Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Guest Blog Week: The Five Stages of Querying Grief

By: Kiersten White

Stage One: Denial

This can't be happening to me! Novel is so good! I was supposed to get an agent within days of sending out that first query! There must be some sort of mistake--it's already been three weeks. Sure, everyone else has to go through a long, drawn-out querying process, but not me! There's going to be a request for a full in my inbox RIGHT NOW, I just know it.

Stage Two: Anger

What?!? [Insert Author Name Here] got an agent on her first try! And my book is at least as good as hers! And WHY won't anyone get back to me? I personalized and everything! Don't they understand I'm checking my email every twenty minutes? I HATE THIS! QUERYING IS THE WORST THING EVER! JUST READ MY FREAKING BOOK ALREADY!

Stage Three: Bargaining

Okay. It's okay. If I can just get a request for a full, if an agent will just read the whole thing, I'll be happy. No matter what, I'll be happy then.

No? A partial. Just read a partial, I swear then I'll be happy, I won't complain or freak out or want to give up. Just a partial?

No? Just respond. Anything. Just respond, and I'll be okay, really, I promise. Just a response? Please?

Stage Four: Depression

It's been three weeks. This is it. No one is going to want Novel. They'll never read it, so they'll never know how much fun it is, how well-written it is, how much potential I have as a writer. I'll never get an agent, which means I'll never get published, and there's nothing I can do about it. I suck. I suck, I suck, I suck I suck I suck. And the worst part is that I don't suck, but it doesn't matter, because no one will ever know. I'm never going to be an author. It's over. I'm going to bed. And I'm not getting up again.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Well, it is what it is. I’ve put in the work, I’ll keep at it, and I know I'll be published someday. Maybe an agent will fall in love with Novel. Maybe not. It's more luck than anything else at this point, and I can accept that. Either way, I'll keep writing, and someday, someone will represent me. In the meantime, I’ve got this shiny new idea over here just begging to be written…

Of course, eventually you will make it out of this cycle. But that leads us to the stages of agented submission grief and there’s like 87 of them. One step at a time, right?






87 comments:

Mira said...

Kiersten, this is so clever! Really. I'm alittle green, I wish I'd thought of this concept and written this.

And it really rings true. Totally on target. What I like about this is it makes me feel less alone. I'm not the only one who goes through all these stages and had every single one of these thoughts - you've really captured it.

I especially like the moving on to a new shiny idea. But I ESPECIALLY like the 87 stages of agented grief. Funny.

Thanks - wonderful post.

D. G. Hudson said...

Interesting angle for the phases of the querying process. I visualized it as a cartoon in my head.

A creative person usually has a sensitive nature when it comes to the work that they produce, hence we go through these agonizing stages. You've done a great job with this post, congrats on being selected.

Eric said...

I'm with Mira--this is great. So glad Blogger didn't eat your post!

Patrice said...

This is a fantastic post! A classic.

Of course, *I* will not have to go through any querying grief... will I?

(I can already wallpaper my bathroom with rejections, alas.)

I think you nailed it, and you made me laugh, too. I'm sending all my writing friends to this post.

Because Querying Grief makes me (this is my word verification) "surlov."

Rick Daley said...

"I'm checking my email every twenty minutes"

Wow, you are incredibly patient! I measure the lapse of time by the second hand.

This was a great post, it had a lot of voice. If it was a query, I would ask for a partial ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh well, you do understand what I've been going through too.

Bane of Anubis said...

I'm w/ Rick's time check schedule...

Love Stage 3 -- initially, you get a warm tickly feeling when you get a request and then when the rejection slams home... man, the sky falls on you (getting a query rejected's a whole lot easier than a partial/full, IMO -- b/c you feel like it's an indictment on your writing, where you can come up w/ a whole bunch of excuses for query rejections)...

I've got a full out right now and as every day slips by, I convince myself more and more that failure is coming (which, I'm pretty sure it is -- after awhile, after I've reread every word in my story a hundred times, I find myself loathing the story & writing that originally enamored me -- does this happen to anybody else :)

leesmiley said...

A nice piece of irony--today is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's birthday.

Ink said...

I'm not in denial. I swear.

Audrianna said...

Kiersten -

Hilarious!!! I was sitting here just cracking up. And, just as an aside, I read your blog - great, as well!

Marsha Sigman said...

Ok, now I don't feel quite so depressed that my entry was not selected. They are all so good! Loved Eric's on Monday, I had no idea all of that went on behind the scenes at my local B&N.

Thanks Kiersten, now another blog I must obsessively follow!
This was great, very funny and completely true.

allegory19 said...

OMGosh - so true!

You nailed the five stages perfectly. Love it!

Jess Haines said...

This was hilarious -- and rings oh, so true. Thanks for the laugh!

Laura Martone said...

Oh, Kiersten, this is a wonderful post! Just the sort of levity - and, yet, truth - we needed following Eric's more nuts-and-bolts approach. So far, both posts (no, I haven't gotten to Steph's yet) have been well worth the wait!

Marybeth Poppins said...

I love this post! I am absolutely in the process of going through these stages...I'm mostly to acceptance now.

Hilarious!

Emily Cross said...

Excellent post - i'm definitely linking it or pasting it on my wall someplace lol. :)

Laurel said...

Love this. Too funny! Thanks.

Kristan said...

This is what I have to look forward to? Oh geez...

Kiersten said...

Thanks, all! I'm glad it was well received after super-informative Eric's.

But I can be helpful, too! Ask any questions you want.

For example, "How do you get from stage four to stage five?"

CHOCOLATE. Loads, and loads of chocolate. At which point you can start being depressed about the weight you have to lose, instead of the rejections...

: )

(Also, HUGE thanks to Nate for taking time out of his vacation to deal with Blogger's weirdo problems.)

Laura Martone said...

Man, Bane, I am so with you (yes, again). I just had a full rejected by ICM, and even though I expected it, it was completely heart-breaking nonetheless. I went from Denial, straight to Depression - skipping the Anger/Bargaining steps. That probably says more about me than I care to admit. Oh, wait, I just did. Oops. :-)

dan radke said...

Totally not gonna happen to me. Once I finish my novel and get the query to Nathan, he's gonna be all OMG FULL NOW NOW NOW within 10 seconds.

Heh. Sigh. Why must the mountain look so impassable?

Rebecca Knight said...

BAHAHAHAHAHA. Okay... Loved. This.

Thanks for the laugh, and the reality check, too ;).

word verification: Incente--incentive to be Italian.

Jordan McCollum said...

This is fantastic, beloved twin of mine! I haven't even begun querying, so I'm still in denial most of the time, but from time to time I see my writing friends do something and I slip into anger.

I mean, I cheer for them. I do. But my jealous little heart hurts a little for me.

Vacuum Queen said...

Yep...something like this post, at least. My first stage was, "oh my gosh, I probably annoyed them with my stupid little query for my little picture book. I feel guilty that I wasted their time."

Which is stupid because I like the book and I WANTED them to spend time reading my query.

Sigh. I went straight from there to step 2 Depression.

But for me, the next step was, "well, I might as well get working on those other projects while I wait." and now I'm heavily involved with them. So that's all good.

Anna said...

This is great! Glad this made it...

Victoria Mixon said...

Kiersten,

I'm so glad to see this! I was checking all day yesterday for it.

And Bane of Anubis is right: there's the I Hate This stage. I wonder if that falls under Anger, Depression, or Acceptance?

best,
Victoria

AM said...

Bane,

Step away from your manuscript.

You are in the same exact state were many an author has ruined a perfectly - dare I say - wonderful manuscript.

We all know the moment: When we can no longer read the sentences for the words on the page.

You are not alone.

But I mean it... don't change anything while intoxicated with self-doubt.

Your manuscript is just waiting to be found by the right agent.

Thermocline said...

I loved your line about the next 87 stages. After reading Eric's post, it seems like the end of each step in getting to a Published Book brings a fresh new cycle of denial anger, etc. in a nifty new package.

My WV was: calmo. Does it get any more ironic?

AM said...

Kiersten,

This was such a nice bonus.

After reading your blog yesterday, I was excited to see there was yet another posting due on Nathan's blog... and you did not disappoint.

Once again, I related and enjoyed.

pjd said...

Wait... you mean there's a stage beyond Denial? Who knew? I've been in the Denial stage for several years now.

Anger at least sounds more fun.

allegory19 said...

Hey Laura, I feel your pain. I read about it on your blog and tried to post you a message yesterday, but it wouldn't go through - rats. Anyway - your novel sounds awesome. I encourage everyone to head your way and check it out.

Mira said...

Okay Kiersten, first the chocolate thing is funny. It's always good to worry about gaining weight rather than other things.

And I'll throw a question at you. What made you think of writing this post? Was it a particular query?

Bane of Anubis said...

AM - Thanks! -- You're right -- I'm way into super-duper-tinker mode and the stars are beginning to appear in my vision.

Laura -- sorry to hear the news -- eventually we'll get there.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I love this post Kiersten you have condensed the cycle very succinctly - I feel every one of them, on a non-stop loop. Sometimes they are as far apart as 5 minutes!
But, I have never logged on to read my e-mails with anything like the emotions I get to experience the odd 15 times a day1

Dawn Maria said...

I'm glad I read this after I sent a query out this morning! Very funny and clever Kiersten, I loved it!

I'm like Pavlov's dog every time my iPhone dings when an email comes in. "Is this it? Is this the email where they ask for a full?" Please! Pretty please?

Have a great day everyone- we are all awesome!

Melanie Avila said...

Ha, I love this. I'm currently in Stage One, lol.

Brodi Ashton said...

Kiersten- I love this post. You so nailed the "If this happens, then I'll be happy."

I always thought I'd be happy when I got an agent, but now we're going through the agented submission steps, and the agony is happening all over again!

Glad you were chosen.

Livia said...

I love the "I suck I suck I suck I suck I suck" :-)

Dawn said...

Delightful post and so true. Thanks.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Steph, I appreciate the encouragement... about my novel and the process itself.

I'm sorry my blog rejected your comment yesterday. Stupid technology - that's my true bane. But I appreciate the attempt. :-)

Though I'm disappointed by ICM's rejection, I really did expect it - the book is simply too long, and after all my recent research, I know that now. I'm bummed that I blew a shot at a major agency - a good friend of mine is an ICM-agented TV writer, and she prodded me to send the novel before it was really ready. It's not her fault - she doesn't know much about the publishing industry, and apparently neither did I. I should've known better - but I didn't, alas. And now I wish I'd saved my "in" until the book was truly agent-worthy.

Ah, well, live and learn, right? No big deal... it's been a couple days since the rejection, and I've already sailed into the Land of Acceptance. Ready and willing to make my novel the best it can be. :-)

--Laura

P.S. Does this post remind anyone else of the movie ALL THAT JAZZ? It's one of my all-time favorites... and I can still remember the stand-up comedian's routine about the five-step grief process. He said "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance" sounded like a law firm. :-)

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Bane. You're right - we will get there.

Oh, and Kiersten, sorry I went off on my little tangent back there... but, as you've noted, the "stages of grief" apply to all aspects of the publishing process - sadly, not just querying.

But you know what "they" say... The harder something is to achieve, the more we appreciate achieving it... Even on my most hair-yankin' days, I know this to be true.

allegory19 said...

Yeah Laura,
It is a bummer. But you're right, live and learn. And I know the harder something is to achieve, the more we appreciate achieving it. I can't wait to start appreciating - Hear! Hear!

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious!

carolinestarr said...

The whole process is like middle school romance, isn't it??

Dolores said...

So funny and accurate. Thank you, Kiersten.

Sandra K. said...

Funny! Can you be in all the stages at one time? That would be me.

Anonymous said...

Hey!

Where's the BLAME stage?

You know, where we blame the stupid agents?

That's totally separate than denial. ;)

Isn't it?

Lynne said...

Very nice and funny. And the checkout name is: apiners. How appropiate!

Matilda McCloud said...

Great post!

I usually stick to the denial phase as long as I can. I don't open the SASEs until a few weeks after I receive them. Once in a while, though, I open the envelope and get good news. So there is always a teeny bit of hope I guess...

folksinmt said...

Hilarious! I know those steps all too well! I've always wondered if writers, with our over-active imaginations, suffer greater disappointments than others because of our ability to dream...big.

Good job Kiersten!

Mike said...

Nice, funny and not funny at the same time.

Kiersten said...

Mira, this post was actually inspired by a conversation with my friend Natalie (you'll remember her from the first paragraph contest and her wonderful Ninjas). We were commiserating and I started joking that querying was like the five stages of grief. In fact, Natalie suggested the idea for Bargaining, so kudos to her!

I queried off and on for a year with a middle grade project (that I now realize was, well, boring) and then for three months with a YA novel. And now I'm in my second round of agented submissions, and baby, it's a BLAST.

Like most of you have said--it kind of doesn't end, it just takes on different forms : )

Still, (and Laura, I'm talking to you!) don't give up!

Isn't it great though that as writers we have this communal pool of emotions we can all relate to?

Anonymous said...

At least Nathan's rejections are a little more personal than the rest.

Thanks for this post...makes me feel much better to know I'm not alone.

hope101 said...

Fabulous job. Succinct, humorous, and factually accurate.

I love it.

ElanaJ said...

This is absolutely true! It also goes well with writing. The beginning author thinks everything they write is like, gold or something. Great cycle!

allegory19 said...

"Isn't it great though that as writers we have this communal pool of emotions we can all relate to?"

Yes, it totally is. It's also totally cool that we have blogs where we can share it all.

Laura Martone said...

Well said, Kiersten and Steph - it IS great that we have a communal pool of emotions we can all relate to... and blogs to unload (I mean, share) said emotions.

Speaking of unloading... I apologize for doing that today. Kiersten's parenthetical note made me blush a little... But I appreciate all the encouraging words - I have no intention of giving up! - and I just hope that I can do the same for everyone else here - whenever the need to unload arises. :-)

Mira said...

Kierstan, cool - what are you loving the most about agented submissions? Um, what are agented submissions? Is that a dumb question? Is that where agents submit things to publishers? Because my mind went somewhere else entirely.

Good luck with your current projects! Your blog rocks by the way. Very funny.

PurpleClover said...

This post is so true. Glad you got all the stages of grief down. ;)

funny but true! And I checked my email more often than every 20mins the first several hours. It was sad. Very, very sad.

Kiersten said...

Laura, don't be embarrassed! Rejections stink. That's all there is to it.

Mira, yes, by agented submissions I just mean that I have a book out on sub right now. The best thing about it is even though the editor rejections hurt even more (though we've just started this submission and have yet to hear from anyone, so I am free to wildly daydream that each and every editor is going to want to buy my book), you've still got your fabulous, supportive agent in your corner who believes in your book just as much as you do.

And thank you : ) Always glad to entertain.

Mira said...

Kiersten, that's wonderful, and does sound like total fun.

I hope when your book is accepted you let us know when it's coming out. I love YA, and I would read it.

Natalie said...

Jeez, way to plug me Kierst! You're the best.

Also, this post is genius. So true. So funny. I have quite the awesome friend, I do, I do.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Kiersten said...

Mira, if/when Paranormalcy sells, I will sing it from the rooftops : )

No, Natalie, I have the coolest friends!

Laura Martone said...

Kiersten, you're so right. Rejections do stink... but, looked at the right way, they can also inspire you to revisit the work in question and make it even better than you thought possible - at least, that's what I'm currently striving for... heck, that's probably what all of us here strive for.

And, Mira, honestly, girl. I just got back from a "power walk" (not to be confused with a power lunch) in the woods, and I was tired and winded and thirsty, so I got myself some water and sat down to see what I'd missed on the blog... and when I read "Kierstan, cool - what are you loving the most about agented submissions? Um, what are agented submissions?", I very nearly spit my water out all over my laptop. Just thought you should know. ;O

Anahita said...

Interesting, but what I experienced was a bit different:
Stage one: I wrote a story and loved it! I sent it out as soon as it was finished.
Stage two: I was rejected and wondered why. Getting rejected did not bother me; not knowing why did.
Stage three: I started reading textbooks on writing and agents’ and editors’ blogs and attended writers’ conferences, and found the answer to my WHY! I cannot believe that I thought anyone would publish those stories!
Stage four: I am revising, applying what I learned and using the help of a freelance editor that I met in a writers’ conference.
Stage five: I’ll let you know what happens…

Lady Glamis said...

WONDERFUL, Kiersten! You are so absolutely brilliant. One. Step. At. A. Time. :)

Other Lisa said...

I'm having to use a proxy to read these posts so not a lot of time to read comments or comment, but just wanted to say I am really enjoying the guest pieces! And when I get on the other side of the Great Firewall I plan to read in detail.

Lupina said...

Classic commiseration! Kiersten, this post should be required reading for every about-to-query author. It would prevent much needless angst, I'm sure. And sister, I am with you on the heavy chocolate. You won't even gain weight if you just cut out most other food.

And in my experience, the steps never end. Here are numbers 93 and 204 that I have recently discovered:

93: You walk into Half Price Books and find a pile of your first book selling for $3 less than the publisher is currently charging you for author copies.

204: Your royalty check from a formerly reliable mid-size publisher is now two months overdue and the publisher tells you they are in -gulp - "disarray."

I've just accepted that publishing today is never an easy ride. But if you love to write, it's still worth the endless trip.

The hard part is to make yourself stop asking, Daddy are we there yet?

Mira said...

Laura - :-)

Maybe I was in the denial stage. Actually Kiersten, I think you may have done a terrible thing to me. I'm starting to wonder what stage I'm in now all the time.

Can I also take a second to mention that was pretty cool that Nathan finally got access and posted all the way from South America. On his vacation, too.

Anna said...

Been there, and this is totally, completely, 100% true. Though I must confess sometimes I hover back and forth between stages two and four...

Such a fun thing, this writing business.

Whirlochre said...

As ever, you are truly awesome.

I shall bear all of this in mind over the coming months, especially the bit about going to bed and never getting up again.

Maya / מיה said...

I love this!! Well done!! Nathan, I love your posts, but this week is AWESOME. :) Maybe we can do this again some time?

JKB said...

This is great.

*lol*

nkrell said...

Wow. I'm not the only one who feels like this. This makes me feel better. Thank You.

Lydia Sharp said...

Thank you so much for this. It gave me a much-needed laugh, and it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Mary said...

So true! :)

Word Verification: unrest

Lisa said...

That was hilarious. Been there. But what I think is worse is what I like to call "literary agent purgatory". I've had one agent who has had my book for 3 years now (she's just read a revision) and she is on my second book. She "LOVES my writing" but has not signed me. We're not exclusive so I also have the same first manuscript with another agent who told me she couldn't stop thinking about it weeks after she'd read it and she too is reading my second manuscript. But she too will not sign me as a client. (We're also not exclusive). I've heard that my work is "compelling and gripping" and "a home run" but I have NO AGENT!!!! Only agents who would like to sit on my book for literally years without giving me a yes or no answer. Even after extensive revisions they still can't decide. Sometimes I just want to scream CRAP OR GET OFF THE POT PEOPLE.

But hey, I'm on the right track I guess.

Julia Weston said...

I really needed this today. :) Thank you

b_writer said...

I loved this post, and I needed the spirit lift today. I'm in stage five for my first book, stage four for my second - it's a realy really good book if someone would just take a look, I swear it; [see how desperate we writers can get] and still hovering around stage three for my third. At least I've never gone back to stage one, and I've learned there's no point in anger or in comparing myself to author X.

Anyway, I'm writing a fourth now, and the next round of queries will begin. Why I don't know, unless maybe I just don't want the cycle to ever end.

Beth Terrell said...

What a perfect description of the rejection-assimilation process. Great post. Thank you for putting it so well.

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

Oh, heavens! I do know all about agent submission hell. Yes I do.

sue laybourn said...

Brilliant and absolutely true, every last word of it.

I could've written this myself if I wasn't wrapped up in working on shiny new idea. :D

Fantastic post.

Cabowles said...

This is so true! Great post!

Deb said...

Very funny and oh, so true!

Jay said...

Wow. This is really scary because it describes me exactly. As a matter of fact, have you been watching me and reading my thoughts?


I'm actually going to print this and tack it to my wall. Good stuff.

pensees said...

I love it. This is so absolutely true. It's encouraging to know that we're not alone in this insanity!

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