Yesterday, I finished the last round of micro edits for my YA superhero novel before I start querying. Now I’ve just got to rewrite my first couple of chapters and spiff up my query letter, which is still a rough draft at this point. The goal is to start submitting to agents by late October or early November.
It’s crazy to think that four years ago, I was just feeling out the querying process for a much different version of the same book.
I went through a few different versions of my query letter and a list of agents, but none of it panned out. For a long time, I kept pushing through, kept pushing more submissions out–Winston Churchill, never surrender, you know?
But eventually, I realized there was a difference between greeting the proverbial drawing board like an old friend and just plain quitting. Sometimes, yeah, you need to be hard-headed and thick-skinned and plow through the let-downs.
Other times, you need to sit down, shut up, and admit when something isn’t working.
Realizing that didn’t make scrapping that draft of my book any more pleasant. But looking back, I’m weirdly grateful for it. I feel like I’m a stronger writer now, and while the general spine is the same, my story and series have evolved a heck of a lot since then.
Really, it’s just a matter of knowing what battles are worth picking–and when. If you find yourself needing to take some time, step back, and approach your story from a new angle, consider Maggie Stiefvater and Eric Kripke.
Maggie Stiefvater is the bestselling author of the Shiver series and The Scorpio Races, among other things. She also wrote The Raven Boys–my favorite book in the history of the universe, and the first book in a planned quartet.
The interesting thing is, she wrote the first draft of The Raven Boys when she was nineteen years old–at least twelve years ago. She’s mentioned before that she realized she didn’t yet have the writing tools necessary to tell that story and juggle multiple POV characters, so she moved on. She still loved the story and carried it around inside her, but she wasn’t ready to tell it yet. It was a matter of timing.
So she waited, worked on some other projects, and came back to it when she was ready. And I have to say, the result is pretty amazing.
If that success story doesn’t sell you, there’s also Eric Kripke, creator and longtime showrunner of Supernatural. Before he came up with the Winchester brothers and the Impala, he set the creatures and cases against an anthology backdrop. After that, he planned to tell the stories through a tabloid reporter investigating it all. Then it was the story of Sam and Dean Harrison, raised by their aunt and uncle after their mother died and their father left.
The story went through loads of different versions–it was pitched and rejected and reworked for ten years. And it ended up being a wizard show that’s still going strong in its tenth season. If the story about the tabloid reporter had been greenlit, the Winchesters would never have been born.
So by all means–if you’ve really examined what you’re doing and feel like it’s the best it can be, go for it. But if the timing seems to be wrong, maybe there’s a reason for that.
A time and a season, and all that good stuff.