Back in the Comfort Zone
I am once again revising my middle-grade historical fiction novel. After the years I've spent finishing this book, one might think that this is an upsetting turn of events. Truth be told, I am relieved.
Since the end of February, I have been trying to get my manuscript into the hands of willing professional readers, either publishers or, to a lesser extent, agents. So far, I've had little success. In fact, I've had very little response at all. I am still awaiting a response from my first submission to a small traditional press. Their website (which I finally stopped checking daily) states that they will respond to all queries, and if rejected, give a reason for it. That's the hope that is still burning inside my writer's heart somewhere, although it has dimmed somewhat. That's especially true because I didn't get a response to a follow-up request, either. The silence is deafening.
I also put my work out there in the form of a query to another small traditional press. Their website clearly states that it could takes months for a response. It's been months and nothing. That's truly the worst part. Rejections are painful, but the non-responses are life-sucking.
I know that from my experience with my limited agent queries. While I have not quite warmed to the idea of finding an agent for a host of reasons, I went ahead and queried three several months ago. I got fairly standard rejections from two of them. As disappointing as it was, it was a relief to know that my email is actually still working and capable of receiving communications from the professional writing world. I didn't hear back from the third agent in the time frame stated for a positive reply. In other words, I was rejected but without being told I was.
The only positive response I've gotten was to a #pitmad Twitter contest when an agent favorited my pitch. I was quite excited and sent a query and the first 10 pages of my manuscript, but that again was a no response.
I decided that before I move on to the next publishers on my list that I would get a professional critique. I went with someone I trust (he did a small test edit for me several months ago), but I realized that I didn't need an edit as much as a critique--a professional opinion on plot, character development, and pacing. I hadn't gotten that kind of feedback to this point and felt it was worth it. I was not wrong.
First, the writer/editor had amazing things to say about my manuscript. The first line of his five-page write-up of comments was this: "You have written an excellent tale..." Who doesn't like to read that? He continued, "...and I think it utterly appropriate, both as regards content and presentation, for your intended audience."
I will save the rest of his commentary for another post, but he's given me a blueprint and some compelling suggestions as to where I can enhance the plot. Overall, his suggestions were minor and highly doable. I am excited to get back into the writing and revising of this book. I think it will greatly improve with the incorporation of these subtle but important additions--and I frankly love any opportunity to make my novel better.
I still don't know how my book will find its way into publication. Since I was trained at the Institute of Children's Literature to strive for traditional publication, it's hard to stray from that path, at least at this stage (although the pull of self-publishing is strong). That aside, I know what when my novel does find its way physically into the hands of readers that I want it to be the best it can be.
I'm thrilled to be typing into my Microsoft Word document once again--to be agonizing over adjective choices and the rhythm of the words; to make deeper connections with my characters; and to tell this story just a little bit better than I did the last time. This is my comfort zone; my happy place.