Welp, guys. It happened. IT happened.
I girded my loins (I love that phrase so much), read, re-read, and polished my queries, fretted for days over a dozen versions of a synopsis, and, after I finished those, I read my space opera romance enough times, my eyes bled Event Horizon-style and I was fairly certain the entire thing was total crap. Seriously. Total crap.
But, in the end, with bated breath and my stomach swirling like I’d just eaten Taco Bell slathered in several packets of Diablo sauce until it tasted like bad decisions, I hit send anyway. I sent my book-baby into the vast, uncharted territory that is the [cue dramatic organ music] query portals. Like Jor-El and Lara sending a baby Kal-El into the great beyond and a greater destiny, I watched it go and clutched at my heart. Then I curled into the fetal position under my desk and wailed.
I’m still there. Hello from the darkness.
Okay, here’s the full story. Once I had polished the crap out of this particular book, I purchased the 2017 Guide to Literary Agents. I can’t say enough how useful that resource is for all things traditional publishing. Seriously, go pick up a copy and read it if you’re considering the traditional route and are looking for guidance (Here’s a link to it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/144034776X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_dp_T1_Rdvtzb92F3TXF). It helped alleviate a ton of nerves and made me feel like I had somewhat of a handle (albeit a tiny handle…a teacup handle, if you will, one of those delicate ones on the fancy teacups) on the situation. I created a spreadsheet with possible agents—I personally looked for agents interested in science fiction, romance, and fantasy to start off. I figured since I write in all three genres, ideally, I’d love to have someone interested in all aspects of my work. A good a place to start as any, right?
Once I’d found a couple handfuls or so, I narrowed it down to four…and then I hit send.
I waited. I wrote. I deleted. I paced. I didn’t sleep. I chewed gum like it was going out of style and my jaw cramped. Then I switched to lollipops. I contemplated chew toys. I obsessed over the fact someone, some stranger—or worse! Oh, Lord, a committee of strangers—read and dissected my work. They could be doing that very thing at that very moment. I imagined it and nearly vomited. To occupy myself, I made the mistake of reading back over said work and found a billion things I could have changed.
I assumed the fetal position and wailed some more.
Then I got it…THE email. The response. A week later, it sat in my inbox, calling my name in a whisper. Taunting me. I steeled myself and sat down at my laptop. With one hand over my eyes, I opened it and peeked through my fingers to read the first line.
It was a rejection.
All color faded to gray. This was what I had suspected all along. I couldn’t write. It was total crap. The whole idea, the manuscript, the characters…who was I fooling? I couldn’t write science fiction. I was a joke. It was total crap! I resigned myself to what I assumed would be a parade of rejections.
Only they didn’t come. Four days later, I received another email response. This one, folks, was a manuscript request. I’d piqued an agent’s interest with my query and sample chapters, and they wanted to read more.
I cried. Like a baby. I didn’t even curl into the fetal position for it. I lay on the floor on my back and cried. My query had caught someone’s eye! Maybe it wasn’t crap! Hope bloomed again. My fingers shook as I typed out a reply and quickly formatted my manuscript to send.
A week went by. I fiddled around on Twitter, finished the creation of an author page on Facebook (hey-oh! Plug time. www.Facebook.com/DMarieWhisman). I went back to regularly scheduled programming. At night, I had nightmares of giant auditoriums displaying my work on a projectors. A school of sharks in business attire laughed and jotted down notes in red pen with fin-fingers as they tore apart my book-baby. I woke up in a cold sweat.
Eventually, the agency got back to me. They “liked it, but didn’t love it.” But the seed of hope had been planted. It grew from there, creeping and climbing like an ivy vine until I skipped everywhere I went and found a field of dandelions to frolic through. This was it! I was chasing my dream. I projected positivity to the universe.
Time went by. I’d heard back from two now, and, while one had read the manuscript, in the end, I’d received two rejections. Encouraging, nicely worded rejections, but rejections nonetheless.
All the while, I searched for more people to query just in case and, in doing so, realized something: there aren’t an awful lot of agents out there looking for sci-fi adventure romance. Granted, it’s a tad niche-y. I know. I knew it when I wrote the thing. But I, like so many others, sat down to write a book I would like to read. I like science fiction—I grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, and, occasionally, when I was sneaky, Alien and Predator movies. I love Firefly and Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, and even Anne McCaffery (seriously, the Dragonriders of Pern series is still one of my top literary loves). There had to be more people out there interested in the same things, right? My book-baby had space, starship battles, aliens, and adventure with a little romance to spice things up. I liked it well enough. Someone else had to. Didn’t they?
You’d think. But I digress.
I couldn’t find anybody else to query! I took to Twitter to complain—the author community there is solid and I often scroll through it when I feel alone and lost in a sea of editing and rewrites. It’s like bobbing in an ocean after a shipwreck and seeing someone else floating by, clinging to a piece of driftwood. You give them a friendly head-nod, maybe even a wave (get it?! A WAVE in the ocean?!), and they nod back before the current takes them on their merry way. See? Comforting.
Anyway, I took to Twitter to complain about my trouble finding agents interested in science fiction adventure with romance themes. A few hours later, an intern from a literary agency contacted me and said she was working with an agent amassing a list—and that agent was interested in that very thing. My heart stopped. It had been a month since I’d sent out my original set of queries, and there were a couple I had yet to hear back from. I figured it couldn’t hurt…so I queried her. She responded quickly—only a day or so later—and asked for the whole manuscript! I couldn’t believe it! I’d caught her attention! I sent it with barely a blink.
A week passed. I heard nothing. Then, one day, I got the email…THE email, guys, containing those four happiest, blessed words. Angels sang. Lights shone down from the heavens to illuminate my workspace. Butterflies and small, jewel-colored birds fluttered by, and I wondered how they’d gotten inside. Then Morgan Freeman showed up and narrated my actions as I sat down at my computer and slowly moved the mouse icon over the email. My heart gave up on its palpitations and finally just left my chest to go watch from the corner.
“I loved your book.”
The wailing started again, but this time, it was the happy sort. Someone loved it! Somebody besides my best friends, my mom, and my fiancé LOVED what I’d written. I cried and laughed, paced around, cried and laughed some more. Several days later, we talked on the phone. By the end of the day, I had an offer of representation.
Fast forward a bit, past some contact with remaining queried agents I hadn’t heard back from, some finagling, some finalizing, and some fretting. This week, I signed with an agent. I still can’t believe it.
On a side note, I am so excited to work with Gina—it helps she’s totally rad on personal level, not to mention the complete confidence I have in her on a professional capacity. The ball is rolling. Sure, it sort of resembles that Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark giant stone ball, and I’m really hoping it doesn’t pancake me in the process—but, hey, it’s a-moving!
I know it’ll be a long journey. I’m prepared for the waiting and for possible disappointment. I’m also optimistic. This is what I’ve dreamt about since I was a small child and old enough to hold color pencils. Cat, the adventures of a cat named Cat, is a true literary masterpiece hailing from that time. Copies coming to a bookstore near you.
In a nutshell, this whole process has been a whirlwind. A terrifying, glittery, tear-filled whirlwind. Not to be confused with Whirlwind, the suspenseful novel I wrote in middle school starring all my school buddies and featuring my crush at the time.
In all seriousness, I’m writing this to tell you—YOU, person perusing blogs about blogging (earlier blog post reference)—go after the damn dreams. Seriously. I know the fear. I know the self-doubt. We’re old pals. But what if—no, not what if… WHEN you make it, when you achieve the goal you’ve sought to take on, you’ll thank yourself for taking the risk. Is it scary? Of course! It feels like jumping out of a plane without a parachute and hoping somebody down there has a very deep pool full of some very soft water. But this, this rush, is what makes life worth living, right? Great things never come from comfort zones. Can you be happy inside them? Of course. There’s contentment there. But I can’t imagine going through life and never feeling what I feel at this very moment: hope. Hope and that feeling that maybe, just maybe, those dreams I’ve held onto all these years could actually be feasible.
It’s never too late to chase your dreams.