Serendipity On Query Road.
August 25, 2008

“There is nothing either good or bad

but thinking makes it so.”

Shakespeare

 Hamlet, II, 2, 253. 

Who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies? I highly recommend them, myself. Not only because they’re easy to eat while driving down Query Road, but because they’re a yummy example of serendipity.

Chocolate chip cookies, therefore, also remind me of the query process.

 As you chug down Query Road collecting tickets (Dear Author rejections), keep your eyes on the road and continue to follow the map — the map of your aspirations. As you pull out of the (insert your favorite writer here) Rest Stop, do bet on the fact that your oil tank will be full of serendipity.

Even better than oil, serendipity never runs low. It also works with your gas tank (full of hopes and dreams) quite exquisitely.    

Actually, chocolate chip cookies owe their very existence to serendipity: 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

“When the Toll House Inn’s Ruth Wakefield ran out of baking chocolate one day in 1930, she smashed up a bar of semi-sweet chocolate and added the pieces to her dough. Upon their removal from the oven, the cookies weren’t uniformly infused with melted chocolate, but rather studded with little chunks throughout. The signature sweet put her Whitman, Massachusetts inn on the culinary map.”

(information courtesy of AOL)

Some more tips for navigating Query Road, and to avoid dinging your chances of agent representation? 

1) Don’t, don’t, DON’T gripe and complain about specific agents and their rejections on your blog.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about the process and your experiences. By talking about it, you help other writers not as far along as you. It’s important that we keep helping each other.

I’m just saying that, just like us, (you know you do! : ), agents and people in the publishing industry google their names. The last thing you want to do is insult or anger agents (or their agent friends) who might have been considering representation until they read your blog.    

Just last week, through my own googling of agents as I prepared more queries, I came across many blogs (of irate, rejected writers) complaining about rejection letters, the type of rejection letters, how long it took to receive the rejection letter, the wording of the rejection letter, etc. and etc. 

Doing this (being a bad sport) is tantamount to racing down Query Road and aiming straight for a tree at one hundred miles an hour.

Talk about your experience, sure, but leave out the names. Plan on getting a mail bag full of rejections. The more realistic you are, the less the sting.

2) You’re not a serial killer (I hope not : ) but are you a serial comma user? Do you use too many adjectives? How about typos?

There is a wealth of information to be mined down Query Road. Learn something!

For example, before you query, check the agency’s website and their agents’ blogs — not just for submission guidelines, but for their personal preferences. Often you will come across a goldmine of information on grammar, how to prepare your query, how to improve your manuscript and other information that only works to make your work and your submission better.

3) For every rejection letter you receive, send out two more queries. Get filled with the excitement of new scenery instead of stalled out on Query Road, going nowhere.  

Using my past three rejection letters as an example, there are now six more query letters sailed off into the world. It only takes one yes — so keep those queries coming.

A Request For Pages.
August 16, 2008

“An ice age here, a million years of mountain-building there, plates of bedrock grinding against each other over a span of millennia… Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure and time.”

The Shawshank Redemption

 It was just about the most exciting thing that’s happened to me yet — a few days ago I checked my email and found a response from an agent I queried, written like a regular email, devoid of stock industry phrases, requesting manuscript pages after reading my query letter and synopsis.

I’m just so excited.

It’s good to know an agent thinks my novel’s premise can hold up in the publishing world. She wanted to see if my writing style was a good fit. I’m still waiting to hear the verdict.

“Opinions vary widely in this business”, as you get used to reading in rejection letters, and it’s true; we’ll just have to wait and see if it’s my time to shine. If it is, great; I’m ready to go because I’ve done the hard, hard work, and I’ll continue to do it. If it’s not, it’s not, and my time will come. I believe that’s true for all of us.

The days have been getting kinder in the desert, a welcome break for humans and animals. The temperature during the day is still one hundred degrees or more, but the evenings are finally cooling off as the monsoon rains sneak in at night and work their magic.

Last night, sitting on the porch as the storm built up, my hot hair off my neck in a clip (and the breeze worth ticket money), I imagined the email with the next request: a partial.

In anticipation, I woke up early this morning and went back over the first one hundred pages.

Stumbling into the kitchen a few hours later and seeing me typing away, my husband groaned at my declaration that I would continue to go over the whole manuscript, all 387 pages, “just one more time”. He now laughs when he hears me say “the book is done!” or “I’m done editing”, because we both know the insidious, book-writing truth: it’s never really done. A writer will always reread, recheck and fiddle.

A writer friend, upon hearing of the request for pages, was happy I’d no longer have to fret over disinterest or form rejections.

However, just last night another impersonal, form rejection arrived in my inbox. It just goes to show how subjective the business really is — “Opinions vary widely in this business” — as you sail your book out into the world, say, tasting like pizza, when the agent had more of a hankering for wild cherries.

You just never know. It’s why rejection is never a good reason to pack it in — the pizza-loving agent may only be a query letter away, looking through her inbox, famished.