- Bret Easton Ellis
I’ve sent out several queries for The Mist Chasers since the summer. Because I’ve been working for much of that time, I haven’t sent many queries. In fact, I have a list of agents that have accumulated.
I’m in a quandary. I’ve received a few form rejections. But mostly I get something to the effect of, “There’s nothing wrong with the writing.” Then I get, “We don’t know how to properly market it.” The query must be okay if agents are reading pages. And the pages they’re reading aren’t terrible. But they don’t want to take a chance it.
I’ve suspected the premise this manuscript would be tricky ever since I got about ten pages into it. When I realized why the mist was destroying Walmarts (environmental impact) and the source behind the destruction (Mother Nature – a godlike figure. Maybe even God.), I knew it was an odd premise.
So odd that I ignored the rough draft for over a year.
But then I began to have faith in the story. I revised it, sent it to critique buddies and revised it some more. When I began to query, I felt it was my strongest manuscript to date.
Last week, I received this letter from a very respected agent:
“I enjoyed taking a look at your first pages. Your story reminded me of THE MIST by Stephen King. Which is commendable, while adding elements that make it yours. I like that you have strong romantic elements here while incorporating important themes about humanity’s impact on the Earth. One suggestion I have is your main themes seem to be overpowering the central action of your novel. I generally find that while the theme of a story is central to it, it’s often better to reveal it through more subtle means, ie hint dropping, references etc. instead of being so dominant (your main theme seems to be about protecting the planet at humanity’s impact on it; it’s very clear as the mist is destroying Walmarts and hummers etc.) I hope this makes sense.
Unfortunately, I do not feel that I am the right agent to represent this project in today’s competitive market. I just didn’t fall in love with it in a meaningful enough way that I feel I’m the right guy here. With that being said I hope someone will fall in love with your story and give it the time and attention it deserves.”
I’m not trying to hit readers over the head with this message. Damage caused by the environment is all over dystopian YA right now. But usually it’s after-the-fact, hundreds of years later. We’re given a dysfunction society that sprouts from the destruction. In those cases it’s easier to drop references.
With The Mist Chasers, my characters and the media are reacting in real time; it’s harder to be subtle. There’s over-the-top debate between the protagonist’s two brothers to lighten it up. And there’s also the friendship between the two main characters turning into something else, which often takes over the other plot.
The question is, WHAT TO DO.
I don’t want to shelve it.
I’m not sure how to revise it.
I don’t know if I should keep querying and see where it goes.
Next month, I’ll register for the NESCBWI conference in May. I’ll sign up for a query and ten-page critique. I hope to have Naked Eye completed by then. I think I’m going to bring The Mist Chasers for the ten pages and Naked Eye for the query. Maybe these critiques will help give me direction for both projects.
I’m trying to keep my head up, but right now I feel like in limbo. I hate to be a writer, but not have enough time to clear my head to figure out what to do, let alone make time for writing. It doesn’t feel good to be producing nothing, submitting nothing.
I believe in my story. I need someone else to believe in it too.
When do rejections force you to revise?
When do you decide to shelve a project?
How long do you query a manuscript you believe in?