A look into my writing, revising, and querying journey from a draft one to dream agent
If you’d told me even two years ago that I’d be writing this post, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Back then, I had gone years without writing a single page. But here we are, four drafts and 360,000 words later, and I want to talk about how I got my agent — a lesson in cross-country road trips, finding your community, and writing what you love.
Step one: I wrote a book
In May 2020, I decided, without a doubt, that I would finish writing a book that year. I had a story in mind — danger! romance! drama! — and then, when I started drafting, it fizzled out in no time flat. I hadn’t even hit 10,000 words before it was dead in the water. But there was something in there that stuck.
A boy out of place.
So, I plotted a new story around this love interest. Who would be the least likely person to love him? How would they find each other? I tossed in everything I wanted from a book, things I felt like I couldn’t find on the shelves. An ivy-strewn college. The haunted stacks of a dusty library. The first shaky steps of life on your own. The grief you didn’t know how to bury.
I wrote the book I wanted to read. I wrote the book I needed.
The first chapter began in the dining room of a hundred-year-old house in the hills of Pasadena. It was early on July 1, 2020, the sun’s first rays creeping past the cypress trees in the backyard, and I couldn’t sleep, wide awake with new-draft jitters. For the first time in so long, the words came easily.
Some important things happened along the way. I learned to say yes when drafting instead of overthinking every detail. I made friends online who were also pursuing publishing, friends to celebrate with and friends to cry with.
By October, I had written a book.
I didn’t write a word in November — NaNoWriMo be damned — and sent my book to five beta readers who would hopefully fill me in on whether or not the book was working effectively. When their notes came in, I cut scenes and added new ones, found out the only way I knew how to describe emotion was by clenching fists and rolling eyes, and felt the unnerving rush of email notifications of new comments.
The notes I received from my beta readers were pivotal. Revising would take weeks, but I had a deadline. Author Mentor Match applications were opening soon.
Step two: I wrote the book I meant to write the first time
When I applied to Author Mentor Match in January 2021, I submitted a 95,000-word adult novel that I called YA because even though it wasn’t, I knew I wanted it to be. In my application query letter, I dubbed it contemporary fantasy, but on Twitter, I talked about it like it was a paranormal rom-com — it had a few funny one-liners, and the main characters kissed, so I figured I’d done the job.
I had not.
I was selected as an AMM Round 8 mentee by Jo Fenning and Serena Kaylor, and I quickly discovered the gut-wrenching fear of a seven-page edit letter and the words, this is not a rom-com, but you can make it one. I didn’t need to tear the book down to its studs — I needed to demolish it. I’d use the pieces like broken glass in a mosaic. The genre, the plot, the setting, the magic system, the cast. I needed to rebuild the story brick by brick if I wanted to tell it right.
It took four months. Between early mornings and late nights rediscovering my story, I started a new job, moved 1,800 miles across the country, and had my fair share of meltdowns. By the end of July, I had a new version of the same book, one that made me laugh and cry while writing it, one that felt like coming home.
With notes from my mentors and a few of my favorite people, I polished the manuscript, somehow managed to add more puns, and then it was time.
Step three: I queried a book
I must’ve sent twenty what if I just threw a query out into the void for science texts during my last pass revisions, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Because when I finished, I knew I was ready.
The pages were solid. The query letter had been revised about a trillion times. The synopsis… existed. In the wise words of Shania Twain, let’s go girls.
I sent my first query at the kitchen table in my robe before work on a Monday. The next day, I received a form rejection and a full request because that’s just the way that querying goes. A little bold, I chucked out a few more queries and then a few more, and the next week, I participated in September’s PitMad. It felt like all I did was refresh my email and QueryTracker.
Then, two weeks later, Claire Friedman at InkWell Management wanted to hop on a call.
We scheduled it for the next day, and I don’t think I slept a wink that night. There’s always that tiny seed of doubt in the back of your mind, the doubt sprouting about an agent asking you to revise and resubmit, but when she said she’d like to offer representation, I’m certain I let out a breath I knew I’d been holding. The minute the call started, I was blown away by Claire’s enthusiasm for my book and my future. Working with her had been a dream I clung to as I started querying, and I couldn’t believe it was going to come true.
I had the absolute delight of speaking with two other agents during the two-week decision period, both of whom I’m certain are tireless advocates for their clients but weren’t exactly the right fit for me and the shape of the career I’m trying to mold. Accepting Claire’s offer of representation included a bottle of champagne on the balcony, a massive bowl of TikTok pasta, and snapping one last Polaroid to commemorate this season of life.
Step four: !!!!!!!
I’ve felt more like myself in the last year than I have for a long time. Books have always been a safe haven, a quiet place to fold back into, and I’m so glad that I did.
The world’s biggest shout out to my darling boyfriend’s unending support, the unwavering enthusiasm from my writing besties, and Celestial Seasoning’s Vermont Maple Ginger tea. This book quite literally wouldn’t exist without any of them.
At the end of the day, everybody’s querying journey looks and feels different. For me, it looked like this:
Books Written: 1
Books Queried: 1
Time Querying: 28 days
Total Queries: 23
PitMad Requests: 14
Full or Partial Requests: 6