On Agents, Failure, & Why We’re Even Here

I don’t know how I ended up in my archives.  Something I read had me coming back to see if I’d written something on the same topic and, well.  Here we are.

About a year-and-a-half ago (oh-my-God: have I been here this long?), I wrote about my plans to send out my very first query.  I was nervous, of course.  I expected rejection, but in that way where you know it happens, but if the universe lines up just right, it won’t happen to you.

A few months later, I wrote this post about handling rejection and how to use it to figure out where to go from there.

I remember being excited when I got my first rejection letter.  A form rejection letter and I was happy because that meant I was a real writer.  A few months after the second post, feeling like I was still flailing about in the process of submission, I took a great query letter workshop from CJ Redwine (@cjredwine on twitter).  (I recommend it; registration is open and a new workshop begins April 4.)

In my next post, I’m going to compare my pre- and post- workshop query letters (which you should feel free to comment on!), but that’s not why we’re here.

What I saw, looking back, was a bit of naivety.  We all have it.  I still have it.  Just not about rejection.

I have now accrued 23 rejections.  I did manage to get one request for a full.  It didn’t happen.  I still don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

Maybe, it doesn’t even matter.  I knew, although I was hoping for that universe-lining-up thing, that I was very unlikely to sell a first manuscript.  Writing a novel is a learning experience.  I knew exponentially more when I finished than when I started.  Like… I went from first day of Kindergarten to rocket scientist kind of learning.  I’ve tried to take submission, and rejection, as an opportunity to learn as well.

And, wow, it’s taking me forever to get to my point.  The point is this: what happens after The End–from editing to synopsis to query to agent and beyond–it’s still The End.  And while you’re doing all of those other things, the absolute most important thing you can also do is keep writing.

Start another novel.  Write short stories or flash fiction.  Do something.  But keep writing.  It’s the only way to grow, it’s the only way to learn, and–I’m going to go out on a limb here–it’s the only way to stay sane.  It’s the only way to keep your dream close to you, it’s the only way to still love writing.

Rejection will sting.  But writing makes it better.

Dory: “Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills… When life gets you down do you wanna know what you gotta do?”

Marlin: “I don’t wanna know what you gotta do.”

Dory: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”

If I haven’t convinced you, read this Guest column by JM Tohline on How Do We Know When It’s Time To Quit Being A Writer?writersdigest.com.


  1. Yes. Keep writing. I sometimes look at writers with big successes and nothing after and I want to tell them the same thing: keep writing.

  2. You’re absolutely right. I am no stranger to the rejection letter, let me tell you. But writing makes everything better, so of course it makes rejection better, too. :-)

  3. Author

    Thanks, Johanna. You’re inspirational. If I didn’t find you on twitter in the mornings, doing your #amwriting in the early hours, I wouldn’t know how to start my own day.

  4. Author

    At least if you’re still writing you know the rejection isn’t The End for you, the writer.

  5. Great Post! And great advice. Keep writing.

    You will get the “call” one day and by then you will have so many projects to sell:)

  6. Author

    Thanks so much! If you think about it, continuing to write is win-win in that it doesn’t take away from what you’ve already done and, like you said, when the call comes, you’ve got so much more to offer.

  7. Great post, Lori!

    Yes, C.J.’s workshops are awesome! I’ve done one for the query and one for the synopsis, and then I decided I needed to re-work the book (but am now reconsidering that idea).

    I have to keep reminding myself that the querying part is the business part, but it’s the writing itself that’s fun. I took a year and a half off from querying and am ready to get back to it. I’m also excited about a new project I’ll be starting soon.

    Hang in there!


  8. I am so glad that the linked worked this time! And I know exactly what it feels like. Rejection still stinks. I have had a full manuscript rejected or ignored 6 times. (2 different books) And as I begin to query my third thing ever, I am reminded of exactly how much it stings. The first one is always the worst, but after a while you know what it feels like.

    I used to think than nothing would hurt more than the initial query being rejected. Then I queried my first project and got a lot of postive response. Yay right? Well, I don’t have an agent yet so I got rejected all of those ‘good’ times as well. Then some agents invited me to revise and resubmit so I managed to have those rejected technically twice.

    Now I am just ranting. I should go work on my new query letter some more.

  9. Author

    Thanks for commenting, Cecilia. I hate all the self-doubt that querying can bring, particularly when you’re not getting a lot of feedback. On the other hand, who has time to give feedback?

    Angela, I had a full rejected as well and it was somehow worse. Like getting one number off on the lottery or something.

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