Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Query Or Not To Query

Am I ready to Query?

It might be the hardest question any aspiring writer faces, because let's face it--querying is scary!
Querying is when we take the project we've poured our heart and souls into, sacrificed our time and sleep and sanity, and ship it off to the scariest place ever: the slush pile. 

It will be stressful
We will get rejected (I have yet to meet an author who didn't get rejected at least once)

And it's our one shot to impress our dream agent. If we query our draft before it's ready, we could be setting ourselves up for disaster.

Which is why some writers (*cough* me *cough*) can linger endlessly in "revision mode" and always fall back on some excuse not to query:

"I need a few more CPs"
"I need some Beta Readers"
"I need to let the draft breathe"
"I need to write my query letter"
"I'm finishing my newest revisions"
"I'm still figuring out who to query"
"I'm waiting until after the Conference"

And well...certain people in my life (who know what an obsessive, perfectionist I can be) have decided enough is enough. 

Thus why my Sunday began with an epic phone call--an intervention if you will--from my family, who wanted me to answer the unanswerable question: WHEN AM I GOING TO QUERY????--and they would not take "I don't know" for an answer.

In my head my draft is never quite shiny enough, no matter how many times I've polished it. 
They tried to convince me to jump in--but I prefer a safer approach.
So--after MUCH discussion--we agreed on a compromise.

I was up all night on Sunday finishing a last run through of my MS. 
It has since been sent to all of my CPs, with the specific instruction to read it with one thought in mind: if this were your draft, would you query it?

And if they say yes...well...Query Wars here I come!

I've set no time limit on when my CPs must get back to me 
(secretly hoping they'll take their sweet time so I won't have to hold up my end of the deal) 
but two of them have already started reading, and another has already cast her vote. So it's looking like my stalling time might be running out. 
*bites nails*

In the meantime, I've been trying to calm my panic by thinking about what Maureen Johnson said about the importance of sucking as a writer, and trying to figure out if I've sucked enough yet (if you missed it you can watch the vlog here

And well...it's highly possible I have sucked enough.
Here's some interesting numbers/statistics

5: The number of scripts I've written (one of which was about BOY BANDS!)
6: The number of books I half wrote or outlined before my current MS
1.5: The number of years I researched the story before I began writing
5: The number of journals I filled with notes during the research process
13: The number of months I've been writing/revising my current MS
14: The number of drafts I've gone through since beginning my MS
147: The number of scenes I rejected when I created Master Draft 1
55, 614: The number of words cut from Master Drafts 11 and 12
46,095: The number of words cut from Master Draft 13

So...yeah--that's a WHOLE lot of sucking. But maybe that means I've squeezed almost all the suck out of my MS, because do you know how many words I cut on Sunday from Master Draft 14?

2422--that's it!
So maybe it's finally getting close

Which would be awesome--but also terrifying, because I'm totally afraid of querying!!!

And on that note, I beg your advice: how did you know you were ready to query? (or how do you *think* you will know, if you're not quite there yet?)


  1. I can't answer your question yet about how I knew when I was ready. I know I hope to BE ready by mid-March, but that's NOT the same as knowing...

    However, here's the thing. I think that as writers, we will ALWAYS be able to look at a draft and find things that could be changed/cut/added... Until the book is in bound and in print and in bookstores. Because we're writers, and we're crippled by self-doubt. It's the way we are.

    That's not to say we should just assume we're ready because, hey it's probably just self-doubt telling me I'm not... But there is a difference, and I think deep down you'll know it when you feel it. (aka I think you pretty much know it now but aren't admitting it to yourself) :-)

  2. This is what I think: If you're revisions have degraded into nitpicking single words used, or just a line or a clause here or there, You Are Ready.

    I just jumped in myself! It would be nice to have a couple people in here with me :)

  3. Oh.My.God. Based on the numbers above, YOU ARE READY! That is an insane amount of revising! So funny, I am the opposite...I love querying!! All that hope, the endless possibility, the idea that is only takes ONE yes. Love it.

    You can do it! Come join the ranks of the obsessive email checking, rejected, hopeful writers!! :)

    Good luck!

  4. What can I say? I've spent over 15 years assuming that my ideas alone suck so badly that I hadn't written a non work or school related word since my undergrad...until recently. I've finally accepted the fact that it's better to jump in suck than sit back and imagine I suck without even entertaining the thought that I don't suck as bad as I think. I'm only in my first draft stage...and have a lot of sucking ahead of me...but I don't plan to linger very long in the "polishing" phase before I set it free. Hell, at my age, I've experienced my share of rejection in other arenas...might as well add this to it.

  5. I have no advice on how I knew I was ready- I'm not there yet (hope to be in September), but I agree with Sara. I think as writers, every time we read a part of our WIPs, we find something we can change, even if it's a single word. A scene that I revised last night as was happy with will look differently to me today, so I change it. The scene never really improves, it just changes. If your CPs think you're ready and you are guessing you're ready, I say- You're ready. Stop stalling. Go for it.

  6. I will have a definite answer for you by the end of the week but before that moment comes, you should also know that I'm psychic. Yes, shocking I know and...wait...I'm getting a message...and it says...oooh, it's says I'm going to say yes:-)

  7. Dude, you are SO ready to query this book. If it makes you feel any better Laura and I were total jackholes when it came to querying our first novel and we literally sent like 100 queries right after it was done. It was a blood bath. So no matter how bad you suck, you'll never suck quite as bad as the two of us. Isn't that comforting?

  8. I'm also reluctant to jump in the query pool. I know it's not quite ready but definitely feel closer than I did a month ago. I've decided to wait for another go-round with my critique group and go from there. It sounds like you're ready though -- go for it and best of luck!

  9. You'll know when it is ready. Start small, query only a few agents and see what their response is...sometimes that is very helpful!

    I think you can do it!

  10. My favorite line: squeeze the suck out of a manuscript!


    Here's the deal: You will NEVER know until you try. So just do it already. Quit stalling.

    You are ready.


  11. Let's see...

    I knew when I was ready when my CPs only had suggestions of things to change that either 1) weren't really relevant to the story or 2) would change the story in a direction I didn't want to go.

    Also: I'd look at it and realize there was nothing left for me to do.

    Also: I was about to get sick of the damn thing and needed it out of the house.

  12. Oh. My. Lord.

    You are quite possibly the most obsessive writer I've run across in the blogosphere! No, wait. I think Davin from LitLab said he's done 54 revisions on his novel. So perhaps you're not the most obsessive writer out there. But still!

    Don't you have other stories begging to be told? Aren't all those other characters crowding your brain beginning to tunnel out from between the neurons? Honey, puh-leeze! Write the query, send it out, and start something new, wouldja?

    All this angst over submitting! How does anyone get published at all if they don't submit? It almost makes me want to smack you again... *cough*

    (And I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course....)

  13. It sounds to me like you're ready!

    I haven't queried yet. WiP is far from being ready.

  14. You are ready!

    But I'm a bit obsessive too. How many drafts did you write before you let betas go over your WIP?

    And I love the "suck" video--so true.

  15. YOU.ARE.READY! It's time. Get your suit on, grab a towel, and jump in. We are here to smile and wave and applaud your swimming skills (metaphorically speaking, of course!). :-)

  16. I'm hoping to be ready by the end of March. I'm almost there in terms of word count, but there are a couple other rounds of revision, plus a finalization of the query, to finish. Good luck!

  17. Shannon, it sounds like you're ready! You can do it!! Go check out my ten-word Tuesday today. You can so do this. Don't let fear hold you back!

  18. With that amount of revision, I'd say that you are ready to start the query process. Remember, at some point, you have to just stop. Stop re-reading, stop revising, just stop and let it be.

    You can do this!!!

  19. Sara: LOL. I dunno. I don't feel ready. But I'm not sure I'll ever feel ready. I think I'll be one of those writers who can't read their own books after their published, because I'll notice all the mistakes and want to change them. *Sighs.*

    Amalia T. Ooo, congrats on taking the plunge. I'm in awe of your bravery. I will let you know when I enter the pool. I'll need someone to hold onto so I don't drown, ;) Also...LOL on the self editing.

    Kelly@ JustWrite: You...LOVE QUERYING? Wow. Can I be you for a day? I'd love to know what that feels like. ;)

    AlyGatr: LOL. I like your attitude. I think I need to find a way to adopt it. Good luck with that first draft. Just remember, it will probably suck, but that's okay, it's supposed to!

    Kelly Lyman : Aw, thanks. I'll try to think like you do. BUT IT'S HARD!!!

    Frankie: You're psychic? Can you tell me how many rejections I'm going to get then? And aw, thanks. Or wait--is this a blog wars strategy? Keep me so busy and stressed with querying that I won't be coherent enough to counter dare you??? I'm on to you girlie! ;)

    Lisa: LOL. I'll try to keep that in mind. But um...you've sold your book--so you hardly suck! But thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll *try* to believe I deserve it.

    Kristi: Aw, thanks. But...if I have to jump in soon then i want you in there with me as soon as possible. The more of us banding together, the better!

    Marybeth: Good advice. And I was planning to start small. To avoid the kind of blood bath LiLa mentioned. *shudders*

    storyqueen: Aw, thanks Shelley. That means a lot. We'll see if my CPs agree. If the do...AH!!!!!!!!!

    Beth: LOL- Well, I'm DEFINITELY there on the sick of it thing. I think I've read it like 50 times this month alone. Bur I like your other suggestions. It's why I'm really curious to see what my cps have to say.

    Simon: LOL. I know. My blog should probably be the one called constant revision, not yours. And yes, I have other stories dying to be told, but they're with the same characters (my book is a series) so I don't completely get to move on. But I am looking forward to new words. I miss them. (And I'm going to let the smack comment go again!)

    Mariah: Aw, thanks. Keep me updated on your WIP progress. I'd love to know how it goes!

    Myrna: I started having CPs and Betas around draft 11 (thus why I started keeping track of what i cut0--which was actuallY WAY too late. I probably would've cut the number of drafts in half if I'd sought help sooner. Criticism is hard, but it makes such a difference, it's better to suffer through than go without!

    Shannon: Glad you were speaking metaphorically, cause you do NOT want to see me in a bathing suit. *shudders* That might be scarier than querying.

    Donna: Yay--another fellow querier. We all need to unite so we can take over the world together!

    Nisa: Ooo, I checked out your ten word--very cool. I will try to apply it. =D

    Rhonda: Stop? Um, I'm not sure I understand that word? ;) But I kinda agree. I will try. Ahhhh!!!

  20. The longer I spend working on a ms, the more I hate it and doubt it. So for me, I have to query before I reach the point where I've lost all confidence in myself. Which I've done. I've written 6 ms and only queried two.

    Querying is scary and being rejected sucks, but it doesn't kill you. I've had plenty of rejection and I'm still breathing. It hasn't dampened my desire to be published or to query again when I think I have something that might be good. At the end of the day you can only do so much. You can make your ms shiny and perfect and you still might not score an agent or you might not sell it. That sounds harsh, but there it is.

    It certainly doesn't sound like you're rushing into querying. You've put a lot of effort into your story and that will show. All that's left is to jump in! And don't get discouraged by rejections--keep at it.

    Good luck!! I'll send agent-scoring vibes your way.

  21. I think I kind of am with you, except I know I'm not ready to query, yet. But I do think that even if I were, I'd be back-stepping, revising, playing with one word or another. But at the same time--I think this was Simon's comment I saw up above, too--you have other ideas, and other stories to tell. And sure, it's scary--but at the same time, what's the worst that can happen? It won't get published? If you don't even try, it won't get published, either, you know?

    I'm guessing you just know. Sort of like giving birth (which I haven't done, either). Good luck with what you decide.

  22. At some point, you just have to put it out there. You can do this! You are ready! Start with a small number (we started with 10) and put your feelers out there. We can't wait to hear all about it (querying really is SO much fun, in a semi-masochistic way). GOOD LUCK!

  23. When you did this last read-through, did you think the ms was the best it could be? If so -- because you've done a lot of revising -- I'd say you're ready. Go for it, woman! And let us know how it turns out. Good luck! (I'm almost ready to query, too!)

  24. Oh my gosh, you are like my twin. I swear. I have been rewriting my query over and over again. I've read, edited, revised, rinsed, repeated my MS. I've waited. I've sat. I've thought about it.

    And then tonight. I sent one out. My first one. And I don't know when I'll send my next...

  25. Oh hmm. I'll let everyone else answer. I'm still a noob revising the first novel ;o) Good luck in your decision ;o)

  26. It's like marriage, and parenting. You're never ready. And you'll grow tremendously once you take the jump. Time to focus that revision energy on perfecting a query. Besides, you got an AWARD for your writing sample! Isn't that sign enough?

  27. 1. You query when you're ready to pursue publication.

    2. No draft is ever perfect.

    3. The rejections you get may point you in the right direction. Some of them will be form ... so what? Move on. Some will be personal and will give you an idea on why the agent passed. Not excited enough by your idea? Keep querying. Didn't quite connect with the project? Keep querying. Ultimately a pass? Keep querying. Writing isn't up to par yet? Stop and hone your craft a bit more.

    4. It's scary, but you can do it. I queried my first novel all over the place and got rejected every time. Even after the book finaled in the Golden Heart. I queried my second novel and had tremendous word of mouth. Four pubbed writers referred me to their agents. Other agents I queried requested the full. One by one they all turned me down, but they were complimentary when they did it. I hung on, believed in the story, and waited with bated breath for the last agent to give me her response. She did and she's now my agent.

    5. We subbed that book and it didn't sell. I wrote another. This one will. I believe in it, just like I believed in the one before it. Will my next book be even better? Yes. I plan to constantly improve my craft which means each book will be better than the last. But I still believe in my work and put it out there because I'm determined to be published.

    So, when are you ready to query? When you're ready to be published. Put it out there, start the next project, and hang on for the ride. You'll get there. :)


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