So I finished my first fantasy novel in 2018. It was a multiple P.O.V (point of view) Young Adult (YA). I queried it pretty extensively with no full requests. While I was querying I wrote another fantasy YA. When it was done, I queried it, too. Out of probably 50 queries I got one full request. To say I was extremely excited is in an understatement. After about two months, the agent passed, that is to say she rejected it. But, it was the nicest possible rejection letter you can imagine. She was very encouraging and said I showed a lot of promise and should keep writing. Which, of course, I did.
The next book was another YA but this time more of a fantasy sci-fi blend. I was inspired after watching Black Panther. This one didn’t get any full requests when I queried but it did get some personalized rejections, which is an improvement. I didn’t query this one as much, I was feeling quite disheartened about everything. Am I a good writer? Are my stories worth telling? Why won’t anyone just give me a chance! I’m falling behind, I should be further along in life. What if I never get an agent? Have I just wasted all this time? It was a bleak time in my life.
The next novel was an adult fantasy and I realized I prefer writing in the adult genre and my style is more suited to it. I really, REALLY advocate experimenting with age group, genre, and style to see what really fits you. The manuscript that eventually got me an agent is a completely different style than anything I’d written before. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of it until I gave it a go.
This book felt like The One, I was very proud of it and the people who read it liked it a lot. I won this Twitter competition to have the first few pages critiqued by a published author and she really liked it, too. I was STOKED. I pitched the novel during DvPit, a Twitter pitch event in which underrepresented authors pitch their novels in a tweet. I got a like from a small Independent publisher called Scarsdale Press. This was November 2019. About two months later I got a full request and in April 2020 (a week before my 29th birthday) they offered me a multi-book contract which I accepted.
Finally, some progress! Well, a little anyway. Publishing is very, very, slow and this was the middle of a pandemic and I quickly realized that it would be a long while before my book would be published and I had the opportunity to make some money. Small presses don’t usually have the budget to offer debut authors a significant advance check. So, I was still just scraping by financially and writing as much as I could and being exhausted.
I had to jump right into writing the sequels to the Adult fantasy novel and it was pretty all-consuming. Looking back I don’t know how I did it. I was working and writing SO MUCH. I just wanted the dream so damn much. I was writing the 3rd sequel when I started to burn out. Not on writing as a whole but that story in particular. It had grown in scale and all my characters were sad and facing life and death situations. I felt so heavy.
Also, it was 2020 and so, you know, THE WORLD.
And then I had an idea for a really simple story. A love story that focused on the two leads without much world-building or extraneous details. And so I wrote The Smoke that Thunders, the novel that would eventually get me an agent. This story really grabbed hold of my mind. It came on like a fever. I’d write in the middle of the night because I just couldn’t stop thinking about it long enough to fall asleep. I really, really believed I’d done something special. This one was REALLY The One.
I gave it to my mother to read and when she was done she came into my room and kissed me on the forehead. She said, “I didn’t know you could write like this.” And neither had I. I learned that I’m capable of more than I even think I am. And to never put limits on what I can write, because I’ll never know until I try.
So, I queried it. Got one full request pretty quick. It was a pass, another positive one. I felt shit. And then came tons of rejections. I was so surprised because I really really believed this one was special. And then I got a partial request from my current agent, Aida, and I was EXCITED and then, 6 weeks later, she requested the full and I was EVEN MORE EXCITED. And then 2 months later, she passed and I was so, so disappointed.
She said she liked about 70% of the novel but was let down by the ending. If I ever revised the manuscript, I should send it back. So, when I was done being sad, I considered her comments and came to agree with her. The ending was rushed and not very satisfying. So I went back and rewrote and restructured the last third of the novel. I ended up adding about 5000 words and sent a query asking if she’d like to read it again. She did, and a few months later we had The Call (October 2021). I saw how awesome and amazing she is and she offered me representation (!!!!!!), which I accepted.
I was so nervous during the Zoom call that I was drenched in sweat afterward. I, unfortunately, am a nervous sweater. I am also easily nervous. No one is perfect, ey? Aida really loved the story and the characters and it felt really good to hear that from someone who isn’t a friend or my mother. Editing and polishing up the story with her has been a really wonderful experience.
Getting an agent after almost three years of trying and hoping and being hopeful felt like this huge relief. It’s like “Thank goodness I wasn’t doing this for nothing.” I finally felt like I could sit back and appreciate how far I’d come and I could finally take a break. I know that the book still has to go on submission and a publisher has to actually buy it but I have a good feeling. I have a good feeling about the rest of my life.