If you’re an author in the query trenches, chances are you’ve been through the ringer this past year. Querying has never been a picnic, and the pandemic has exacerbated the problems with the process.
Compound the inherent difficulties of querying with the challenging state of the world, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. With rejections and terrible news piling up around us, how can we protect and preserve our mental health?
Below are some tips that have helped keep me sane (mostly) while in the query trenches.
1. Take Breaks
Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, if you take breaks, how will you finish all the work you need to do?
That’s a toxic mindset. We’ve been trained to think that we must be productiveevery second ofevery day, but you can’t be productive if you’re exhausted. If you keep querying in spite of it making you miserable, you might be doing more harm than good.
Take a breath, step back, and give yourself time to recuperate your energies. You’ll return to the process refreshed and ready to rock!
2. Find Support
Writing is a solitary process, but querying doesn’t have to be. If you’re feeling lonely or dejected, it might be a good idea to seek out others in the same phase of the journey. Twitter, Facebook, and Discord all have thriving writing communities, and finding a group of query buddies can make all the difference.
Whether you’re looking for folks who can help you navigate the daunting task of finding agents, or whether you just want to commiserate with others who know the struggle, writing support groups can help you survive your low days.
3. Forgive Yourself for Being Human
While being part of the writing community is an amazing experience, it can also, at times, feel overwhelming. There’s pressure to always put on a happy face, to share good news and sweep failures under the rug.
When your timeline is filled with the cherry-picked highlights of everyone’s journeys, it can make you feel like you’re falling behind. Sometimes you might even feel a twinge of jealousy when someone announces a book deal or a contest win.
We all have these thoughts at some point. It doesn’t make you a terrible person — it makes you human. Give yourself a break, and allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of trying to bottle everything up. Write something cathartic, vent to a friend, or treat yourself to ice cream.
If seeing others’ highlight reels (and comparing them to your behind-the-scenes footage) is making you anxious, then it might be time to…
4. Turn Off Social Media
Stepping away from your social accounts could give you the hard reset you’ve been looking for. Being offline for a month, a week, or even a day can help you regain a healthier mindset.
It has other benefits, too — taking a hiatus from Twitter or TikTok can free up hours previously spent doomscrolling, allowing you to relax. Or, if you’re like me and you’re allergic to relaxing, it can free you up to be productive, instead.
5. Understand it's Out of Your Hands
Again, this might seem counterintuitive, but it helped me find my peace. My querying journey was particularly disheartening, because I wrote an #ownvoices story that no one in publishing wanted to touch with a twenty foot pole. I beat myself up in every imaginable way, from thinking I was a terrible writer to questioning the validity of my identity.
Ultimately, I had to remind myself that publishing is a business. Publishers exist to make money, and in an uncertain economy, they don’t want to take risks. Agents exist to sell books, and they can only do that if they feel like they’re capable of selling what you’ve written. Even if an agent loves your story, sometimes they know they wouldn’t be its best champion.
Rejections aren’t a reflection of your writing ability — more importantly, they are not a reflection of your self-worth. Publishing is a subjective industry, and in the end, it’s the business side that counts more than the artistic side.
Don’t let rejections kill your love of writing. And even if things seem bleak, please don’t give up on your story. Your “yes” is coming sooner than you think!
About the Author
Elena Mugdan is the bestselling author of The Shadow WarSaga. Her next book Dragon Empress will be published May 2022. Connect with her on Twitter @dragonspleen.
Want advanced tips for boosting creative confidence, reducing distractions, and overcoming writer's block? Book a 1-on-1 consultationwith Writing Coach Lyndsay Carder.