I woke with something in my head… but, I couldn’t quite settle on what it was. Get it? I’m the nervous magician waiting in the wings.
I wrote MONSTER to satisfy an urge–to scratch an itch–and it did just that. I feel good about it, I really do. I’ll continue to push it out there–revise, edit and make it better. I will make it perfect. Therein lies the rub, however, because I’m not sure how. Beneath the errors and misgivings lies my story’s heart. The blood red organ that gives life to my disastrous little tale may not be the most apparent, but its there, beating away, deep inside its dying corpse. I have to save it, but I’m no heart surgeon–hell, I barely know CPR.
The writing was the easy. Through the countless hours and sleepless nights I still managed to pull a coherent series of events from the dark chasm that is my imagination. A small feat towards a gargantuan task. In hindsight I see my methods caused me to flounder, but I’ll admit it was never tough. No, it’s the next part that’s going to suck. What if this doesn’t work out? Where will I store my countless rejection letters? I bet McDonald’s is hiring. Each time I pick my story up I curse a little under my breath–why’d I do this or why’d I do that. Part of me wants to take it out behind the barn and introduce it to Ol’ Yeller.
So, here I sit, learning how to rear my child and let it grow–trying desperately not to stunt its growth or give up on it–and, boy, is the process a doozie. I’ve been doing my research, at least give me that, and I felt like sharing my findings.
The Big Bad Query
All I need is a good query… well, shit. Easier said than done. A query, if you don’t know, is essentially the tool used to introduce your story to the world. It’s a short and concise letter you send off to some poor literary agent in hopes they’ll reply favorably. I figured it’d be a cake walk, but have found it far from that. While my novel took form I’d always written for myself, catered to my own well-being, but with a query you have to sell yourself. You have to entice another savvy individual into believe your book is the next big thing. And to you it is, but can you prove it?
The most important information I read came from this blog posting over at terribleminds. It proved something of a minor miracle it certainly reinvigorated my wilting soul. I would highly recommend going over it, even multiple times.
As well, Query Shark has been more than helpful in whittling down my monstrous query. It’s run by the literary grand master, Janet Reid, with the aim of helping us pour plebeians with our queries. But more importantly, I’ve found Chuck Sambuchino’s blogs about Successful Queries over at Writer’s Digest invaluable. As much as it helps reading what people do wrong with their queries I find it oh-so-much better seeing what they’ve done right.
I won’t be winning any awards, but after perusing these articles I feel I’ve found a better grasp of my own voice.
Shaken, Not Stirred
I won’t be self-publishing. At least, not if I can help it. And that means I’m in the hunt for literary agent to help mold my battered book into something more presentable. I don’t know a thing about the process, so having someone who does watching my back will keep me out of trouble. But there’s a catch, there always is. Just because I’ve written a book doesn’t mean they’ll read it and even if I write the perfect query doesn’t mean they’ll like it. A little makeup can’t hide all of the bruises and I’m most likely looking forward to an onslaught of rejection letters. A slow, painful downpour of sadness!
I’ll admit, I’ve started my search early. I’m not even past my first major revision and I’m searching through all the smiling faces I can find, hoping for that perfect agent to scoop my book up when the time comes. It feels a bit like I’m on Match.com all over, again. Scouring page after page of profiles detailing their favorite genres and Top 10 Books to Keep On a Deserted Island. I know I’ll end up heartbroken–in tears–but it has to be done.
To start I headed over to QueryTracker, a site/tool used to find relevant agents and keep track of your outgoing queries. As I’ve yet to pay for a subscription (I will once I’m closer, I swear) I’ve taken a note from the terribleminds post and started an Excel spreadsheet filled in with my favorite agents and their details. Hopefully, fingers crossed, they’ll love me back one day. Until then I’ll keep adding to the list my potential candidates. AAR Online also as a short list of agents to search through, as well.
Another very useful site I’ve discovered is MSWishlist, which compiles agent’s #MSWL tags into a more user friendly, easy to use format (as opposed to Twitter).
Write, Revise or Die
First of all, if you haven’t read Stephen King’s On Writing, get on that. As he says, the most important thing you can do is write, write and write some more. Starting out I felt like the bad writing needed corrected right away, but that proved to do nothing more than slow my writing to a crawl and almost put me off it altogether. It does wonders to counteract self doubt having a complete story or idea to look at, that’s when you break out that fine-tooth comb and clean the lice out of its hair. That’s where I’m at, nursing it back to health.
Never neglect your words, they’re your voice.
And for the sake of transparency as well as respecting those who’ve helped me I want to thank: inkedexistence, novelconcepts and Fillanzea of the /r/Writing sub-reddit for their quick and in-depth responses.