Friday, December 19, 2014

Deja Vu blogfest

Here's where we get to re-post our favorite blog offering from earlier in the year and share it with a bunch of other bloggers. Thanks to D.L. Hammons and Nicole Zoltack for hosting! Here's more details and the sign-up 

Here's my Insecure Writers Support Group for June (with an update following) and links to my top 5 favorite other posts this year: 

I have queries out - sitting in the limbo of several agents' inboxes or "for later" folders, so of course I am wildly insecure.  I'm so insecure that I'm afraid if I start writing about it here, all my emotions will splatter across this screen like rotten fruit.

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."

Cue sobbing.

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). 
hhhhhmmm, which one shall I use?
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....
"I just don't know about that..."
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: 

Update:  so, that query that I felt was "getting close" in June? Got entirely revamped again in September, after I got some WONDERFUL query help from my Pitchwars mentor, Veronica Bartles. We went back and forth over probably a dozen variations; then she wrote her version of a query for my book, which I LOVED.  (I've heard of this before, where getting someone else to write your query has really been successful). Because Veronica wasn't so close to my story, she was able to strip the pitch down to its essential elements. I was too close to the story, and still cluttering my query up with too much plot. I ended up using her query, changing only two lines to personalize it.... and since then have gotten a few more requests.

But... yup. I'm still insecure about it. About the query, and the sample pages, the synopsis, the whole story. That lurking question is always in the back of my mind: is it good enough?

But on nights like this... cozy by my fire, with a Christmas tree, my kids, a good book to read and to inspire me with new writing ideas... it's all good. 

But on nights like this... it's all good
Some of my other favorite posts this year:

Diverse also means disabled: a collection of great books with diverse characters

Unconventional, complicated female heros: a collection of great books featuring girls who kick butt, but in unconventional ways

Top ten girl friendships:  a collection of great books where the main focus is friendship, not romance

Ten crazy ways to fall in love: my Valentine's Day post, with a collection of recent books with some great romance

Top ten reasons why I love being a reader and a blogger

Thanks for letting me share (again!) 


  1. Wishing you all the best with the shiny, new query! I bet sharing your process will be encouraging to those starting out on the traditional route. I'm thinking that getting someone else to write my jacket copy might make me happier with it!

  2. Hi Margo, I found your blog on the DeJa Vu Blogfest list. This was a great post. Good luck with your query letters, it sounds like you're off to a great start.
    I hope you enjoy the blogfest.

  3. I'm in the middle of querying right now...and I know EXACTLY how you feel! Who knew that NUMB could be such an enticing state of mind? :)

    Thank you for re-sharing this today.

  4. For me, query letters are the easy part. I'm pretty good at them actually. My latest one has gotten a request about 95% of the time (which is amazing). For me, it's getting past the Partial stage... Sigh.

  5. Fun re-post! I especially liked all the visuals. Querying is something that I have yet to experience. I know there will be plenty of angst, wringing of hands, and gnashing of teeth involved when I get to that stage....

    Happy Deja Vu!

  6. Lovely post Margot thank you, written from yr extreme elevation! Loved the spot-on visuals! Good on yr friend for doing the query letter - a brilliant idea. We can be too close to it and not see the wood for the trees ...

  7. Sometimes it takes a lot of rejections to produce something stellar. They're certainly not fun to deal with, though!

  8. I have decided it's easier to write a full length mystery novel that a one page query later. Best of luck with perfecting yours. Sounds like you're petty much there.

  9. Excellent post! Thanks for all the great referrals because I'll eventually get to the query stage (perhaps this new year that is upon us??). I think that's one good thing most good writers have in common: we're all insecure, aren't we?? Thanks for posting your other favorite posts: I like Diverse Also Means Disabled and your Top 10 Reasons Why You Love Being a Reader. Great stuff!
    Happy Deja Vu weekend :)
    michele at Angels Bark

  10. PS: great gifs too!!

  11. I have over the past couple of years read a lot about the anguish involved in queries and submissions. Maybe to avoid all that I'll just make a decision not to ever complete my novel LOL! x



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