Staring at the edge of the water

Thought I might update my current progress with the writing journey. Maybe if I get published, people will look back and see these pre-agent posts and become filled with hope for their own writing careers? Or maybe some of my current Wattpad readers will find this post? (If you’re reading this and you’ve come from Wattpad, hello! I love you all! Your comments brighten my day!)

So I got a full manuscript request from an agent a couple of months ago. I can’t even begin to describe the agony of waiting for the reply, or how crushed I was when the agent told me she’d enjoyed the book… but it wasn’t her thing. It all comes down to personal taste, and she wasn’t after a book like mine.

I’ve had a couple of really nice rejections recently, from agents telling me they think I’m a strong, polished writer for my age, and that I’ll go from strength to strength in the future. And I feel torn between wanting to go curl up and cry, and being… happy.

I’ve realised that for the first time since I started querying my (old, bad, unpublishable) novels, I feel hopeful. I’ve dragged myself out of my pit of fear and despair and hopelessness. The one I’ve been inhabiting since the age of 14. Because now, I’ve learned how to query, how to write a synopsis, and how to hook someone – the hard way. I’ve learned by failing, by picking myself up again, and although achieving my dream and becoming published seems very impossible most of the time…

I’m making progress.

And I feel hopeful for the first time because after years of trial-and-error, I know that my current book is good enough. My current query letter and synopsis is good – I’ve spent hours polishing them and discarding old drafts. And as these agents (real people in the industry who have read the full manuscript!!!) have told me, I just need to find someone who likes this kind of story.

Someone who will fall in love with it like I did. When a girl with messy blonde hair called Ciara walked into my head, holding a crossbow, wearing a snow leopard fur coat. A fiery, brash, reckless, loyal girl who isn’t afraid to speak out, to challenge, to make a mark on the world.

A girl who demanded I write her story; whose loud voice and personality refused to leave.

Thinking about how close I could be fills me with hope and also terrifies me. A lot. Because I’ve dreamed so fiercely for an agent to say ‘yes’, for someone else to believe in Soul Seeker as much as I do – someone in the book industry, no less. It is scary to keep putting yourself out there when it’s all you’ve ever wanted and you only ever get rejected.

I let my mum take over querying a few agents back in January, and she emailed a couple, but I’ve taken the reins again now. I feel like it’s time for me to query again, to feel that rush of sickening terror and adrenalin when I press ‘send’ on the email. I have to take every step of this journey – writing is purely independent (until you get an editor, I suppose) – and I need a backbone of steel if I actually want to become published.

I can feel some of that steel already.

And I don’t think it’s come from me being good at taking rejections/critiques (I’m not and it always hurts), it’s the simple fact that my dream won’t let me stop. If I ever stop writing or querying, I’ll have failed myself. I’ll have failed 12-year-old Sam, the Sam that spent hours after school writing a wolf story. I’ll have failed 15-year-old Sam, the Sam that wrote her very first full-length novel and sent her very first query out (stupidly optimistic about all the requests she thought were going to come her way). Even if there’s the slightest chance an agent will like my story, I’ll send that email.

So I’m on a mission to send queries out regularly, maybe a couple a day for the next few days or weeks. Since reading is very subjective, I have to do as much as I can to get Soul Seeker to as many people as possible. Some agents’ websites are so formal I read their bios and still have no idea what sort of story they like. Every email is a leap of faith.

But surely, surely I’ll find That Person. Surely he/she is out there. (Why does it sound like I’m talking about romance? If I had to choose between the agent of my dreams, and the guy of my dreams – the agent would win, hands down. Sorry, imaginary-guy. You’re not important enough. 12-year-old Sam and 15-year-old Sam want the agent, and I have to listen to them.)

So, if you haven’t already gathered from this post, I tend to be naturally optimistic, which also usually ends in my dreams being crushed time and time again.

During this querying spree, my other go-to hobby after I come home from being bamboozled by Chemistry (more like CheMYSTERY) and Biology is writing a new novel. (Wow, she’s a writer and look – she’s writing! Surprise, surprise.) Seriously, I read an article a while ago and saved a screenshot onto my phone – I wish I remembered what it was from – that basically said something like “be proud of being a writer. Be proud of where you’re at no matter how many rejections you get. Loads of people say they’re going to write a novel, but few actually do. You’ve done something really unusual, so keep telling stories. Enjoy telling them. Enjoy being a writer.”

Something like that. I found it really empowering, and I know that even if every agent in the country rejects me, I’ll keep telling the stories I have burning inside me. For myself. Because above all else, I write because I love it – I love creating characters, writing banter and epic action scenes I can see playing out in my head like a film, cackling like a Disney villain when I throw in unexpected plot twists, tossing my characters into hell and dragging them back out again…

Is this blog post getting too passionate? I planned on the first one being the most passionate, and the others being more chill. I hope I’m not repeating myself too much, and I hope no-one’s sat reading this like “yeah, yeah, we get it. You like to write. Whatever.”

Anyway, back to the point. I’ve started another new book, and I love it almost as much as Soul Seeker! This one was vaguely inspired by some of the amazing fanart I’ve seen for Tolkein’s The Simarillion (never actually read it, just seen the art) and Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s set in a classic high fantasy world (with my own unique touches, of course) but the twist is that the villains are the main characters. And it’s not like Maleficent, or the Grinch – these characters are purely evil. Not misunderstood. Evil. *cackling in the distance* *lightning flashes*

And I love it! They’re so morally ambiguous, and it’s so refreshing to write. Throughout the plot (it’s gonna be huge, I can tell already) I’ll be exploring my villains’ human sides and how they’re really conflicted about what they want. As well as their bloody histories and motives. An interesting fact: so far, I’ve got the whole plot outlined… by accident?

I hate outlines. Hate, hate, hate them. I love plunging in and writing blind until I get stuck – it’s way more fun! As long as your idea is solid enough, why not? But this story… I’ve been getting random scenes and characters and inspirational moments popping up in my brain as if this story exists already, in my subconscious. Seriously, the plot has taken zero effort. I haven’t even tried. I’m actually a little disappointed, because I like making some things up along the way (I’m kidding, there will be loads of room for that as well), but there we go: an outline from start to finish has somehow surfaced in my mind.

I’m not in a rush to get this one published, as it’s nowhere near as dear to me as Soul Seeker (for now), but I’m going to enjoy uploading it chapter-by-chapter to Wattpad to see the response it gets. It might just kill me to take a break when my final A Level exams roll round in June (so close *shivers*) but the story is making me enjoy being a writer again, and it’ll hopefully stop me constantly checking my emails, and honestly, it’s been a lifeline for me already.

It’s been the only thing keeping me going through a gruelling week packed with mock exams. I’ll think about Delilah and Dante, their snarky comments to each other and their vicious passion for what they believe in, and I’ll feel better.

I’m at my happiest while writing. I know that for sure.

This post is reaaally long! Sorry! I’ll end it here! Does anyone want me to talk about a specific part of the writing process next time? I can give advice, if anyone wants to hear it?