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Friendly Butt-Kicking on Courageous Querying

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So a few days ago, I asked for reader questions, if ya had them, and there were a lot of really good ones. I’m slowly going through them and this time I wanted to tackle a few related writing-business questions.

I was asked if I’d show queries/ queryFAILS/ post on queries. Such things already exist! Lo and behold! I was also asked how to get an agent (see above posts on queries!)(if that doesn’t cover it, tell me what else you want to know).

And finally, I was asked how I kept from being discouraged in the querying process, and if I’d gotten rejected, and how I handled it. This, I’m afraid, is going to be a rant.

In any creative pursuit, you’re going to get rejections, roadblocks, people shouting no, and people whispering no, and worst of all, people just shrugging because they don’t care enough about your work to either love or hate it. There is no path to making writing equal dollars of any size that doesn’t involve rejections at every stage of the way.

I could tell you that it doesn’t matter, that they are just words, that everyone gets rejected, that none of them really mean "no," they just mean "not yet," and all of those things would be true. But none of them are enough.

Really, what it comes down to is this: you have to choose courage.

At some point, you have to decide that this is the path you’re on, come hell or high water, and rejection isn’t going to bother you. Distress just isn’t an option. Your heart is an impenetrable box and the slings and arrows of outrageous industry gatekeepers or critique groups or your partner are not going to nick the surface. Choosing courage isn’t a complicated process — it’s a decision, but the hard part is, you have to mean it. I started submitting manuscripts when I was sixteen, the same year that I decided that I was sloughing off all my phobias (I had quite a few) and took up the bagpipes. I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid of anything anymore. And I meant it. That’s the important part. It’s not a phrase you write on the mirror or chant in your car or work up to. It’s just a statement that becomes true the moment you yourself really decide it.

So when I tell people that none of the rejections I got bothered me, it’s true, because I decided before I started submitting that they weren’t going to be worth my distress. They’re informational, that’s all. They showed that I was really working on becoming a professional and where I was in the process. Do you get sad when the low ink light flashes on your computer printer? It’s just a fact, something to work around. Save your emotions for your drafts and put on your high heeled ass-kicking boots for your queries.

In the end, being brave is just as easy as being afraid.

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

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Copyright 2012