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Posts Tagged ‘submissions’

I’m hunting and gathering for round two.  I have to get the right envelopes and target different agents than in the first round, now that I’ve settled into a genre (I even learned that my manuscript, as a sub-genre, is science fantasy.  Who knew?).  I have also noticed something interesting.  A large proportion of agents who are seeking science fiction do not take e-mail queries.

 

Intriguing.

 

Maybe they have learned a little from what the genre has to offer on the future, and maybe they know something about e-mail the rest of us don’t.  Honestly, when you read an article about humanizing artificial intelligence, or creating fish that glow in the dark, don’t you wonder if those scientists ever actually finish reading the books?

 

We all know that it doesn’t turn out well, usually.  Perhaps those agents, more than anyone else, have taken that to heart.

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I can see it glittering in the very near distance, my finished query.  It is now worlds different from the previous one, much more voice than before (of course anything over zero is an improvement), and I’m pretty sure it shows, not tells.  My protagonist was definitely hovering around during the creation of it, unlike the first version, when she was off doing whatever she’s off doing while I’m not writing about her (come on, you know that characters have lives during the down time.  And if you don’t, you should read The Eyre Affair and its progeny).

 

Every source I’ve read about writing a query talks about how hard it is.  They were not kidding.  For me, writing the novel was a fun adventure, intense, yes, but because I didn’t know what was going to happen while I was writing it, it was somewhat like reading a book for the first time.  I loved the surprise of thinking that it was going to go one way, and the characters and the story telling me that it wasn’t.  I enjoyed that moment when I’d put something in, puzzle at it for a second while feeling compelled to leave it, only to discover why it was there pages and pages later.   Or in some cases, after the first revision, when I could see the pieces all together but they didn’t exactly fit. 

 

Queries have none of that.   Worse, they have almost no space in which to convey the whole sense of the book, as well as a lack of access to the tools (point of view, misdirection, foreshadowing) which really add depth to the story.  Basically, you get a template and are told to make it unique.  That you need to write a “business letter” with voice. 

 

No wonder writers hate them. 

 

You’ve just had the wonderful expansiveness of hundreds of pages to tell a story, and now you get to retell it in half of one percent of the words.  Sounds a little like something I once heard in a song somewhere about a camel and an eye of a needle.

 

I’m closing in, though.  Phew.

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So since last week, I’ve been doing a lot of research on crafting a query.  Before I sent the first one, I thought I’d taken enough time to really get a sense of what it was supposed to look like, sound like, feel like.

 

Just one week after sending it out, the idea of it makes me cringe.  Especially after reading the example for Hell’s Belles which I think is the most engaging query I’ve read yet (I’m running out to buy the book, and I’ve never read a novel about a succubus.   Or a stripper.  No wonder she was snatched up).  Some of the other samples, ones that left agents breathless and reaching for the phone, I still don’t get.  It’s hard to understand the magic if you don’t see the magic in it, but then again, I suppose everyone’s taste is different.

 

The most challenging part—and apparently the most mandatory—is showing, not telling, in what is essentially a business letter.  Somehow, you have to demonstrate voice, even while following a formula.  It’s like saying here, follow this template, but do it uniquely.  Huh?

 

Everything I’ve read was so accurate, writing the novel was the easy part, it’s the query that’s killer.

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I just made some changes, albeit, minor ones, to the opening paragraph of my manuscript, which got me thinking.  When do you ever stop?  Once it’s published? 

 

I know I’ve been zipping along, reading a new novel, and hit a clunker of a sentence, and wondered if the author, after the type was set and the presses rolling, ever found it and thought “oh no.”  I can almost envision myself, if I am so lucky as to get my book in print, sneaking into bookstores to remove the offending sentence by hand.  Much better to obsessively go through the story again and again, waiting for the words to grind to a halt.

 

I think it’s better now, but if I change my mind after several cups of coffee and finally firing synapses, I’ll thank the mighty Microsoft for “track changes.”  Which, if you haven’t tried it, is the best thing ever.  You can actually read your notes (particularly relevant if you, like I, have the handwriting of a chicken with beak-rot.  I assume chickens write with their beaks).

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