Why I Started Hyperventilating in the School Staff Room

I’ll just cut to the chase here: I got my first manuscript request yesterday.

I was used to waiting two weeks or more, only to open my email and see a preview for a reply with words like “unfortunately” and “while we understand…” Polite words. Words that, however gently, began to scrape at my rejection-proof shell of determination.

So imagine my surprise when a response came only seven hours after I’d sent my query. But the usual words didn’t leap out of the preview panel. Instead, there were words my brain literally couldn’t register. It was like reading a language I’m not fluent in, or reading a dull passage in a book: you don’t see what you’re expecting/dreading and so you effectively see nothing at all. It wasn’t until I actually opened the email that synapses started firing again:

“I’d love to take a look at your manuscript. Please email it to me when possible.”

I sat at my desk for a good five minutes, unable to do anything but stare and hyperventilate.

To date, I’ve sent out exactly twenty query letters for my novel, Ciphers. Eleven of those received form rejections, while another five or so are assumed rejections (no replies for three weeks or more). I’ve written, I think, at least four completely different drafts of my query letter throughout the process.

But finally I have some proof that my hard work paid off.

No matter what happens from here on out — whether the agent offers representation or passes on my novel — I at least know that I have an eye-catching query. It’s enough to get at least a handful of partial and full manuscript requests. And at that stage, even a rejection is beneficial. If there’s a technical reason for the rejection, the agent will explain it. If they can’t explain it well, that just means it wasn’t their particular cup of tea — and someone else will surely like it.

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