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The Journey

YA Highway teen contributor Kristin Briana Otts is almost not a teenager anymore. Her novel, City of Shadows, is about to go on sub to publishers. For more about Kristin, visit our Who We Are page.
Dear Aspiring Writers,

I totally get it.

I can relate to that rush of adrenaline you get every time you send off a query letter. I know exactly how many times you refresh your email per minute – because I did it too. I know that you probably teared up once or twice upon receiving a rejection letter. I’d be willing to bet you even have a few superstitions, like don’t query on a Tuesday or kiss every envelope for good luck.

I also exactly how you feel about your novel, which you have sent out into the world with a shiny title page and new school clothes and an apple in his backpack. That book is your baby. It’s perfect. You put months and maybe years of effort into it. You love the characters like your best friends. You still cry when you read that death scene toward the beginning/middle/end of the story. You are certain that there is at least one editor or agent out there who will love it.

Dear writers: I hate to break it to you, but you might be wrong.

That book which you spent so much time on? There’s a chance it’s not ready for an editor or agent.

But I’ve edited it six times! you say. My characters are relatable and my plot is action-packed and my beta readers all said they liked it!

Right, I know. I get it, remember? But I’m not talking about revising your manuscript or getting feedback from betas – although that is so important. I’m talking about the fact that you, as a writer, are not ready for an editor or agent.

I spent almost two years working on my first novel. It went through three complete rewrites and several rounds of revisions before I sent it into the big scary world.

I sent about eighty letters. I got approximately six requests.

Did my book suck that bad? No, not really. Looking back on it, it needed a lot of work – but overall it had a decent storyline.

So what was the problem?

Personally, I think I just wasn’t ready for an agent. My story wasn’t ready. My writing wasn’t ready.

Dear writers, you might be at this point. You have a decent story, a decent plot, decent characters – but you’re still not ready.

And that’s okay.

Because there is more to the publishing process than just getting an agent or selling a book. There is a journey involved. From that first query letter to the first book deal to the first negative review, you never stop learning. Maybe your first novel won’t land you an agent – but it will give you experience. It will teach you patience and how to handle rejection. It will make you a better writer and, ultimately, a better person.

So, dear writers – keep writing. Your time will come. And until it does, enjoy the journey.

~Kristin Briana Otts
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Great advice! You're absolutely right that sometimes writers want to rush the process, not realizing that it's actually hurting their writing. It is about moving forward, but it's also about enjoying the journey.

  2. until the time comes.

  3. The little disclaimer about the fact that I'm "almost not a teenager" made me smile, Kirsten. :D Thanks for the comments, you guys!

  4. I absolutely loved this post. Especially because it's coming from someone who went through the journey and made it.

  5. I have one question: how do you know if you are ready for an agent or editor? What makes one ready? Is it a deal with an agent, the simple act of starting out small (publication of short stories or anything else) or something deeper, more complex, that you can't really explain but merely know?

  6. This is so true. The first book I queried was decent, had potential, but just wasn't ready for the world. I wasn't ready either. Waiting is hard but SO worth it because now I know I am ready. Proof: my book's about to go on sub to pubs too!

    In answer to skyjules: I think it's different for everyone, but becoming "ready" involves research, lots of reading, seeking critiques... And when the right agent falls in love with your book, you will be prepared to face what's next. But even then, it's still a learning process! I am certainly still learning and growing, and I don't want that to stop -- ever.

  7. Thanks for posting, because that's definitely some straight-forward, great advice. :)

  8. I love this! And you're so right. There is no need to rush.

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  10. skyjules - I agree with Kirsten. Beta-readers, editing, trying to challenge yourself...but ultimately, you don't always know. Sometimes you'll find an agent who loves your book; sometimes you won't. But I definitely think you need to TRY, even if you don't succeed, because it's through that trying that you learn.

  11. AMAZING post.

    I can't agree more that there's no need to rush.

    Great advice :)

  12. Everything here is so true. I wonder if I'm rushing myself, sometimes. I know I had the wrong motivations this time last year, but not this year... it's something I have to think about. Awesome post (:

  13. This post resonates with me. There's always growth that must take place, and sometimes we're not ready for what we really want.


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Item Reviewed: The Journey Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard