Agents, Querying, Revising, What I've Learned, Writing, Young Adult

What I’ve Learned in Four Years of Querying

It’s here! I have officially been querying for four years. (Actually it was July 11, but since that’s a Saturday this year, we’ll just consider it today.) And in a strange coincidence, four years ago I sent off my first round of queries and then we packed up and drove down to Springfield, Mo., to visit family. This afternoon, we are driving to Springfield for a family wedding (although I have not sent off a round of queries, so it’s not completely the same). Anyway, I’ve experienced many ups and downs during the process and learned a ton. You can read about each year in succession, as I try not to repeat the lessons of previous years in the current year’s post. Here are links to the others:

What hasn’t changed is that I remain optimistic. I know I will find the right fit for my writing. So without further ado, here are the new things I’ve learned in the past year.

You don’t have to spend as much time researching agents … because you already know them so well. I’ve gotten to the point where many of the agents are like old friends. I’ve been over their profiles, watched their Twitter feeds, read their interviews, etc., so many times, that I know their preferences like the back of my hand. So when it’s time to send out queries, I don’t have to spend a lot of time reviewing before I put together a query for them. Sure, I still check the agency website to make sure nothing’s changed, but I don’t have to spend the hours I used to scouring the internet for information about them to make sure I get the personalization just right.

The caliber of beta readers and critique partners you work with gets higher and higher. The longer you’re in the writing community, the better the chances are that the writers you know have gone on to get agents and even publishing deals. For my last manuscript, I had three pre-published authors and two agented authors read for me. (And after reading, another reader got a book deal, and another landed an agent.) Most of these were writers I knew back when we were all unagented. We started out in the same place, but we’ve grown together. I figure it’s only a matter of time before I see my name in the acknowledgements page of a published novel :). That’s the nature of this long journey.

Just because an agent requested from you before doesn’t mean that agent is still the best fit for you at that agency. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to go with the agent you’ve been in contact with before, the one who’s shown an interest in your previous work. BUT, it’s possible that agent isn’t the best fit for what you’re writing now or for your complete body of work. I did some serious thinking before I started querying my last project. My first instinct was to go with the known, but the more I studied the bios and interviews, the more my gut told me to go with Agent B at a couple of agencies, even though I’d had requests from Agent A. And you know what? I got a request from Agent B.

This can also be something to consider with all the moving around that agents do. If Agent A has requested from you before but Agent B moves to Agent A’s agency and you’ve always really wanted to work with Agent B, don’t automatically think you have to submit to Agent A because of that past correspondence. Make sure you’re submitting to the agent who is the best fit for you now.

You might think you know the agents out there who are the best fit for your work, but you really don’t. I realize this point may seem at complete odds with my first point, but hear me out. I participated in a few pitch contests this past year, and I was shocked by a few of the agents who expressed an interest. A couple of them were newer agents I just didn’t know much about yet. But some were agents I knew about and just hadn’t considered because I’d pushed them further down the list for previous manuscripts. But you know what? I shouldn’t have done that.

Querying is about what’s the best fit for my career now, not in the past. I’ve changed as a writer over the past four years. I started out focusing on middle grade, but it turns out I have more of a young adult voice. I realized I was ignoring agents who didn’t do middle grade; that was a mistake. Because my current MS was YA, my next MS was YA, and the one I was considering after that was YA, too. So … the MG issue probably isn’t coming up anytime soon. My point is that you shouldn’t discount agents or curtail your list too much. Now, I’m not saying send it to agents who don’t rep what you write. Absolutely don’t do that. But make sure your priorities fit your current career goals and not your past goals.

The more thoroughly you research agents up front, the fewer requests you’ll get further down your list. I’m not saying you won’t get requests from the agents you don’t include in your first few rounds because some agents just don’t put much information out there about what they’re looking for. However, if you order your spreadsheet the way I do, you start with the agents you think are most likely to be interested in your manuscript, so your request rate is likely to be higher in your earlier rounds of querying. Don’t let that discourage you! I’ve learned there are always a few agents who surprise me in later rounds of querying and move up to earlier rounds when I query the next manuscript. (I wrote a whole series of posts on How to Research Agents. If you click on the first one, it includes links to all of them.)

You can tell by the rejections when you’re getting close. I heard this truth back when I first started querying, but I didn’t understand what it meant. I get it now, because the tone of many of the rejections has changed. Often they arrive with a tenor of hope: “I know another agent will snap you up soon!” This might sound like a really nice form rejection, but I know it isn’t because the rejections on the earlier manuscripts carried the more generic “Another agent may feel differently.” (I actually mentioned this in the Year One post!). Now, just because several agents say this doesn’t mean it will come true, but it still gives me hope. Maybe sometimes I go back and read through those rejections for a pick-me-up :). I’ve never said that before!

You start to consider other options. Don’t get me wrong–signing with an agent is still my goal. However, my mind is more open to other possibilities and other paths to publication. I know I’m not alone in this. I have writer friends who have been querying for years without signing with an agent who decided to submit directly to publishers or even self-publish. I still believe that if I keep at it, eventually I’ll succeed with an agent. But I’ve also started to realize that the path may not be as straight as I expected it to be. For someone as linear as I am, that’s a bit difficult to wrap my mind around, but I’m getting there.

You have greater confidence in your gut. I’ve written about this separately, most recently in a post on subjectivity, but I’ve gotten better about knowing when to implement feedback–whether from agents or CPs–and when to file it away. In the early days of querying, I was likely to jump on the tiniest bit of feedback and revise, regardless of whether I was 100 percent on board with it. Today, I’ll set aside feedback that doesn’t resonate with me, even if it’s from someone I greatly respect. In many ways, it’s harder to ignore honestly given feedback you can’t buy into than to use it, but I’ve been on the end of revising a way that didn’t feel right to me before, and that resulted in an MS that didn’t read right for anyone. I’m not sure you can get to this point of trusting your gut without those years of experience, so my guidance here is more a reassurance that you will get there.

Ok, I think that’s about it. I’ve been collecting these thoughts all year, and I may start collecting them for next year as early as tomorrow :). For everyone else who’s on this journey with me, hang in there! It’s all about finding the right fit for your work at the right time. And to my friends who continue to support me, thank you! I appreciate every one of you.

Agents, Querying, Writing

A Prayer for My Future Agent

As a person of faith, prayer plays an important part in my life. I pray about pretty much everything, including my writing journey. I prayed about whether my manuscript was ready to query. I’ve prayed about when to wait and when to move forward. Most of all, I pray for patience. Lots of patience. Like, all the time.

It occurred to me this morning that in all of that praying, I’ve never actually prayed for my future agent. This might sound odd, like I’m getting ahead of myself, but I have faith that I’ll find that perfect agent match eventually, whether it’s next week or next year. You also might think, “Whoa, Michelle. What if your future agent doesn’t believe in prayer?” Well, if they come upon this post, hopefully they’ll either think, “Oh, that’s nice that her faith is important to her and she was thinking about me.” Or maybe they’ll shrug it off and love my writing so much they don’t care. If they really are my future agent, it will be one of those two. If this post scares them away from representing me, then we aren’t the best fit anyway. Because my purpose isn’t to convert them, just to pray for our future working relationship. They don’t have to believe the same thing I do for that. So here goes:

I pray that you love my writing so much you can’t put it down.

I pray that we share a vision for my career that results in a productive, mutually beneficial working relationship.

I pray that we always show each other respect in our communications and give each other the benefit of the doubt if there is a disagreement.

I pray that you’ll challenge me to continue improving as a writer.

I pray that we’ll work together for the long term.

I pray for your success in your career, not just with me but with all of your clients. Maybe you’ll discover the next Harry Potter? (It doesn’t hurt to ask.)

I pray for general peace and whatever it is you need most in your life outside of agenting.

Ok, I think that’s it. In the meantime, I’ll get back to that prayer for patience :).

Agents, Querying, What I've Learned, Writing

What I’ve Learned in Three Years of Querying

Today marks three years since I seriously started querying my work. As a frame of reference, I’ve queried three manuscripts during that time. All of them started out middle grade, but one of them I aged up to young adult after a revise and resubmit request from an agent. I’m currently getting a fourth manuscript ready to query–this time a young adult contemporary.

Unlike the past two years, I didn’t sit down to write this post this week. Rather, I’ve been adding to it since about a month after I wrote the two-year post, jotting down thoughts as they occurred to me throughout the year, anticipating that I would have to write another one. (You can also check out my one-year post.) Sure, I hoped it would turn into a “What I Learned in Two-and-a-Half Years of Querying” or some other partial part of the year, but it didn’t, so here we are. And you know what? I’m ok with that. Because of the first thing I’ve learned:

Patience. Yeah. I’ve finally learned how to be patient, and I’m not talking about waiting for responses from agents because that’s still excruciating. I’m talking about being patient with myself. I’ve blogged about my tendency to rush, rush, rush before, but I’ve finally found the strength to force myself to slow down with my current work-in-progress. Honestly? I finished the first draft in late 2013 and thought I’d already be in the querying trenches by now. Instead, I have it out with a fourth round of readers, and I’m 100 percent ok with that. Some of my second-round readers would be astonished with what I’ve done with it since they saw it. Heck, I’m astonished with what I’ve done with it. That’s the beauty of giving it time and having PATIENCE. If only I’d learned that three years ago. Oh well. I’m not one to dwell on things I can’t go back and change. Moving on. I refuse to send this manuscript out to agents before it’s ready. Been there, done that, had my heart broken before. There may not be some magic formula, but I will not let my own impatience be my downfall this time!

Just because you have a great request rate on one manuscript doesn’t mean you’ll have a great request rate on your next one. There was a huge difference in the number of requests I got for DEXELON versus DUET. And I have to say, it was quite discouraging to go from getting tons of requests to eking them out, even though I knew my skills as a writer had improved. There are so many factors beyond your actual writing involved in how your work will be received–the concept, the current market. I don’t know for sure, but I think magical realism was hot when I queried DUET and science fiction was not when I queried DEXELON. Oh well. Onward.

The longer you query, the less query rejections hurt. Let me clarify that I’m only talking about the query rejections. I’ve gotten to the point where I just shrug when a query gets rejected. I think this comes from a better understanding of how different agents’ tastes are, and if my premise doesn’t appeal to them, of course I don’t want them as my agent. Maybe there’s a slight twinge if they’ve requested from me before, but I still shrug it off. Submission rejections still sting, though, because they’ve shown interest and I get my hopes up.

The longer you query, the pickier you get about which agents to query. I used to send queries to any agent I thought was a remote possibility of a match. I’ve gotten much more selective as I’ve watched writers change agents or have bad experiences with an agent who wasn’t the right fit. I tend to shy away from agents who are vocal online with opinions I don’t agree with, thinking we might not work together well. I’m also not as willing to trust my work with new agents who aren’t at established agencies–unless they have documented sales. I used to think it didn’t hurt to go ahead and query them, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to waste either of our time if I don’t think I’d actually sign with them.

The more times you query an agent, the trickier personalization gets. Maybe I’m just over-thinking things, but I always err on the side of assuming an agent will remember me. That’s probably because I have an excellent memory for my interactions with people, but then I’m a detail person. When I queried my first novel, I personalized wherever possible, mentioning clients’ books I’d read, things they’d mentioned in interviews or on Twitter, thanked them for sharing their knowledge with writers. But by the time I queried that same agent a second and then a third time, it just seemed awkward. In some cases, I barely personalized at all because I didn’t have anything new to say, and what if they remembered I’d already said that before? As I said, I’m probably over-thinking it, but that’s what I do :). Also, if an agent has requested more than one project, it gets awkward saying, “You requested my previous projects, THE MODERN CAVEBOY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING BATS, BULLIES, AND BILLIONAIRES, DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN, and THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT … ” Kind of a mouthful, right? And yet I want to remind them we’ve interacted before in case they don’t see my name and immediately recall the titles. If I were an agent, that’s one area I’d have to go look up.

The longer you query, the easier it is to let go of a project you love. Each time I’m querying something new, I think, “This is it!” If I didn’t think that, I shouldn’t be querying it. And yet, the more rejections pile up, whether I’m getting requests or not, the more I start to think maybe it won’t be. I still push through because I know all it takes is one “yes,” but I’m less attached to each individual project and more confident that it’s my writing, not a particular story, that will eventually advance me to the next level.

Just because an agent replied the last time doesn’t mean he/she will now. I’ve noticed that agents who responded to queries two manuscripts ago aren’t replying anymore. I don’t know if the volume has increased too much or if other responsibilities are taking more of agents’ time, but fewer and fewer agents are replying to all queries. Unfortunately, not all of those agents have updated their submission guidelines to reflect the change, so you can end up waiting months to figure out you’re not going to get a response. I’m ok with a no-response-means-no policy, but I do wish they’d list it on their submission guidelines if they’ve switched.

The more manuscripts you write, the harder it is to find an agent who will rep it all. Let me clarify this–I’m not saying I expect an agent to represent everything I’ve ever written. It’s more that if I’ve written sci-fi in the past, I might have another sci-fi idea in the future. So it’s not in my best interest to query an agent who will rep my contemporary young adult but has no interest in sci-fi. And let me tell you, this is hard to swallow. There are agents I interacted with on my first manuscript who I loved but I couldn’t query with a subsequent manuscript due to tastes. Who knows? Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to find the right agent fit–because I might have signed too early with an agent who would have turned out to be a bad fit later. I’m always looking for the positive spin on things :).

Looking back at what I learned in the first two years of querying, I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown, and as fantastic as it would be to be further along on this writing journey, I’m satisfied with where I am right now. Do I want to move on? Absolutely! But I have faith that everything will happen when the timing is right. And I’m sure I have much more to learn!

Agents, Querying, Revising, Writing

When Is It Time to Finish Querying?

I touched on this topic once before, as part of a post on timing, and I want to emphasize the distinction between stopping and finishing. I think these are two different things. You can just stop because you’re discouraged or you can finish, leaving no stone unturned.

Here are some things to consider if you’re reaching the end of querying a particular project.

Have you queried all of the agents on your list?

If you’ve gone through every agent you think is even a possible fit for your manuscript, then you’re finished. When I say possible fit, I mean any agent who represents the category and genre of your manuscript. Agents put their wish lists out there, but they’re the first to admit they can be surprised by something they didn’t expect to like.

Here’s how I approach querying. I have a master agent list that includes all of the agents who represent my category and genre. When I’m ready to query a new project, I rank them in the order I plan to query them. I would love to work with any of the agents on my list, but I start with the agents I think are most likely to request my manuscript. I determine that by browsing their web sites, blogs and Publishers Marketplace pages; reading interviews online; searching QueryTracker for what they’ve requested recently, etc. In general, my research is usually right, and as a result I get more requests in the beginning and more rejections as I go down my list.

BUT the internet doesn’t know everything or account for the fact that tastes change. So even though I understand it can get discouraging as you get to the later agents on your list, don’t stop querying because you think an agent is a long shot. The worst that can happen is a rejection, and at least then you won’t have any regrets about leaving off that one agent. I know from experience that sometimes the long shots can surprise you with a request, and it’s worth it to stick it out to get that nice surprise!

Do you still believe in the manuscript?

Querying can be quite a demoralizing prospect. You put your work out there, and you get rejected. A lot. Probably more than you’ve ever been rejected for anything in your life.

Ok, I’ll stop now. But the rejections can beat you down if you’re not getting positive feedback and/or requests. You can get to a point where you feel like stopping just because you’re tired of getting rejected. If you’re at that point, ask yourself: Do I still believe in this manuscript?

If not, maybe it’s time to shelve the manuscript. If you don’t believe in it anymore, you definitely shouldn’t send more queries. I did that with my very first manuscript, the one I don’t claim on this blog. The others are all listed under the Writing tab, and the two I’m no longer querying weren’t shelved until I received the last rejection.

If you do still believe in it, the next question is: Do I need to revise before sending more queries? I answered that one here. If you do still believe in the manuscript and you don’t think it’s time to revise, then you just have to remind yourself why you felt you were ready to query in the first place. Push through until you’ve exhausted every possibility.

Do you have something else almost ready to query?

The general consensus among agents is that you shouldn’t query two projects at the same time. Now, I think the agents who say that tend to be the ones who answer fairly quickly. You probably wouldn’t hear that statement from an agent who takes a year or more to respond. But the gist of it is, if you plan to start querying something new, you should wrap up sending queries for the outstanding project. Personally, I don’t think it’s an issue to have outstanding submissions on one project when you start querying a new one. I do think you should notify the agents with outstanding submissions that you have something new and ask if they’d like to see it, too. Knowing what else you have available could definitely sway the agent. If they are intrigued by the new one, too, hey, you might get an agent who already likes two of your projects! If they aren’t, then they wouldn’t be the best fit for you anyway. Either way, if you think you’re close to querying a new project, you should finish out your agent list for the current one.

Are there any other questions you’ve asked yourself when determining whether to finish querying a project? What has helped you decide?

Middle Grade, Querying, Revising, What I've Learned, Writing, Young Adult

What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Querying

I really hoped I wouldn’t have to write this post, but here we are. It’s officially been two years since I sent my first round of queries. During that time, I’ve queried two manuscripts, one of which underwent a major revision before restarting the querying process. I posted last year on what I’d learned in one year of querying, so I won’t repeat any of those points. In any case, I have learned many new things the past year.

Just because an agent requested one of your manuscripts doesn’t mean they’ll request the next one. Agents always say it comes down to the writing, so I assumed if they liked my writing once, they’d like it again. But they still have to be interested in the premise, and it seems I write vastly different things. I went from MG adventure with a boy protagonist to MG magical realism with a girl protagonist (later aged up to YA). Only one agent who requested the first MS requested the second one. My current project is MG science fiction with two girl protagonists, although it’s definitely not girly. So even though I’m up to about 30 agents who have requested my work in the past, there’s no guarantee they’ll be interested in this one. Even if they loved my writing before, maybe they don’t like sci-fi. Or aliens. Or girls who do Tae Kwon Do. Or books about twins. Who knows?

Just because an agent takes a long time to respond doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. When you see an agent tweeting about signing a client within a week of submission and that agent has had your manuscript for nearly a year, it’s pretty disheartening. Thoughts like, “They must not be that interested in mine,” go through your head. Or my head. Whatever. But as with everything else, there are a lot of factors involved. Some agents don’t read in order, especially if something they have in their to-read pile has another offer on the table. I assumed an agent who’d had my MS that long wasn’t interested, and I was wrong. The agent upgraded me from a partial to a full after nine months. So a long wait doesn’t necessarily equal a lack of interest.

Getting a lot of requests does not mean you’ll get an agent. This one is tough to accept. I didn’t get many requests for my first manuscript and rightly so. But my second one was different. I had a great request rate, and I thought, “Finally! This is it!” Well, it still could be. I have a couple of submissions still out there. But it wasn’t the speedy success story my early requests made me anticipate.

Neither does a revise and resubmit. I was very hopeful when I received the R&R for DUET. I knew there were no guarantees, but here was an agent who really loved my premise and my writing. Unfortunately, that agent had a life of her own, and her writing career took off in spectacular fashion right around the time she requested the R&R. I waited. And waited. And finally heard confirmation last week that she’d decided to no longer agent. I could be upset that I put in so much effort to change DUET from middle grade to young adult, but I’m not. It was the right thing to do for the story, plus I learned I could write YA. That’s a good thing since my next idea is YA. So thank you to that former agent for challenging me to go beyond what I thought I could do.

There’s a lot more competition for YA than MG. When I aged DUET up to YA, I’d already burned through a good number of agents, but there also were a lot of agents still out there who hadn’t seen it. I updated my agent list with statistics from QueryTracker and was excited to see agents requested a lot more YA than MG. After all, I’d had a great request rate for the MG version, so if agents requested more YA, I’d get even more requests for the YA version. Nope. My request rate was way lower. Now some of that may be because I’d already queried the agents I thought were the best fit for my premise, but I think the bigger factor is that there’s so much YA out there. You see a lot more people querying YA than MG, and I think that’s why individual agents request more YA than MG rather than a preference for YA over MG.

Test out your submission materials as many ways as you can. The query letter and opening pages are so important. When I started querying DUET, I focused mainly on the query letter, and I received a lot of requests from agents whose guidelines called for the query letter only. I had a bit less success with agents who wanted pages as well. I didn’t pay enough attention to that. If I had, it would have clued me in earlier that my character should have been older. But maybe not. Sometimes the feedback you get doesn’t click until later. I’m being more cautious this time. One way I plan to test it all out is by targeting agents who request a partial before a full. Assuming they do request, I can get a feel for how well those early pages are performing. If they ask for more, that’s a good sign!

Trust your gut … but recognize things you might have to change later. I used to be one of those writers who incorporated 99 percent of the suggestions from my critique partners. To be honest, with that first manuscript I probably needed to, and even quite a bit of it on the second one. I’ve gotten to the point where I trust my own writing better than I ever have in the past. My CPs still catch a lot of issues, both major and minor, but I have much more confidence in myself if I don’t agree with a comment. This is particularly important in my current manuscript, as I have some risky elements that a couple of readers have been iffy about. It’s another reason I’m being cautious with querying–so I can feel out whether these risks are going to turn off agents or not.

So that’s where I am after two years. I really hope I won’t have to write a “what I’ve learned in three years of querying post” next year, but if I do, I’m sure I’ll have even more knowledge to impart.

How about you? What have you learned? Anything different from what I’ve experienced?

Critiquing, Querying, Writing

How Much Honesty Can You Take?

Yesterday agent Mandy Hubbard tweeted:

Sometimes, wish I could tell an author: You have talent. But this feels like the book before the 1 you get published. #NobodyWantstoHearThat

Well, of course you don’t want to hear that, but maybe you should. Now, if I were just dipping my toes in the querying waters for the first time, that kind of statement could be devastating. But after nearly two years of querying and three years of being critiqued, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin. I barely shrug when I get a query rejection, and even a manuscript rejection merits little more than a wince. I’ve gotten to the point where I tell myself it’s a rejection before I even open it so I don’t get my hopes up. Maybe that’s a little sad, but it’s how I cope. And on the plus side, a “yes” is then a pleasant surprise.

On the other hand, when I get actual feedback, I perk up. Those rejections give me hope that I’m getting closer, and I can see that it’s true in my own journey.

With my first serious manuscript, CAVEBOY, I had less than ten requests, and the rejections were pretty much forms, with a couple of agents who asked me to send them other work. I’ve had a lot more success with DUET. I still received some form rejections on requests, but quite a few of the rejections gave me feedback, and one was even an R&R. (For those who have been following me a while, no, I haven’t heard back on that one yet. I’m still waiting on a few submissions, actually.) No matter what DUET’s eventual fate is, I can see that I’ve improved by the number of requests and number of agents who gave me actual feedback. That’s especially encouraging when I’m almost ready to send out a new project.

I can definitely understand agents’ hesitancy to give you the level of honesty Mandy mentioned. Obviously there are crazies out there who harass agents after a rejection, but I think another reason is they have no idea where you are in the process. How do they know whether the writer is seasoned and professional enough to take that feedback and accept it for what it is–their opinion–instead of throwing their laptop across the room and vowing never to write again? Ok, that’s extreme, but some people are more sensitive than others or just haven’t developed that thick skin yet.

I’m always cognizant of that when I critique for someone new. I try not to hold back if I really think something’s an issue because I’d want them to tell me if they saw a problem in my MS. At the same time, until I’ve formed a relationship with them, I don’t know how they’ll take it. If I don’t hear back from a new CP within a day or two, I start thinking, “Was I too harsh? Do they hate me now?” But then I remind myself that they asked for my opinion and that I wouldn’t really be helping them if I held something back. And when it comes down to it, it’s still just my opinion. They might not agree with it or think it’s right for their manuscript, just as I might not agree with something an agent or CP says about my manuscript. I don’t always agree with the critiques I receive, but I still appreciate them. Even if I decide to leave something the way it is, at least I know it could be perceived that way. That’s important knowledge because we all come from different backgrounds and bring different perspectives when we read. No one comes away with the exact same reading experience. That’s the beauty of the written word.

How about you? How much honesty can you take?

Querying, Writing

The Stages of Waiting

I sent my work-in-progress, THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT, out to my first round of readers two weeks ago. I received comments from one of the readers on Friday, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for feedback from the other (don’t rush, if you’re reading this!). It’s made me muse on the different kinds of waiting we have to do as writers and the emotions associated with them. I’ve been through so many different stages of waiting over the almost two years I’ve been seriously seeking representation.

There’s the excitement of querying a new project. That moment when you send out your first batch of queries and then anxiously wait for your phone to ding a new email or, if you’re more obsessive, keep refreshing your email. I can’t do that. Before my smart phone, I would only let myself check my query email three times a day. Now I know as soon as an email comes in, so I don’t need to obsessively check. Of course, there are those phantom dings 🙂 …

If you get requests, there’s the agonizing wait for the agent’s response. I used to check QueryTracker every day for new comments about whatever agent requested my work, but I’ve discovered that’s just another way to drive myself crazy. I do have an agent column in my Tweetdeck that I monitor, but I limit myself to checking QT once a week. It’s not like I can speed up the process anyway.

How about this one? That heart-stopping moment when you have a response and don’t yet know what it is. You can see who the sender is and the first few words. Even though I’ve trained myself to assume it’s a rejection (better to be pleasantly surprised than get my hopes up too much), I still get short of breath in the moments it takes the email to load. There’s slightly less anticipation if the email starts with “Thank you,” but I’ve been wrong about that a couple of times.

My favorite kind of waiting is for feedback from my critique partners and beta readers. It’s so much easier than waiting on an agent because I expect them to find things that need work. I go into it with anticipation of what I can do to make the novel better. And as soon as I hear from them, I want to jump into revisions. That’s the hard part–waiting until I hear back from ALL of them. Because as I posted in January, even if different readers comment on the same issue, they come at it with their own view of the world, and those distinctions are helpful in knowing how to fix the issue.

What emotions do you go through while you’re waiting? How do you pass the time?

Here are two other posts I’ve written on waiting:

Yes, No, Wait

The Questions We Ask While We Wait