Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Query Rite of Passage

I think I finally get it. I never understood or agreed with the whole query process.

I mean, we’re writers, we write, lots and lots of words. We don’t describe something in one sentence, if we did that we’d never complete a whole novel, just short stories. Therefore it always seemed unfair to me to make us take a novel and put a spin on it and try to get someone to read it. That’s for marketing people, not writers!

I’m not good at marketing me, can you tell? I read all the posts on how to write a query, I studied all the guidelines, I followed all the ‘right’ tweeters. I tried really, Really, REALLY hard.

I failed miserably.

Hence, I was upset with the process. It’s just unfair to make us write a couple sentences and then accept us with open arms or behead us based on that. It’s a NOVEL people! 60-100 thousand words! That’s what it takes to ‘describe’ my story.

I went through the range of emotions, anger, fear, anticipation, regret, desperation, you name it, I felt it. Yet still, I did not understand.

Why do they do this to us? Why?

Well, you know what? I think they do it on purpose. I think they know we might be a ‘best seller’ and we might have amazing ideas or be blessed with great writing prowess. I think they know they might pass up a great thing, but I think they’re ok with that.

I think a query is a rite of passage and mastering it is a step we have to go through to achieve a transition in our writing careers.

They know we stink at writing queries. In fact, someone naturally good at writing them might not be able to write a good novel if they tried. The two skills are vastly different. Yet they are both skills.

Maybe that’s why they have a hard time defining their rejections some times. They know it, we’re just not ready. We haven’t mastered this step, and we need to before we go on.

We have to develop the query writing skill. We have to learn that much about marketing and hook, audience and publishing in order to aide them in selling our book. If we can’t be molded into a good query writer then how can they teach us about all the hoops we’ll have to jump through to gain access into the publishing world?

What does the query process teach us as writers?

            - the publishing industry is subjective

            - we need to handle rejection and keep on writing

            - we need to be willing to alter things about our writing

            - we have to be willing to work in ways that are less comfortable than writing

            - we have to face the public, and sometimes it’s on their terms

            - there’s an audience for our writing and we must know that audience

            - sometimes life’s just not fair

            - know how to find the hook in your book

            - write with your heart, sell with your head

            - you’re not as unique as you think you are

            - even artist must jump through hoops now and then

I could go on, but I’ll let you do that for me. Comment on this blog with what you think the query process teaches writers. There are dozens of lessons to be learned out there in the trenches, share yours with us.

By the way, I think writers are stubborn. Yes, it’s true, my kids didn’t just get that trait from my husband.

We have to be a bit stubborn. We have to be able to say ‘I love this story’ whether or not any publisher is buying vampire-outerspace-drama stories right now. We have to be stubborn enough to get over that place in the middle of a book where you lose direction, forget where you’re going and persist, not giving up on that book. We have to be stubborn enough to think that an agent will select us after having sent out 30, 60, 120 queries. We have to be stubborn enough to not give up on the 100 thousand words we spent time writing, and editing, and be willing to start on another 100 thousand once again. We have to believe in what we do, no matter who doesn’t, because lots of people won’t.

It took me a while to reach the point at which I could accept the query process.

It’s hard to teach a stubborn writer a new trick, but I’m learning!

So now, tell us, what do you think the query process teaches writers?

Thank you!

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