|The first Wednesday of the month|
is time for Insecure Writers Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
To try to keep my current emotions under check, I'm attempting have fun with this whole query letter thing.
The query writing process (especially the pitch part of the query, the part that's supposed to read like the jacket copy of a book) is quite the adventure. The first time I tried it, four years ago, I dreaded it. I wrote some drivel, did some research, had an epiphany. I had long philosophical discussions with myself about what my novel was really about... what the heart of it was.
I ended up shelving that novel (I definitely plan to return to it, but it needed more time to marinate).
Then I moved on to another novel. The query pitch seemed to write itself. I was so proud of myself! I'm getting the hang of this thing!
I submitted my lovely query to an online contest, and an agent ripped it to sheds. Direct quote: "Playing coy with agents on this point isn't going to incite most to want to read further."
After I got over being crushed, I admitted the agent was probably dead on right, and I put on my studious glasses and looked at a bunch more query examples (WriteOnCon forums and the Pitch Wars and Writer's Voice events at Brenda Drake's website are a great source).
I came up with a fresh query that was straightforward and not coy and had the requisite three C's (character, conflict, choice) and put it up for critique at Matt Rush's wonderful blog, the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. I got some positive feedback. It seemed I was on the right track, just needed some tweaking and a little more voice.
So I tweaked and added a phrase with a little more voice, and sent that query off for reals (not just a contest).
And got form rejections. This time I didn't sob, because I kind of had a gut feeling that despite my tweaking and attempt at voice, I still hadn't nailed it. When I read my own query, it kind of made me feel like this:
Instead of like this:
So, went back to searching for more query examples and dissecting the ones I really loved. The queries I really love are ones with characters that grab you with some specific details and voice. (of course, queries, like novels, are also very subjective: some will love it, some won't. You hope for a majority in your favor).
My current version of the query is now rich on character, but maybe too long. It will probably evolve into yet another version, but I feel happy enough about it (for now) to send it out again.
What I'm still really unsure about is the personalization to the agent part. The part that goes something like "I read in a recent interview you are looking for a YA romance layered with big stakes" or "I loved so-and-so book that you represented". I wish all agents were like Janet Reid, the Query Shark, who thinks that the personalization is a waste of time, just get to the story, please.
Sigh... just another thing to be insecure about.
I won't even start on the sample pages that come after the query....
But ultimately I guess my determination outweighs my insecurity, because I keep trying, I keep writing, I keep putting things out there and taking the feedback and fixing and trying again.
Because I LOVE writing, I love learning, I love the whole long messy process. Even if Miranda, my favorite character from the Devil Wears Prada, would probably say this about me:
It's only failure if you give up!
What part of the writing process is on your mind today?