Monthly Archives: June 2012

Two heads are better than one… and fifty!

Joining a forum to get help on my query letter was a great idea. I love the community, and have gotten so much help on my letter. It’s really coming together, and I think it’s getting tighter and tighter. It’s very reassuring to know that other people are going through the same thing I am.

But gracious! I am officially working on my ninth revision, and after the last round of feedback I got, I wonder if it will ever end. I got some excellent suggestions that ran the gamut of combining sentences and redundancy to individually commenting on each sentence with a change or a strikethrough. What I’ve taken away from this is that I am either very close to finished or months away. I’ve begun to wonder if I should just do one more revision and then start sending the letters out, if for no other reason to save my sanity.

But I do want it to be the best sell it can possibly be. And the only way I’m going to get it there is through revisions and edits and suggestions. And these people really do know what they’re talking about. Some of them have been published, most of them are struggling with the revising their own letters, and all of them are writers, so there is no doubt in my mind that this forum is essential to getting representation. On the other hand, with so many heads together there is bound to be repetition and over-analysis. And yet, I know that the letter is not ready. It feels ready, but there is definitely something lacking. What is it? Voice, “stakes”, specifics? I wish I knew. Oh, God, how I wish I knew!

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The Challenges Continue

Who said writing was easy? Well, no one I think.  Everybody I’ve talked to actually goes on about how hard it is, and how admirable it is that I’ve finished a novel.  Apparently, most people feel they could never do that.  

But I actually didn’t find the writing of my novel all that hard. It took a while, I’ll grant that, but it wasn’t difficult to put the words down. Okay, that’s not entirely true either, considering the entire story is about one of the biggest personal challenges I have ever faced. But really, it took me a total of one year to write my current manuscript, and it was pretty simple.

Now, I am trying to get an agent. Admittedly, I did not think this would be very hard. There is a process:

1) write query letter

2) find agents that would be interested in your work

3) send query letter to said agents

4) wait on edge of your seat, suffering rejection over, and over, and over, and over, and….

I was fully prepared for that. That’s the life of being a writer, or any artist for that matter. They constantly tell you that you will be rejected a thousand times before you get any interest in your work. And interest is not guaranteed success, it’s just interest.

But the query letter, a literary teaser if you will, appears to be harder to write than the story itself. For instance: I have, to date, written a total of two drafts of my manuscript. I have written a total of eight drafts of my query. That’s four times the number of drafts, for those who are counting, on the “short” letter that is meant to sell my book versus the book itself. Is that crazy? Yes!

But on the other hand, this is my advertisement. I thought of it in cinematic terms the other night, and felt validated after coming up with this reasoning. For one movie, a production company will develop as many as five different trailers to advertise it. If you look on IMDB.com for the big blockbuster movies that are coming out this summer, you will find teasers, trailers, featurettes, and promos. (For Prometheus, I found 13 related videos.) So, I suppose it’s all about advertising. Sure, you’ve written this book, but now you have to get somebody to read it. And agents are, apparently, MUCH more discriminating than the summer-blockbuster-going-public.

But, oh how I thought this would be easier. First of all, there seems to be somewhat of a discrepancy in the accepted styles of queries that are considered acceptable. There is the school of thought that says, define your entire book from beginning to end – an agent is not going to ask for more pages if s/he doesn’t know what the book is about. There is another that says, if you’ve told your entire story in your letter, why does an agent need to read your work. There is the, do-not-ask-questions school, and the questions-generate-interest school. There are those that will tell you to show,-don’t-tell, and those that will say there are too many details, it’s too wordy. And then there are those wonderful people who say, I’m so sorry to tell you this but in my opinion you should scrap the entire thing and start from scratch. It’s all opinion, of course, but for many it’s also experience (at least that’s the case in the people I’m talking to).

Good news? I’m learning, and I’m making connections with other writers, and I’m finding a lot of books that I very much want to read (so, fingers crossed, we are all successful). Most importantly, I have support from people that have been there, are there, and are striving to get there. We all suffer through multiple drafts of a letter we think is perfect at every stage. We get rejected and return to the drawing board, or in our case, writing table. We work on more novels, short stories, poems, and blogs to pass the time, and keep the creative juices flowing. And we keep working to write the letter that will return a request for a manuscript, and garner representation. Then we will be set to move on to the next step: getting a publisher! I won’t think about how hard that is going to be. I’ll let my future agent worry about that.

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