Lisa called me at work, tore open the letter and read,
While your project exhibits merit it does not quite meet or exceed the standards we are looking for at this time. If we were to grade your manuscript it would receive a C+. This is a fair grade but means that the ultimate execution of the story is not quite good enough to break in for a first time novelist.
In case anyone's keeping tabs (are you reading this, Ma?), I've scattered about a dozen agent queries. I believe the Lord's had His hand in this, and I wrote about it here. One agent -- someone new to CBA fiction -- has since offered me a contract. I wasn't much at peace, however; when a bigger name agent requested my entire manuscript (which they still have, going on eight weeks). During that time I've had another agent request the first several chapters. So here I am working on my second book, attempting to grow in the craft, and trying not to hold my breath for an enthusiastic agent to hurdle the hedges with a contract and pen in hand.
And then I get a C+.
Realistically, it's my first rejection letter with some bite. The tone was upbeat (after all, my "project exhibits merit"), and the individual pointed out several elements I shall definitely noodle over. It's got me second-guessing a bit, though. How can three agents look at the same chapters, one offer me a contract, one request the whole book and one pronounce it barely average?
Hey, I'm in this for the long haul, so I expect to see my share of unfavorable grades. Along the way, I'll continue to strive to improve, remain teachable and pretend to be professional. One day, I might even be published.
But until then I am C+.