It’s high time I wrote something on this blog. And something cheery might be nice.
So here’s a pretty
picture to get us in the mood. This lake is close to where I go wild swimming :)
Now I’ll try and put a
positive spin on the most stressful of writing stages (after writing the thing, that is)
QUERYING THE NOVEL
#amquerying is the current term being banded about on social media, particularly Twitter, (I’m still calling it Twitter) and it’s a term most writers are wearily familiar with.
rapidly excruciating, it’s the protracted process whereby writers try and bag an agent (the person who they hope will get them published.)
The process is many things:
So, I joined the querying ranks this year, submitting my latest novel to literary agents. I tested the water in Spring after beta readers said I was ready to go. But my submissions, throughout March and April, sunk without trace, exposing weaknesses in my 'pitch package' (the goods sent to the agent)
Time for another picture?
Said package includes a pin-sharp cover letter (there are courses on how to write them), a slick synopsis (the nightmare of all nightmares), and the highly polished start of your finished novel. Your one-line pitch, to entice the agent, is arguably the most important factor in getting the agent to read on. It's my belief that, because agents have so little time to read submissions, they're actively looking for reasons to reject you, right from the Dear Kathryn… (so let's hope the agent’s name is Kathryn.)
Anyway, time for another
picture to calm us down...
Ultimately, my first query period was a FAIL. I had one or two personal no thanks, but mostly form rejections and ghostings.
I stopped submitting, returning to
work on my package again. Got more feedback/help, from wherever I could. Brilliant writer friends. JerichoWriters. Mentoring or offerings from generous authors on Twitter. Competitions. Whatever. I revised my package over six months. Took a one-day CBC course on pitching, wrote hundreds
of elevator pitches till one rang true. I revamped my cover letter and synopsis,
again. Revised the first hundred pages of the novel, again, sharpening the prose, ramping up the intrigue, conflict, upping the stakes, clarifying motivation,
embellishing characters. The bally lot. I need a lie-down just remembering.
Let’s have another picture.
I swapped chapters round, replaced the prologue, whipped it out, put another back in. Rewrote
chapter one, chapter two, for the eleventh time. By the way, writing a novel is not for the
faint-hearted, or the impatient. Or for anyone with another life. I've discovered, over many years, it’s a venture most suited to people beset with unnaturally obsessive tendencies, for those with meticulous attentions-to-detail and high boredom thresholds. I’d lean dangerously further to propose that writing novels is for the deranged, but that’s just
Anyway. I finally felt the novel and pitch package might be fit to try again. During this process, my new hobby of wild swimming really helped. As we moved into autumn, the pain of cold water forged a nice parallel with querying agents.
I started the process again. Submitting my newly titled novel to another batch of agents at the end of September. I was hoping to snag interest between the Frankfurt Book Fair and Christmas, the last window of opportunity in 2023. But maybe it's too late. Everything is slower than ever. Like r e a l l y s l o w. I've heard that no time is a bad querying time if your work is good enough, but the slow response rates make you think you're deluded. You go from imagining yourself at your book launch to imagining yourself dead in a river. Oh, just me?
HOWEVER, positive spin alert....
I got a full manuscript request!
Which I know to be a major feat, so I was massively excited. I then lucked out with another full request. To capitalise on this, as I've been advised, I contacted a few agents who'd previously praised my writing, and gained another full request.
So, in October I had three agents considering my full manuscript. This is now back down to one. I have queries still out there, one with my dream agent. Did I mention the word excruciating? Thought so. And now I don't want to talk about this any more, so here's another picture. That's me with the dark circles round my eyes.
Now, I'll be shutting down my PC and heading for the summerhouse to paint. I need time away from the laptop, from my phone and emails. It's time to get covered in oils.
I need the smell of turps, the bumps of paint on my palette. With the log-burner crackling and wood-smoke curling, cats scratching the rug and the winter sunlight priming the canvas, I'll be dipping my brush. And forgetting about words. Pictures emerge more quickly in oil paint. My husband comes in and looks at whatever is on the easel and says he loves it. Just like that.
Watch this space.