The idea to begin this series came to me when I read R.C. Lewis’s post on the AgentQuery Connect website about her recent success with her manuscript, STITCHING SNOW. I was instantly drawn to her story and knew I wanted to share it with aspiring writers as proof that perseverance and confidence in your own writing pays off.
I started by asking R.C. some basic questions about her writing and then got into the meat of her story.
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
R.C.: I began writing my first attempt at a novel in summer 2009, so a little less than three years.
Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?
R.C.: That first one took about a month and a half to draft, then several more months of revising before I started querying it.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?
R.C.: I fully queried two manuscripts before STITCHING SNOW. (I did a small batch of queries for one manuscript between those two, but I knew the timing and market weren’t right, so I didn’t go all-out.) Both of those manuscripts got several full requests but didn’t quite go the distance.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
R.C.: Silence is always frustrating. Rejection always stings. After going through the process with one manuscript, though, I knew what to expect. There were times I got down, but I tried to remind myself that if I kept working to improve, I’d get there.
Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?
R.C.: I always queried in small batches so if I kept getting form rejections, I could revise the query and try more agents. When I got rejections on fulls, I tried to see if there were ways I could/should revise to strengthen the manuscript. Eventually, though, the pool of agents likely to be a good fit ran out. I also made sure to always have the next project rolling to keep me busy during the querying process, so “moving on” began as soon as I started querying.
Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?
R.C.: Like I said, both previous manuscripts got full requests. Those rejections always stung a bit more than query rejections, but they were often useful once the sting faded. The project I queried immediately before STITCHING SNOW got all the way to a Revise-and-Resubmit (R&R). What kept me going was the knowledge that I was getting better, getting closer. That, and a critique partner who smacked me over the head when I needed it.
Amy: How many agents did you query for STITCHING SNOW?
R.C.: This one was strange, because I was involved in the Writer’s Voice contest, which involved posting our queries and first pages for a panel of eight agents to vote on (and votes translated to requests). The week before the contest went live, I sent out a batch of nine queries. Between those queries, the eight contest agents, and some agents who lurked the contest and requested, I ended up with eleven fulls out of about twenty agents.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
R.C.: Again, this was a strange situation. I sent those queries on a Thursday. The contest voting happened the following Monday, and I also got a full request that night from Jennifer Laughran. Jennifer emailed me Wednesday to arrange a call that night. I informed agents the next day that I had an offer, which led to more requests, more calls, more offers … and a week later I made my decision. So, as these things go, pretty lightning-fast.
Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with Jennifer Laughran?
R.C.: We talked about STITCHING SNOW—both the strengths she observed and some points she had questions about. Then we talked about my other writing, her style as an agent, and I’m not even sure I remember what else. It was an hour and fifteen minutes of “Is this really happening?” brain buzz. 🙂
Amy: What parting advice can you give other aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?
R.C.: Think about what you want, what it will take to get there, and whether you’re willing to do that. When one manuscript doesn’t make it, are you taking steps to ensure you’re improving and getting closer next time around? There are a lot of options these days, particularly with self-publishing. If you decide to go that route, make sure you understand what it’ll take, and make sure you demand a high enough standard of quality from yourself. If your dream is worth it, work for it.
Many thanks to R.C. who took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. I hope her story will inspire you to push on with your own writing.
R.C. Lewis is a self-avowed science geek and linguaphile who merges both passions into writing science fiction and fantasy for young adults. When not writing, R.C. teaches math—that’s right, math—and has done so with both hearing and deaf teens. She’s represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Check out her blog at www.crossingthehelix.blogspot.com