Wednesday, October 3, 2012

IWSG - A Confession

This post is part of the monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group.  Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting the group and to all the participants for putting it out there on the first Wednesday of the month.





I have a fear I suspect many aspiring writers have.  I have query-writing-ophobia.  It's debilitating when compounded by submitting-the-thing-ophobia. 

When I think about it rationally, I know that the fear is unfounded and stems from the time I sent a submission to a large publishing company when I was twenty.  It was a children's book.  I did illustrations.  I can't really draw.  I was so naive that I was surprised and devastated when I got a prompt rejection.  (I still have the original story and artwork.  It's kind of priceless and hilarious.  I'll scan it and share it here when I work up the nerve.  Maybe not.)

Now that I've been writing fiction for three years and blogging on and off for nearly ten years on top of twelve years of technical writing as part of my programming gig, I know I can write. 

And yet I don't seem to be able to work up the nerve to write the query letter. Not even one. 

I tell myself my novels aren't done.  They need to be revised more.  I tell myself to keep writing - I'll worry about final edits and query letters later...much later.  I can see this is bullshit.  I see it clearly.  I need to suck it up and endure some rejection.  It will be good for me (if it doesn't destroy me).

I finally worked up the nerve to print off a generic query letter, a fill-in-the-blanks kind of thing. 
As I mentally filled in the blanks (no, not with pen or keyboard quite yet), I saw what I needed to do to strengthen my novels.  For two of the stories, I needed to focus more on the MC's decision.  It was there, it just wasn't there enough.  I honestly wish I had attempted a query letter before I started writing my last three WIPs.

This weekend I am going to write a draft of a query letter for One Small Betrayal, the novel I'm working on now - just a draft, no pressure.  Next weekend (or maybe next month), I will do the same for one of my other WIPs, and on and on until I have a draft of each, even the ones I have detailed plans for but haven't written yet. 

By the end of the year, I won't be afraid anymore...it's all in theory of course.  I should pre-write my January, 2013, IWSG post now - at least the title - so I don't forget.  I hope I'm not just full of crap - I hope I really find the courage to do it.  We'll see in January.

If anyone wants to join me in my query-writing frenzy/hell, that would be awesome.  Hopefully it's not just me.

53 comments:

  1. Write one. Then another. Like any other writing, it takes practice.
    And if you want some really excellent feedback (when you're ready) Matthew at the QQQE does a great job of critiquing query letters.

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    1. I'm definitely not ready for QQQE. I need to grow a thicker layer of skin first.

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  2. I think your plan of writing a draft and taking small steps with the query letters is excellent. It's a very frightening thing to do and I have to admit that I felt like I was going to be sick the first time I sent one out. I know you will do great with them though and I'm willing to bet your January post will be about how much progress you have made getting over the phobia. :)

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    1. Baby steps is the best I can do I think.

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  3. The problem with query letters is everyone is different so no matter what you do it's still not going to resonate with a lot of people. Then you get people who write awful query letters or do all the things the "experts" tell you not to do and they get agents. It's annoying that way.

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    1. Well said. I think that is a part of my anxiety - it's not possible to write a 'perfect' one.

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  4. I can relate to this post like crazy. I've been writing my query letter as long as I've been writing my WIP. FOREVER. I still haven't sent one version out! I keep telling myself it's not ready, but I think it's more me that's not ready. I'm not certain I can face all that rejection! Ugh. I don't know how some of my writer friends do it.

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    1. At least you have some words down on the page. You should try QQQE.

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  5. Good luck with the query letter writing.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

    I hope my chocolate doesn't give you a migraine.

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    1. Virtual chocolate is not a problem. :) I am having an allergic reaction to my antibiotic. My husband agrees that's a valid reason to skip editing another chapter today.

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  6. Yeah--I agree. Rejection is tough. But I've been trying to look at it like the harder the journey is, the more rewarding the success will be. You'll never have any success if you don't try. What is the worst that could happen? You don't get published--your book sits on a shelf. But, if you never try, that's what's definitely going to happen. So, which is worse? When looked at that way, maybe it won't seem so scary.

    I wish you the best of luck with this!!! If you ever need someone to take a look at a query, feel free to ask. I'm not an expert or anything, but I'd be glad to try to help. Nice to meet a fellow Insecure Writer! :)I'm a new follower, btw.:)

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    1. I agree, I need to put it into perspective and shut down the voice in my head that makes a big deal of it. There actually is nothing to lose by trying. Thanks for the offer!

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  7. Sounds like a plan. You really do have to take the pressure off yourself. There are lots of chances to get the query letter right. And hopefully you have a critique partner to read for you and give you feedback.

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    1. I do have a CP to give feedback. The problem is actually making myself write it down. :) As for pressure, it's how I'm wired.

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  8. I think query letters are harder to write than the manuscript. If you can, have your critique group read your letter and give you feedback. That has really helped me.

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    1. Maybe I'll work up the nerve to post it here too.

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  9. I love the made up words. And, it's not just you. I really am not at the query writing stage, but I am in strangely drawn to these type of contest lately and feel so inadequate with this skill. I mean, I haven't even mastered writing, yet, now I have to query it. But, I have given myself a bit of a deadline to start doing this in January. So, I have three more months to avoid it. Good luck.

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    1. I need deadlines too. Hopefully we'll both have something we're happy with in January.

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  10. Oh Tonja, we all hate the query thing and the synopsis thing. *hugs. We work so hard on our babies, spend years editing and writing, and we just want our stories to be read and for people to tell us that they love our characters and can't wait for more. We've literally poured our lives into these things. Then we send them off with a query letter and a rejection slip pops into the mailbox. It's more than just saying "No." It's reality kicking your ass and telling you that you'll never be read, and you'll always be mediocre.

    No one likes that message.

    But I will tell you something. It's not true. Don't give in. Don't believe the naysayers. Don't give up. What they are saying by rejecting you is just opinion. One voice and one person and I promise you, there are people out there who will fall so in love with your writing, they will wait breathless for your next book. You just need a little luck. The best way to increase your odds is to keep writing and keep submitting. If it takes one in a thousand, then that means you have to comb through 999 stinkers first. But it's all worth it in the end.

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    1. *hugs back* Thanks for the encouragement.

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  11. I think everyone is unsure about those query letters. I usually write a couple and then cut and piece them together into one better one. Good luck.

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  12. I've followed Susie Townsend's (agent) blog for a while and it's amazing to hear her tally of how many she reads, rejects, requests manuscripts, etc. weekly. You are right thait is very subjective.

    I completely understand. I'd rather write 20 pages of WIP than a query letter.

    BTW, I fixed my encoding issue! Dreamweaver didn't like that fact that I'd copied and pasted a sentence from an old file. I had to type it in new to the current html doc with the UTF-8 encoding. THanks!

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  13. I hear writing a query letter before writing the novel can be really helpful. Of course, that doesn't help if the novels are already written. Go ahead and write one. It is just a draft, and you can always keep working on it until you're ready to submit one. :)

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    1. I think so too. I can do it if I just look at it as a draft at this point.

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  14. Me too, me too. But I agree with what other people suggested. Sometimes as I'm writing the novel the query sort of pops into my head. Of course, that only started happening after I realized the necessity and importance of a query.

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    1. Nothing's popping for me. It'll probably be OK once I start working on it.

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  15. I agree with Cherie - go ahead and write it. Don't have to send it. Just write it.
    Karen

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  16. I've never written one. The whole process scares the hell out of me. Rejection, thats another big one.
    I'm new here, yet another insecure writer. (as if you couldn't guess)

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  17. Small steps until you're ready. It's good to practice writing them. For most writers, they're tough. Me, too.

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  18. I think querying remains terrifying- just so's you know :) Right now, I'm going to tripple dare you with no return to bang out a query for one of your books and send it to the original Publisher your original scary rejection came from when you were 20. And not next year but in the next 2 weeks!- just to break the duck (isn't that what they say? Poor duck!) ... you know what I mean.
    Tripple dare no return both feet in!
    Laura x

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    1. I'm pretty sure it's one that recently went under. I kept the story, not the rejection letter.

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  19. I totally agree that query letter writing is a horrible necessity. I've rewritten mine a gazillion times and I never think my stories are finished. gah!! Sometimes we just have to suck it up and just do it and send it. ;)

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    1. I'm sure you're right, Lynda. It's time to suck it up.

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  20. I wish I'd had more fear in writing queries. It might have saved me from so much earlier rejection, lol.

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  21. Querys are one of those things that one recipient will love and another will hate no matter what you write so just write it!! The best advise I can give is to really study the recipients. Make sure your MS matches what they want to rep. I had a lot of success with Query Tracker, it was like a security blanket.
    Good Luck!!

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    1. Thanks - that is a good suggestion.

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  22. One of my favorite quotes is "never let your fear decide your fate." Good luck getting past it! Even if the worst happens, at least you tried, right?

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  23. I did it!! I wrote a really crappy draft of a query letter. It feels good though.

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  24. That's great! Congrats on your really crappy draft of a query!! ;) I went through 6 or so hard core revisions before I found something that worked. good luck!!

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    1. I think this one is going to need some work. It feels great to have something down on paper.

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  25. Good luck! Here's the best advice I've got for writing a query letter. Summarize your book in the first sentence and give a one or two word description of your MC in the summary sentence. Then give a more elaborate blurb(one or two paragraphs). Create the blurb by breaking your book into seven plot points. The blurb includes the first six. Don't give away the ending. And if you need a reader, email me ;)!

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  26. From all the above comments, I gather that bad query letter = definite rejection! I'm nowhere near that stage, but the thought of it already has me hyperventilating...

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    1. I think your equation sums it up perfectly.

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  27. A bad query letter isn't a guaranteed rejection. It's all subjective. of coures a query has to be perfectly proofed--no spelling or grammar errors, but beyond that there's no real formula.

    I'll admit that I'm self-published and the only things I've successfully queried were articles, but some of those were emails that were typed in a flurry. Usually the stuff I put too much thought into was rejected quickly.

    It might help to go ahead and send out a query or two once you have something that isn't terrible. If it gets rejected, revise it a bit before sending to someone else. There are lots of agents and publishers out there and they get lots of submissions, so after several revisions, you could even try someone who rejected it at one point. Just because it was "not for us now" last season, doesn't mean it won't be perfect for next season.

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  28. Query letter??? AAUGH! (Charlie Brown Scream) Sigh, another necessary evil of writing :{ Maybe I'll have on in 2013 too...

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