On Writing · Publishing

Brush with an Agent – Part II

In my post Brush with an Agent Part I, I began sharing my ‘Trying to get an Agent’ journey with you. 

I left you hanging on the cliff of ‘what did the agent say’ – for too long! I apologize! I hope your fingers aren’t bloody and breaking…!

I have to tell you that waiting for an agent or any literary person (literary magazine editors/article editors/etc) to read your work gnaws on one’s soul like a angry rat a piece of mouldy cheese. It doesn’t help that part of this waiting process can last anywhere from three to six to nine months. It all depends. Hey, everyone keeps telling us it’s not easy, right?

Well, wasn’t I totally blown away when less than two weeks after I sent my manuscript to the agent – I RECEIVED A RESPONSE. I literally screamed when I saw the email in my inbox. Then I hesitated in opening it.

What if the agent hated it? What if the agent wrote something mean? All sorts of negative thoughts ran through my mind, but none of them were as loud and strong as this one: What if the agent loves it? What would that mean for my writing career? For my life?

With this in mind, I opened the email and read.

The agent said no.

The agent wrote a lovely, gentle, extremely positive message with concise supportive feedback. But the agent said no.

Now, I was at work when this email came to me. I was sitting at my desk trying to remain calm after I’d screamed. And suddenly, I. couldn’t. breathe. Nope. My heart went into overdrive and I couldn’t catch my breath. So I ran downstairs to the bathroom.


Like, my true-love-had-just-run-off-with-another-woman kinda sob. My true love, however, had followed me to the bathroom, took me in his arms, and let me cry and snot all over his nice shirt. He said all kinds of amazing things to me about my writing and my life, most of which I couldn’t hear over my crying.

I felt exactly how I’d promised myself I WOULD NOT feel.

Like this:

a) this was the end of my writing career

b) if this agent didn’t love it and want it, then no other agent would

c) i worked so hard and so long on this manuscript, there’s no way i’m going back to it

d) what’s wrong with me?

e) i really thought she’d love it and this would all work out exactly how i’ve dreamed!

I stopped crying. Splashed cold water on my face. I looked like I got punched in the nose, but I held my face down and went back to my desk. I read the email over an uncountable amount of times. Then I got another email. A hard-core critique on the first three chapters of the same novel that the agent just say no to. The critique was the icing on my dream-crushed cake. The critique had similarities to the feedback the agent gave. At least the pain-causing tools were the same, right?

Oh, boys and girls, Vanessa entered the Bell Jar. She entered Whoaisme.com. She got down and dirty and rolled in the muds of ‘I’m-not-good-enough’. And she made herself SUCK.

Then I breathed. Ate some junk food. And breathed some more.

Here is an email I sent to one of my writing goddesses…you can see where my head and heart was…and where it (thankfully) went:

The reason for my teary day yesterday and all the ‘change’ talk is based on your correct hypothesis: i heard back from the agent…and he/she said, in a very kind and gentle way, thanks but no thanks. so yesterday was spent crying, then reflecting, then celebrating how far i’ve come with my family over dinner, then more reflecting (this time in my journal)…and today I was able to respond to the agent with a clear heart and mind…and I don’t feel sad. I feel invigorated and inspired to work on my story more…make some changes that I knew before I sent it away needed to be made…and put it out there again…and again until it gets me an agent and published. 

There’s an important line in the above paragraph that shouldn’t go unnoticed: make some changes that I knew before I sent it away needed to be made

See, the truth in my heart was one that I wasn’t willing to face because I was tired of waiting and working. I knew that the story needed work. And the comments that both the agent and the critique person made were right on the money in terms of what I knew needed more work.

But you can get to that point. You can get to the place where you’re just exhausted of all the hours and hours of hard work, and you just want to share your story with the world even though you know it needs more work, more time, more.OF. YOU.

In the meantime, I need to make some changes in my life again. I knew this year would be like no other in terms of big changes…but i feel I’m moving in a bit of a different direction….or maybe exactly in the best direction…

I’m going to stop using social media for a while. I need the break. I need to stop spending time writing blogs and doing facebook and just focus on working on my novel. I’m going to a writing conference in new york the last weekend in may and there will be many, many agents there…and so much opportunity that I want to use the next couple of months to only work on my novel…

I did half of this. I did stop posting on FB for a while, but then I missed it. And I felt like I was ready and able to use it sparingly and only after I’d done my writing.

The thing is I’m the only one who can shift things around in my life to give myself the time I know it will take to edit my work. And I’m ready for this. And I want it uninterrupted. The novel was constructed over years (literally) and as such is fragmented. I need to clean sweep it and put it back together cohesively. Plus,  if I actually use the time I’ve created (mon/thurs/fri) to write then that’s three day’s a week of solid work. I can visit with friends and family and do all the other things I love in the time i’m not using to write. 

I’ve been going in circles around this for some time now…and i’m ready to just do it. 

I want to return to the earth for inspiration and guidance. return to my office to work and write – after all, that’s where it all began. return to writing because I love it – for no other reason – until I’m truly happy with the story. I can do this. 

Somehow…I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to get to this point…

The few weeks after I got the response from the agent were extremely important in my writing life this year. I was brutally honest with myself in terms of my dedication to the craft of writing. What I faced was that I wasn’t truly being 100% dedicated. And while I know that life happens and many things pile up on the same line in my priority list, I would have to make a serious effort when it came to writing. To just sit down, shut up and write.

It’s been four months since my interaction with the agent. I am grateful everyday for the response I got. For the speed in which I got it. For the honest feedback that was in it. Really, it was the best thing that could have happened. I needed some agent-reality pie. And I’ve kept in touch with the agent. And the agent said I could re-submit my first three chapters. And I’ve edited the first five chapters and I’m really happy with what I’ve got now.

I don’t know when I’ll get an agent, but I know I’ll get one. I’m not sure which book will be my break-out book- it may not even be the one I sent to the agent. But I will have one. I have faith in my writing dreams. I know that it’s okay to shift them around a bit. And it’s more than okay to be sad and disappointed, but it’s not okay to quit. Or even give up a little. Or slack. Because the job of the writer is to write. So write I must. And write I will. And I will be dedicated. And I will not fool myself with the process and how difficult it is.

Don’t give up. Keep writing.


One thought on “Brush with an Agent – Part II

  1. Vanessa, you are an inspiration! Not just in your writing but in your willingness to learn and relearn, your belief in your dreams, your stamina, your drive, your passion for life and your craft. The Universe has taken note. Good things are coming! 🙂


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