Danielle Dreger

A few years ago, back when I was new to the business of writing and submitting to agents, I had the tendency to get a little excited and jump the gun, sending things long before they were ready.

Confession: eagerness got the best of me.

I was six when I started writing stories, and had always wanted to write a novel.

I started several over the years but they all seemed to fizzle out by chapter two or three. It took NaNoWriMo in 2009 for me to actually finish one.

After revising my story once (just once!), I began querying agents who represented adult romance similar to what I had just written. I queried two dozen agents in the span of a few months and not one agent asked to see any additional pages.

Most of the rejections were form rejections and said things like, “This isn’t right for my list,” which I soon learned was the most common brush-off. I wanted to reply back, to those dismissals with, “Yes it is,” but I didn’t.

Being blacklisted would hurt me more than a form rejection ever would.

Several of the rejections were specific to my work, the most common being, “This is a great premise, but I didn’t connect with the characters.” These emails came with no explanation as to why the agent didn’t connect to characters and I was frustrated by this. How could I fix something if I didn’t know what was broken?

There was one rejection that was worse than the others. This one was so frank and honest that it stung me for some time. There were no pleasantries in the email. No thank you for submitting or thinking of the agency. No, this agent went straight for the jugular with, “You change your point of view too much. Beginning writers don't get to write like Nora Roberts. You aren’t ready for publication.”

That email was a sucker punch and made me question everything I had ever dreamed of.

While I had grown up reading Nora Roberts it was not my intention to try and write like her. Was this what everyone thought? Is this why no agent wanted me?

I had been so proud of my premise, that I had pretty much neglected everything else about the novel. When I reread it with that agent’s comments in mind, I could see that she was right. The story wasn’t ready. It needed too much work and extensive revisions before someone would ever seriously consider it. Why hadn’t I seen that before? Why hadn’t I asked someone to read it before I sent it?

I sat and stewed for a few minutes, wondering what my next move should be.

Ultimately I opened a drawer, dropped the manuscript in it and called it a day.

In the time since then, I’ve completed four YA novels, all better than that first adult romance.

That experience taught me not to jump the gun to submit, but rather take the time to reread and revise the story.

It doesn’t hurt anything to wait and have another set of eyes take a look at what I’ve done. Now I have critique partners who catch things like POV shifts and who are honest about the quality of the story. When I go to hit send, I don’t have to worry about jumping the gun. I’m ready.

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