Tuesday, December 10, 2013

To Query or Not to Query…



…that is the question. How do you know if your manuscript is ready? Or for that matter, if your query is ready? This is more a question for beginners. Experienced writers tend to have a decent handle on when their work is ready. For the rest of us, it’s not so obvious. So how do you know?

The short answer? You don’t.

It takes throwing it out there to see if it’ll stick, but that also means being willing to see it fall gasping in a dead heap on the floor. It means enduring rejection and powering through. And no matter how many beta readers and critique partners you have weighing in, or contest wins and finals you have under your belt, there’s still a chance neither your query nor your manuscript is quite there yet. Once again, the only way to know is to suffer rejection and keep writing and honing your craft. You start getting requests from your queries—success! No, wait—don’t get excited. That’s just one hurdle on your way to more rejection on the partial and full manuscript. It’s a process, so get used to it and learn from it.

Move on. Keep writing. Keep learning. Write new things. And if you still believe in that first manuscript, by all means, go back and start over if necessary. That’s what I chose to do a few months back. There’s something valid in that adage of writing a million bad words. Something clicked for me in the last year, and I knew I was ready to tackle that first manuscript and do whatever it took, even if it meant gutting it and starting over. My first step was to seek the help of someone whose abilities I trust, the tough-minded and honest-to-a-fault Charissa Weaks. We examined the manuscript to determine why my full requests were not netting representation. Was the manuscript worth salvaging?

The conclusion was yes, but it would mean a total rewrite and restructuring that would upend my story and turn it inside out. I’ve now completed the newly retitled manuscript, and it is a very different story, far superior to the original. Will it experience rejection? Of course. But it stands a far better chance of acceptance now than before. And in the process, I’ve learned a great deal that will serve me well going forward.     

My participation in my first Pitch Wars is what pushed me to contemplate rejection once more. Pitch Wars is a great contest organized by Brenda Drake that I discovered via Twitter. I submitted my new query and first five pages to four mentors, and luckily, I had one request more pages. Now whether that translates into a mentor choosing me as their “mentee” or alternate is a pretty long shot—but that’s okay. I learned something valuable along with discovering new writer peeps. My new query and first pages work, and it’s time to jump back into querying.

Will I get rejected this time? Of course.

But I also might find someone who will love it and want it.  

It’s all part of the process.

UPDATE: About two hours after I posted this, I learned I didn't make the Pitch Wars cut. Later, my mentor informed me I made her short list. She shared very kind words that boosted my confidence, including it was a tough choice. Rejection and Success! And there was more good news: my critique partner was chosen as a Mentee!

Special congratulations to Paula J. Garner, who made the cut with PHANTOM LIMBS. Congrats Paula!!

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