Query Road Rage.

“Yet hold it more humane,

more heavenly, first,

By winning words to conquer willing


And make persuasion do the work of



Paradise Regained.

As you chug down Query Road, no different than any other road, it’s very likely you will encounter road rage, with one major difference: instead of the rage being other-oriented and aimed at you, it’s more likely to be your own rage aimed at yourself.

As you diligently contort and twist your vision into the proper query and synopsis key-shape that opens the door to publication, shake off the highway-hypnotism and keep the bigger picture in mind. Remember that every query and synopsis can be rewritten and refined for better chances, that a lack of skill or knowledge can be fixed by buying and reading books on the subject, and that there are things you can do to help yourself — you aren’t a helpless “victim” in the process. Just keep doing your homework.

(A friend in the know who is willing to help never hurts, either.) 

If you find yourself veering off the road and writing email subject lines such as, “Shoot me with a query, strangle me with a query, smash my brains out with a query”, it’s time to pull over into the next rest stop, (named after your favorite author), roll up the windows and scream at the top of your lungs, just to get the negativity and frustration out of your system. Negativity and frustration will ferment into poison until all perspective is lost.

Remaining balanced, level-headed and emotionally restrained is great, but being human, the query process does get discouraging, frustrating and overwhelming at times for the best of us, especially when continuously receiving “Dear Author” rejections. So, let the frustration out, before it turns into sugar in your gas tank. Do what you need to do — say screw it (temporarily), walk away for a week, take a break; attach your rejection letters to the nearest tree and get out your bow and arrow and have at it until you feel better.

Just whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP. No one has ever reached their goals or dreams by giving up. There are plenty of querying writers out there who won’t give up. Be one of them. Use the query process to make yourself a better writer, a more experienced writer, a more determined writer. 

If you find yourself living out of your car at the rest stop, temporarily adopting the address as your own and emailing other writer friends things such as, “Today I lost it for a second and decided my next novel should be about a frustrated writer who hops a plane to NYC, and, office building by office building, beats agents to death with his/her brilliant but rejected manuscript”, then forget the soft pretzel and slurpee consolations, and go straight for the double scoop, gooey chocolate milkshake.

Last week, on a writing group I frequent, I read a thread by a writer (a good writer, too) whose frustration and discouragement was so viral it was contagious; I came down with it, myself. It took me a week’s leave from querying, along with a dose of “Annie” and a few rewinds of “The sun will come out, tomorrow”, to finally put me back behind the wheel.

I know I’m a hard worker. I’m an excellent driver, too. So are you. Identifying the obstacles on Query Road, including the ones we create for ourselves as writers, is the only way to keep chugging along. (It also doesn’t hurt to stop at the next scenic overlook, preferably with canyons, and yell “I am a writer, I’ll never give up!” and hear your strong, beautiful voice echoing back exactly what you need to hear.)


8 Responses

  1. The Query reminds me of something I heard a lot about when I was teaching screenwriting: the pitch. In the movie business, one goes into a producer and has two minutes to sell your idea. No sell, no further meetings. The textbook I was using in the class framed a lot of its exercises as creating pitches. I’m wondering how you would pitch this book, face to face, in person? It really forces one to get to the commercial essentials.

  2. Oh Em,

    I hear your frustration. In spite of that, this was a wonderfully written post! Were it by me, it might have been incoherent!

    But I feel partly responsible for your query road rage, and I hope I’m helping more than hindering you. I know it’s frustrating, and it’s disorienting, too, to change tactics when something is not working. Read your post again and listen to the wisdom in it. You are a wise woman with a story to tell and intentions for the good of all. Envision the many who will benefit from your book. Keep your mind on the end result. You will succeed.

  3. Morning Em,

    Good to hear you are remaining strong through query hell. If it’s any consolation at all- remember every single successful author has gone through the same thing. If one gives up, they’ll only go through the rest of their life wondering, “what if?”

    So keep screaming when you need to. Keep enjoying double scoops of gooey chocolate milkshakes. And keep sending out the queries because one will catch the eye of the RIGHT agent for you.

    I know you will! 🙂

  4. Hey H.

    I think I’d probably have a new set of problems, but essentially the same problems if the pitch was face to face. I have to say your reply made me feel better, because therein was the bright side — getting rejected in near-obscurity compared to face to face pitching. Made things a little better, lol. So, thanks for that.
    : P

    Seriously, though, the query process is testing me left and right. It really is a rollercoaster ride. But, obviously one I’m meant to be on.


  5. Tasha, thank you so much for the encouragement. It means the world to me.

    It definitely is query hell — mostly because, I’m a writer, so the query should be easy — just write it, right? I wish!


  6. Thanks Steph. Your encouragement, and Harlan’s, too, means so much.

    It is not you at all that brought on road rage, lol. Just my writerly frustration, query frustration, trying to do something wonderfully that leaves me feeling very inept and clumsy.

    I love writing. I don’t love the business end. But I have to do it. I appreciate your help, and it is in no way hindering me, please don’t even think that. It’s the opposite. It points me in the right direction, which translates into steps out of this limbo land, which shakes down into sanity and moving on to the next step, one day.

    My writer’s perfectionism is getting a run for its money, just as it should, really. I’m being stretched, as I should be. It’s hard work, and frustrating, and not always comfortable or fun.

    I also see, more than ever, that I really am going to get a whole bunch more out of this than just an agent, lol. And that’s why.

    Em : )

  7. Em,

    The writer’s journey truly warms my heart more than anything else. There is such passion in it, in the range of emotions, and growth. I admire you.

    And I’m glad I’m not the cause of your frustration! 🙂

  8. Well, Steph, actually, I’m pretty good at frustrating myself, lol. : )

    After spending fifteen hours on that last query all day Sunday, I looked at my husband yesterday and said, “Well, I guess it was more writing practice.” And we both laughed our heads off.

    On a serious note, though, I think I’m in the midst of writing one of my next books — I think I’ll call it “Query Road”. : )


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