When I was eight, I started my first novel. It was a total rip-off of The Last Unicorn. It was also one page long and handwritten. I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere, probably in the attic. (I keep most of my writing in case I'm famous one day, which I realize is completely ridiculous.)
I made several more novel attempts during middle school, but I never did quite finish. Even as a pre-teen, I already knew two things:
1. I wanted to write and
2. Writing a novel is hard work.
Over the past ten years, I have written a fantasy novel for young adults. I have also revised and rewritten that novel more times than I can count. Sometimes I gave up on it for years. It has had many titles, including The Red Seed, Misdirection, The Silver Path, and, most mysteriously, Not Without My Booty Shorts. (There are no booty shorts in the novel, and I did not come up with this title*.)
Today, it's called Unguided. Even though I have doubts about my work, as I imagine most writers do, it won an award last year and consequently cannot be the worst book ever written.
The next steps:
1. Write a query letter.
The purpose of a query letter is to get an agent interested enough in your book that they ask to read it.
In 2010, I was smart enough to take a workshop on how to write effective query letters with agent Michelle Brower. Ms. Brower ripped my query letter (and my whole novel, essentially) to shreds.
Then I rewrote the entire book because everything she said was exactly right.
Since school let out last week, I have revised my preexisting query letter about six times. I forced my long-suffering First Reader to read it. Then, I made my sister read it because she is smart and happened to be online. They liked it. I like it. Maybe it's ready!
2. Take a break and weed my garden. Photograph some pollen.
3. Search for agents.
Many resources exist for finding literary agents. Since, as a grown-up person, I spend all of my free time reading YA fantasy novels, I have favorite authors in this genre and have mostly decided to try their agents first.
If you're going to be rejected, be rejected by the best.
The advice I've found suggests to query 6-8 agents at once because said agents are crazily busy.
5. Look at query letter again. Is it good enough?
6. Prepare to be rejected or ignored
As a poet who once submitted with frightening regularity to publications of all sorts, I am deeply accustomed to rejection. (I'm also accustomed to winning prizes. It's usually one or the other.) That said, I am not at all accustomed to being rejected for something I've worked on for such a long time. I'm sure it will be a memorable experience.
I also know that not everyone likes every kind of writing, so it's important to find an agent who will fight for Not Without My Booty Shorts.
7. Write blog post about sending out query letters to avoid sending out query letters.
This step included looking through my entire house for evidence of my old novels. I found one (see above)! There was a cat named Adolph in it (and parallel universes: my favorite thing, apparently).
8. Get to work on second novel.
60 pages done. 200 more to go!
9. Query some agents, already.
The worst thing that happens is nothing, after all.
Stay tuned to hear about all the forthcoming rejection! And enjoy this fan art (which in no way depicts my actual novel) in the meantime!