Five literary agents sat at a table across the front of the room. At least two hundred hopeful writers filled the audience, waiting. A basket full of anonymous query letters was to be read out loud for the panel.
If an agent liked what he or she heard, they’d let the announcer read on. If not, they’d strike the gong.
Three strikes and your query was out.
I contemplated placing my query in the basket. Yes. No. Yes. No. Back and forth, until I chickened out and didn’t do it. I was afraid to hear what they would say. Afraid they wouldn’t like my story. And I wasn’t sure if I could handle hearing all that rejection. Not when I’d worked so hard on my novel.
So I sat in the audience, listening. Letter after letter was gonged. Some made it three words. Some made it a full paragraph. Only one made it all the way through without the dreaded gong ringing.
I was blown away. How are you supposed to get past any agent if they won’t even read three words?
Afterwards, I still wished I’d been brave enough to put my letter in. I realized, I would never know if I was throwing my query letter out there in the dark, or how to improve it. There was a room full of agents willing to shed light on their take of my letter, and I didn’t take advantage of it because I was afraid.
Letting Go of Fear
If we let fear rule our dream, if we’re never willing to risk, we may get discouraged and quit. We won’t be able to see how to improve or what steps to take next. Catching our dream is more than letting our emotions rule us. It’s controlling them, working despite the fear of rejection. Despite the naysayers. Sure, our work may not be good enough yet, but we have to keep working until it is.
Even though I was petrified to enter the Gong Show that day, I had an eye-opening experience. It was a defining moment in my writing life for me. I realized so many things I needed to do to make my writing stronger. Not just in the story aspects, but in learning how to articulate and how to market my writing.
So why not take a step closer to your dream?
What’s the worst that could happen? Try something and it doesn’t work? Or ask someone for help? We don’t always like the advice we get, but sometimes, it turns out to be the very thing we need to hear, or the idea that solves our problem. And we may end up meeting a mentor or friend who will guide us closer to our dream.
Sure, rejection is painful, but victory is sweet. I know – so cliché. But if you never put yourself out there, how will you know which one you’ll end up with?
After the Gong Show, I spent the next several months reading new books on how to market my writing for publication and asking people who have been successful the best advice on how to make my query better. I even sent out that dreaded query letter to agents. It’s scary, but it will make me a stronger writer.
And next year at the conference, I’ll have my query letter ready to put in that basket.
“A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”
~ Bo Bennett
What’s holding you back from catching your dream?
What things have discouraged you from catching your dream?
Check out the rest of the series, Catch Your Dream: