Monday, March 29, 2010

Fixes & Trims

My query process has been pretty slow going cuz I usually just send out a few handfuls, then wait for responses. I consider my first several months of querying to be like toe dips into the water. Sure, you could cherry bomb into the pool and hope for the best, but if you instantaneously get fifty people wet with rank hideousness, it skims your best picks right off the top, leaving you with lesser-thans.

If I get no requests after ten or twelve, I make changes. I'd do this for a while, then stop to make changes, but without feedback, it's hard to know where I went wrong. Was my MC too whiny, wimpy, dull, what? Does my concept suck? Is my letter pure crap? It's so impossible to know...Maybe not.

Well, I feel dunce-cap-worthy it took several months for the light bulb to finally flick on over my near-empty skull, but I decided to just query agents who requested a query letter only, then I'd know for sure if the main glitch was with my letter. I kept sending out my query, then I'd revise and try again. I didn't find much interest.

I mean, maybe the main conspiracy of my novel comes across too unbelievable boiled down into one sentence of explanation and tucked into a couple paragraphs of what's, who's and how's.

So, I scratched my letter completely and wrote an entirely new one that is huge on voice and character with minimal plot points.

One agent requested a full, but she thought the work would be better in First person, which told me she'd only read a few chapters because anyone who's read further on would never in a million years think that. My MC doesn't know the greater details of the plot until the epilogue, so, a limited perspective just wouldn't work. The bulk of the story's big mystery is revealed to readers through my parallel protagonist's journey instead.

However, hints of that didn't break open in chapter 8. So, I bumped his weirdness up to his first POV scene in chapter 4. The bit of commentary I'd received was not entirely right for my particular story, but it helped me to see I needed to point the good guts out much earlier.

If my book were simply a girl against two would-be-killers, then First person would probably work great, but it's not. Originally that was my concept, 'tis true, but sometimes stories just grow and unexpectedly surprise the writers penning them. And that's what happened with me and my story.

Even if I don't wholly agree with suggestions, they do usually help me to see where I've gone wrong and what adjustments need to be made. If you have Betas or critters of any kind, consider their opinion valid, even if you don't agree. If you give it some time, you may see they're right. Maybe they're not, but keep the notes and try to see your work through fresh eyes. Maybe a part of what they're saying is correct. Maybe it hints at a different, deeper problem like mine did.

Even though I liked it, I had to change my first chapter after several people complained of it being too confusing. The advice you get, whether prickly or smooth, could be just the thing to make your story even better. As the writer, you owe it to your story and your readers to write the best you can and edit with that same drive.

And if you're in the querying stage like me and frustrated by all the form rejections you're collecting that say, "Not for me" or "I'm not the right agent for this", without so much as a hint of feedback to suggest where you misfired, try querying agents who only request the letter. Start there. If you're get nothing but form letters from agents who rep the kind of work you write, and you don't have 200,000 words or some likewise monstrous book, your letter needs some work, so have it critiqued and keeping working on it until it shines and gets results.

If your letter is sparking interest and several agents request a partial or a full, then turn you down without much feedback, you'll know the error is with your work, probably within the first few chapters. So set that sparkling jewel of a letter aside and take a hiatus to work on your manuscript. Once it's ready, get back in the game.

Happy writing, happy hunting!

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.


  1. Stellar advice again, Courtney. GREAT stuff here! Thanks for this one -- it's really going to bless folks working in this direction!

  2. Thanks, Darc. I'm glad you liked the post.

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