most share getting a few rejections, and some even share stats, but many jump to the success part of their querying journey without too many details. It’s easy to believe that once you start getting rejections, something is seriously the matter, especially when it’s on full or partial requests. The truth is though, everyone gets more no’s than yes’s. Everyone gets rejections (for the most part, there are some lucky weirdos out there) and you and your book are probably no exception. If you’re getting requests, take heart and be patient. If you’re not, revise that query letter and keep trying. But don’t think that one, two, or three no’s equal failure. It’s just not true.
Keep your expectations grounded, but celebrate the little victories.
I’ve always believed the idea that, “this is the book that’s going to get me my agent!” is flawed. There is just no way to actually know that. No matter how much work you’ve put in, there are many factors that go into getting signed, including the current market, how well your idea is executed, who you’re querying, etc. etc. One of the most important parts of querying for me, has been keeping my chin up, not getting discouraged when the self-doubt starts to creep in. Part of this is keeping my expectations in check. Yeah, I might get an agent call in ten minutes, but I also might not. There is a chance of each happening, and according to stats, and life, not getting one is more likely. That’s not being negative, just realistic. So while I am optimistic, I’m doing so with caution. Not expecting anything, but hoping for the best. When I do get good news, I let myself celebrate, I let myself be happy about it without raining on my own parade. It’s okay to be stoked about good news, because I’m pretty sure you’re crying when you get bad news.
Some days, I’m just not in the mood for news. Good news I’ll take any time, but if it’s bad, sometimes I need a break. During those instances, I shut my notifications off on my phone and just put it away. There’s nothing wrong with stepping away for a while, especially for your own mental health. Those emails will be there tomorrow, when you’re in a better frame of mind to handle them. It’s okay not to read an email the moment it comes in, and constantly checking your inbox is only going to make you lose your marbles. Being on Twitter too much can be equally damaging. Following agents, checking everything they Tweet and wondering if they’re talking about your MS can make you go from calm and relaxed to 2007 Brittany in a minute. Have fun with it, interact with the writing community, Tweet funny gifs, but no need to complain about querying or how many rejections you’ve gotten. When you’re feeling that shitty, get offline or head on over to the place where all the juicy gossip happens, Google hangouts, and vent to your friends. But take a break from social media till you get your emotions in check, otherwise you’ll play yourself.
Drink some whiskey, laugh, and play Just Dance.
This ties into getting offline for a while. Remember to practice self-care when querying, especially if like me, you suffer from anxiety. Exercising, playing a video game, taking a long bubble bath – are all things that can help. And while I’m not advocating you drink yourself into a stupor, go ahead and go out with some friends and have some wine, or if you don’t drink have a chocolate milk, man. Whatever you like doing, do it. As long as you’re enjoying yourself and keeping your mind off that inbox. These kinds of breaks can really help with keeping you happy and with not going over the deep end and making a boo-boo (like flipping out on Twitter, which I have seen a lot and #yikes.) Try your best to enjoy this hopeful, crazy, nerve-wracking time in your life. And if you can, do it with friends.
If you need a new writing friend, follow me on Twitter! @Claribel_Ortega