Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quintessential Query Quest

Eventually, as a writer, you reach That Point.

That Point where you feel like, well, hey, I haven't just been whistling dixie this whole time. I've actually put one word in front of the other, written a book, had some people check to make sure it's not, you know, THE WORST, and now I guess I should actually think about showing it? To people? I guess?

And this idea will make you Want To Hide©. Cause, up til that moment, the whole idea of showing it to someone with an aim towards publication was a purely theoretical exercise. I mean, during the writing process, it was no doubt quite clear in your head how you'd get taken on by your dream agent who'd sell it to a Big Five house with foreign and screen rights and you'd end up on a red carpet at a premiere and (insert British actor's name here), who you really admire, will come to tell you how brilliant you are. As clear as all of that was in the cinema of your fevered imagination, you never quite imagined the completely unglamorous and sadly British actor-free query process.

For someone who never expected to write for a living, it's moment that you're expecting to get shown up for the non-MFA-having hackjob you are. It's the whole reason that you've kept the whole Writing Thing® quiet for the last three years, not wanting to tell anyone what you were doing, for fear of the look you'd get--similar to when your 8 year old announces that they wanna sell cupcakes out in the driveway in the middle of February. The look that says, "Oh, bless! How're you getting on with that?" It's the look that you are now expecting from potential agents when your manuscript comes across their desk. (Although, be be fair, an agent on Twitter posted the other day that just this year, she's received 6 manuscripts written from the point of view of a penis. When I said it was a disturbing statistic, she replied that over the course of her career, she has received over 40, so chances are that there are manuscripts getting bigger side-eyes than yours.)

So, round the middle of November, I reached That Point. Having been convinced by people I love and trust that what I had written was NOT, in fact, THE WORST, I decided to embark on the querying process. (A process, I must add, that would have been 150% harder without the help of Query Tracker.) My first rejection rolled in to days later, which was strangely elating. I'm actually doing this! JK Rowling was rejected loads of times! I must be doing something right! And, apart from the comparison to JK Rowling, I was right. I was doing it. Something I never in a million years believed I'd ever be doing. Even if every letter I sent came back with a polite "thanks, but no thanks", I'd still managed to string enough words together for them to be considered a manuscript. It was a big middle finger to all the beginnings that I'd written over the years only to discover that middles are a lot harder.

And then something weird happened. I began getting emails that weren't rejections. Emails that said, "I'd love to see the whole manuscript," or "When's a good time for us to speak on the phone?" They Of course, they were the responses I'd HOPED for, but not actually expected. That thing that lives deep down in the cavern of every creative person and stirs in the middle of the night to whisper terrible things in your ear kind of had me convinced that "Hey, maybe not so much with this for you."

Lucky for me, I managed to shut that asshat down long enough to talk to total strangers on the phone without vomiting in abject terror first. I used to think my phone phobia was fairly unique, but I think the majority of people that I know now would probably rather spend an afternoon in hell with a toddler who'd missed their nap rather than face the possibility of making a phone call to someone they didn't know. Not only that, but when you make plans to have a phone call with someone you don't know, you have a more time to sit around thinking about it, making it all the more likely that when the phone rings, you may simply expire on the spot. Or, if you have the misfortune to pick it up, you may simply make a goat noise and run away.

But, talk to strangers I did. Strangers who wanted to ask me things about myself. About my book. And, after several remarkably non-vomity experiences, I came away as a client Jennifer Linnan of Linnan Literary Management. The first of my middle grade trilogy goes on submission the first week of January.

Into the abyss!

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