A few months ago, I decided to stop querying my first novel, PULLING ME BACK IN.
This decision didn’t come lightly and has nothing to do with me giving up on traditional publishing to try my hand at self-publishing. It has more to do with realizing that my novel doesn’t work as it is and wanting to move on to something new.
I started writing in May 2015, not really knowing what I was doing, not really thinking I’d end up with a novel-size story of over 50,000 words. But I did. I was so excited the day I finished that first draft. I immediately started working on the sequel, which I couldn’t get out of my mind. My Pulling Series would’ve been 4 novels long with one spinoff. Nothing else I read in the Women’s Fiction and Romance genres were quite like it. I knew I had something fresh and different, and couldn’t wait to get to the querying stage.
In October of that same year, I started working on my second draft. I learned about the three-act structure and realized my novel lacked a proper first act and a better introduction of the characters. So I changed the beginning of the story, and here is where things became more difficult.
My story focuses on Gwen and Jeff and their tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship. They grew up together, but they separate and reunite years later. But instead of starting with Gwen seeing Jeff again, I start the book with Gwen breaking up with her current boyfriend, Brian, because she still has feelings for Jeff.
This beginning is risky, since I start with a character who only appears in the book once more. I thought it showed Gwen’s conflicted feelings, but many people who read didn’t feel that way. I got a lot of negative critique over this chapter and only a few people continued to read. But those who did really liked the novel, and I felt like it was the right way to begin the story.
In September 2016, I started querying only to be met with rejection after rejection. I knew something was wrong, and I suspected it had to do with the first chapter. I scheduled a meeting with an agent and got some great feedback about ways to fix the opening scene. But then I became stagnated. I knew I needed to revise but didn’t know how, or even if it was worth it. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. But the story just kept calling me back and at the beginning of this year, I finally got the motivation to sit down and fix it.
I found a new critique partner who gave me positive feedback on the chapter, and I was ready to begin the querying process again. This time I got a full request, and I thought, “this is it, it’s finally going to happen”. Well, I haven’t heard back yet, and it could still be good news, but I don’t really think it will. In between getting the request and now, I’ve come to realize that my novel doesn’t really work as it is, and needs to be re-written.
Why I Decided to Stop Querying
My critique partner thought I shouldn’t start with Brian but with Gwen meeting Jeff.
I wasn’t selected to a contest because my query didn’t match my first chapter.
I got feedback from another contest, which although not necessarily negative, was harsh enough toward that specific chapter to make me think that I needed to remove it.
Removing the chapter would mean a major revision of the novel and at this point, I’d rather move on.
I still love my novel, and deep down, I like how it’s structured, even if it makes it much more difficult to pitch. But the truth is, I don’t know how to fix it. I would need professional help and I can’t afford it.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m quitting too soon. After all, I’ve only queried 43 agents. But I think the most important lesson I can learn from querying is knowing when to stop. I’ve heard so many stories of writers in my same position, who decide to work on something else and it pays off. Although I love my novel and will always be proud of myself for writing it, I know I can do better.
PULLING ME BACK IN stems from a story I carried in my head for years, but times have changed. It is fresh in some ways but in others, it is more of the same. I want to do something different, something that better reflects me and the current trends.
So for those of you who are struggling with the same decision, listen to your gut. If the thought of querying makes you sick, maybe it’s time to stop. Work on something else. Maybe that next novel will be the one.