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Monday, May 14, 2012

How to Query

Or Falling Down Stairs, a step-by-step analysis.

My education began after I wrote FanFic for The Twilight Saga website. It was my first manuscript, about 20K word count, and detailed Edward’s evolution into the ‘man’ he is today. 
Other short stories followed. 

I got some good reviews and thought, well hell, I can do this, I can write. And so my novel was born. It was a story that had rattled around in my head for nearly twenty years. I researched this business of writing and the journey really started.  

Destination, Published Author.

In the Beginning…oh, rats, that phrase is in use, isn’t it. Well, never mind.

At first, I didn’t call myself a ‘writer’. Way too presumptuous. Besides, I had to learn what a ‘published author’ meant. And how to spell ‘author’ *authur*

But set that aside for now

I wrote the manuscript. “Cool. Now I'll find an agent and get the book published.”

But where do I find an agent? Ah, a Search Engine.

And so I Googled my ever lovin’ heart out. Literary agents. Contracts. Submissions. Format. 
Piece of cake.

ohwait. Format?! What’s a ‘format’? *shrug*

Phbttt!! I cleverly figured out a query. It meant some kind of letter explaining why my book was so great. 

Now to find a website with an address. Ah. Writers House and a sub-agent who accepts email. I’ll bet she’s desperate for a good novel.

('Novel'. Not 'fiction novel'. Remember that very important fact)

Sent it off and waited. Checked my email fifty times a day. Anticipation grew as I imaged my book on a separate shelf at Borders.

The agent replied within a few days. My heart thumped as I opened the email.

Rejection? What! How can this be?

She must be a dried up old hag with no sense of quality. BAH! I’ll give my query to someone who appreciates my talent.


Rejection slip within the hour. Well, I just KNOW they didn’t even read it.

I sent five queries in a week but no one fell at my feet. The next week, BAM, a request for a more pages and a synopsis.

I. Am. On. My. Way. Yeah!!!

er…what’s a synopsis?

More education. More writing and research. A ‘partial’? A ‘full’? wow, more terms to learn.

I hit 'send'. Three days later, the partial was rejected.

I picked myself up, shrugged off my bruised ego, and began again. After all, I was on my way to Published Author.

Little did I know that 8 months would pass before I received another request for more pages. In that time, I edited and re-wrote my manuscript from title page to ‘the end’. I read every morsel of advice, found contests to enter, and more agencies to research.

Writing. Not as easy as it looks, is it? Like ripping out a piece of your innards, throwing it into a public arena shouting, “Here! Isn’t this wonderful?”

Adverbs, adjective, attributes and Alliterations. Dangling participles, run-on sentences, echoes, and the evil word ‘clunky’. Passive phrases, active phrases, too many verbs/names/action.

I discovered blogging, critique partners, and betas. Writing classes and books about prose. Endless information.

The camaraderie from those I’ve met in this business still amazes me. So many helpers offering time, talent, and expertise. That fact alone humbles me and leaves me silent. 

I went from clueless naiveté to painful rejection and beyond. I learned how to evolve, how to use this skill and become a better person, more focused.

I learned Words, their placement in a sentence. How to give them life, flavor, taste, and essence.

There is richness in this business of coupling verbs and nouns into a mental dance, a fulfillment of spirit. In their cadence, we create music that soars as we read them.

To summarize:
Read, research, educate. 
Never stop learning.

And along the way, at some point, introduce yourself as Writer.

Because that is what you are.

Where has your journey taken you? How did you start this business and what have you found along the way?


Sarah said...

I remember those thrilling, clueless days pretty well. When I began to query my first ms, I really thought it had a chance--so similar to the emotions you describe! It took me a few months to realize it simply wasn't good enough, but once I got an inkling of that, I started to realize how much I didn't know. *That* was when I settled in and did the work, and over the past 2 years, I think I've learned a lot--and I know the process is far from over.

Huntress said...

I started this chaotic trip three years ago and still learning.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

My first writing story was a bust...I wrote two (terrible) stories in 1995 and spam mailed them out to "the editor" at 40 or 50 publishing houses. I probably got 30 or 40 form rejections (I guess the other 10 are still considering my stories). I didn't write again until 2006. I know get mostly personal rejections with a few article acceptances. Blogging and critique buddies have helped me grow.

I dropped in because you were RAOK Blitzed on Dianne's blog. :)

Charity Bradford said...

So much truth! I can definitely relate to all of the above. Now that I have the basics down, I'm working on deeper POVs.

I also learner that every path to published is not the same, nor should it be.

L. Blankenship said...

I did not think about getting published until relatively recently, TBH. I was very lucky to have friends and family who are well versed in well-written genre fiction and could give me good feedback from an early stage. They prepped me for getting harsher crits from strangers, and, yeah, uninformative rejections too.

I'm my own harshest critter, of course :) Part of the journey has definitely been living up to my own expectations. Hopefully that will meet the reader's expectations too.

Huntress said...

Publishing a book didn't cross my mind until encouraged by a niece. She was an editor for Scholastic Books with some experience.

So I said, WTH, why not?

*insert Darth Vader's them here*
By All that is Holy, I had no idea what I was getting into!

Tara Tyler said...

love this accurate synopsis!
i picked up the novel i started ahem yrs ago and thought, this is great! i should publish it!
search "how to publish a book" ... and here i am, determined to get something published!

writing is hardcore fun!