Query Report: 1 of Hopefully Not Too Many

In commemoration of the receipt of my first official “Not Interested” answer, I figure I can throw some numbers out here, just to illustrate where I currently am in my search for an agent.

  1. Potential Agents Identified: 12 so far. I’m a firm believer that targetting agents who state their interest in the kind of book I wrote (contemporary fantasy, if anyone’s interested) is a lot more likely to lead to a successful query. Plus, it’s basic courtesy not to spam people.
  2. Query Letters Sent: 6. As a corollary to point 1 above, I think each agent deserves something better than a Dear Agent letter. Besides, the submission guidelines change from agency to agency, which means I have to rework each letter anyway. Still, I really need to push those remaining six letters out ASAP.
  3. Rejection Letters Received: 1. That’s not cause for concern yet. At this point, I’m trying really hard not to second-guess myself (and my approach) yet. Some rejections are perfectly normal (and I much prefer getting a formal response than being ignored – see below.)
  4. Ignored Queries:┬áRapidly approaching 1. The second agent I queried has a “If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, I’m not interested” policy. While I prefer to be told flat out if a particular line is dead, at least this gives me an idea of when to stop hoping. In this case, we’re right on the two-week mark… but I’ll give it a few days more, as the query was sent during Thanksgiving.

So this is where I stand. Obviously, not where I want to be, but this isn’t cause for anxiety yet. I’ll probably write up an update in a month or so.

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And Here we Go!

Well, my first couple of queries have been sent. That’s not a lot, but I figure it’s better to send one or two well-written query per week instead of spamming the same one to half the agents in North America.

And honestly, getting the first one ready was hard enough. Obviously, there’s the letter itself to write, but the agent in question also requested a synopsis, which turned out to be a serious pain to write. Condensing a 76,000 words novel into two interesting and fun-to-read pages, while still hitting all the important plot points, turned out be be a solid weekend’s work.

On the plus side, I can see how getting better at writing outlines and synopses will help me at writing in general. They’re awesome tools to locate plot holes and fix pacing issues. In fact, I’ve written two short outlines for future projects already, and I’m planning on writing a third one just to practice that skill a bit more before starting on my next book.

Really, I’ll do anything to keep from checking my email compulsively at this point.

Editing: Done!

I’ve been meaning to post this for a few days.

WOOHOO!

I’ve finished my third draft/second revision/neverending torment! Don’t get me wrong: doing that additional editing pass was absolutely worth it, but boy am I glad that’s done.

I’ve also ran the spellchecker (always worth it, even if it only caught a couple of mistypes) and formatted the manuscript to industry standards. All the actual text is as final as I can make it, although I probably need to think about the title some more.

The next step is *gasp* writing queries. I’ve put some work into that particular hellish task, enough to know that it won’t be easy. The factual/business part of the query letter will be easy enough (if there’s one thing you learn working in law, it’s how to write professional-looking letters), but I really need the in-voice description of the book to work, and so far my attempts have been of the not-worth-saving-the-file variety. Sigh. A good night’s sleep and a day off is what I need I think.

Still, I’d rather spend a day crafting a letter than doing Yet Another Revision. With that in mind, off to bed I go.

An Update with some Progress

Life has been relentless recently, but that doesn’t mean I’ve dropped the project.

In fact, I managed to get through a fairly important milestone: I’ve finished going through my list of planned verifications and corrections (what I call my search-and-destroy list.) Those were all the small, but noticeable issues I found while doing my second revision.

For example, I probably tend to probably use “probably” and other adverbs probably too often, probably. So I searched my entire manuscript for every instance of “ly”, and made sure to cut that down to a more reasonable ratio.

You’d be surprised how many small, relatively easy-to-correct issues like that cropped up. Clever constructions that I use more than once, metaphors and similes that are maybe too similar to once another… and of course, even more adverbs, probably.

You would also be surprised at how incredibly annoying fixing that can be. So getting that task out of the way is a pretty great step for me. Now I just have to:

  1. Finish my last reading-and-correct (I’m about 40% through);
  2. Run the autocorrect through my text, just in case;
  3. Touch up my presentation a bit – it’d be stupid to get rejected for purely cosmetic issues;
  4. Write and send my queries.

Can that be done in time to start a new manuscript during NaNoWriMo? We’ll see!

On Screens, Hardcopy and E-readers

I love my Kindle. As an avid reader, having access to an entire library with me when I’m on the bus, on a plane or on vacation is a godsend.

But lately, I’ve fallen in love with how it gives me a new perspective when re-reading my manuscript.

Obviously, most of my revision work has been done directly on my laptop screen. It’s where I work, there’re those handy red squiggly lines to let me know about typos, there’s a thesaurus (and Google) right in the next window over…

But at some point, you have to review your manuscript in hardcopy, if only because your eyes get too used to the text on screen. Reading your text on paper will let you spot other mistakes and, if you’re anything like me, will let you get a better sense of the timing of your novel.

Recently, I converted my manuscript to a PDF and threw it on my Kindle, figuring Yet Another Reading of the Book couldn’t hurt. I expected to find a few more mistakes and possible improvements. But let me tell you, seeing my work in the same type, size and format as everything else I’ve read in the last few years has been eye-opening.

On the plus side: the Book is really quite good. I’ve read commercially successful works in the same genre that weren’t as well written.

On the minus side: over a hundred additionnal small corrections to make already, and I’m nowhere near done with that re-reading. Well, good thing I wasn’t planning on querying this weekend.

But seriously: if you’re writing your own manuscript, get a Kindle (or another e-Reader.) It’s absolutely worth it just for the new perspective it will give you on your work.

Revising, Reviewing and Rewriting

Since I’m currently finalizing my manuscript, I figure now is the right time to discuss all the steps I went through to get there.

First, I wrote my first draft, skipping all those nitpicky details like “planning” or “writing an outline.” Surprisingly enough, that wasn’t as bad an idea as it seems. It probably cost me some efficiency, but on the other hand getting that first draft done was probably more important than getting it right. I needed to know that I could bring the project at least that far before running out of motivation.

Once I had that first draft done, however, it was time to make it good. So I grabbed my red pen, printed out the whole manuscript, and got to work. That first revision covered everything, from fixing plot holes to improving my characterization (and, of course, correcting all those inevitable typos and grammar issues.) In the process, I added about 20,000 words to the manuscript, bringing it up to a publishable size.

I also realized how much my writing had improved in the relatively small interval between starting my prologue and completing my epilogue. So I actually ended up my first revision with even greater motivation than ever before.

While I was revising, I was also sending my completed chapters to a pair of first readers. Inevitably, they caught mistakes I missed, but their input was also valuable for additional plot doctoring and characterization editing.

Which brings me up to now. As I wait for the final comments from the second of my first readers, I’ve started Yet Another Revision. This time, I put my book onto my Kindle, just to look at it from another perspective. And… it was a good idea. I still see small stuff I want to fix, some minor issues and weaker sections. It’s a bit frustrating to see how imperfect the book is… but on the other hand, I can see how quickly I’m improving my writing skills.

And on the plus side, I think that once I’m done with that final revision, the book will absolutely be of publishable quality. So it’s not as demotivating as “third revision” might imply.

Moral of the story: don’t underestimate the need for revising your work, but also don’t underestimate the benefits of doing so. I’ve gotten so much better at writing just by reviewing my work that even if Book 1 fails to ever see the light of day, I know that my next project will get closer to that goal.