"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Demon Query

When you begin to query agents, it’s much like starting your own seedlings.  Some seeds sprout quickly, like kale (four days!) and some are slow and can take two weeks or more, like onions and parsley. Some are finicky and require perfect conditions, like peppers. 
I worry about my seeds almost as much as I worry about my query letter. I check them daily. There's so much to worry about. Did I use the right medium? It there enough light? Heat? Water? There are mistakes, like dropping a flat of newly planted basil seeds upside down on the floor. Will they ever recover and find their way up to the light?  When the fragile shoots first break the surface, you feel a joyous delirium. Your time and effort has been rewarded. To see the spindly stalks grow and develop their first set of true leaves is like developing your manuscript to a publishable level.
You don’t think you’re every ready to query. You wonder if you’ve done enough agent research. Does your hook hook? Will they like the premise or hate it?  Is your protagonist unlikeable? Your finger hovers over the send button.You pull it back and breathe. How could anyone not like him? Your finger finds the send button. You do it.

Then there is the glaring error you discover after you’ve sent out your first round of queries. You played with your first essential five pages, because you can't leave them alone. You fooled around with the first page and changed a phrase. Then changed it back because it was really, really stupid. But you forgot to save the correction. You sent the really, really stupid first page. You go to bed, happy, not knowing how stupid you are.

You awake and drink coffee and go to your other job, knowing you'll soon be a full time writer. You come home and open your documents, check email and drink something. You open up your sent folder and browse your amazing query and your agent-grabbing first pages and you see what you’ve done. The all-time most stupid phrase is right there on page one. You lean over your screen like a surgeon over the operating table. You can't believe what you see. Now what? Should you send a quick apology and explanation to the dream agent? Should you leave it alone and think they won’t notice the all-time most stupid phrase on a first page ever? 
You send the follow-up email. You kick yourself and go to bed. In the morning you soak parsley seeds in warm water. You turn on the computer and you wait.

27 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

I can't help laugh. Sorry. I did the exact same thing. Stupid phrase, mistake on my own name, my own name, (how could I screw up my own name?). Ugh! I'm so glad my days of querying are over for now. But I've been thinking of jumping back in. Of course I don't have anything to jump in with, so I'm breathing easy, but I have something on the back burner that might warrant that action.

I keep trying to talk myself out of it, but it's there, haunting me...I want an agent.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Anne,
I just commented on your blog! Must have been simultaneous, like my query.I bet you have several things on the back burner and so much experience. An agent would be very lucky to snag you!

Steven J. Wangsness said...

Oh, there are just so many things about querying that make you wonder... After you get to your 100th query, though, you start to develop a more whimsical attitude, as the absurdity of it all starts to sink in. At least I did...

Summer Ross said...

I've decided queries are horrible little monster set out to destroy...no wait that might be something else. LOL Anyway- great post. Though I think I'm terrified to send my query....

Frances Garrood said...

It's the big disadvantage of email, isnt it. One "ping" can change your life, and you can't get it back! Good luck, Yvonne.

Vanessa V Kilmer said...

That's a great analogy. We need to have the patience of a gardener. I know I would send out the wrong pages. :)

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Excellent post. You've hit the anguish we feel right on the head!

Liza said...

Oh my gosh, you are living my life!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Steven
You were always generous with sharing your experiences. Thanks.

Summer,
Of course you are terrified. But you'll still jump!

Frances,
That's it exactly. Thank you so much.

Nessa,
I see a lot of similarities between the two. Just had to share. I'm glad you like it!

Wendy,
Thank you so much!!

Liza,
Thanks. It's good to know we aren't alone with these thoughts.

Anthony Duce said...

This is fantastic writing.. Hitting send, you are so brave… I love the analogy with the seeds..

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thank goodness for seedlings. There's hope in them, a future,yes? You'll get there, my friend.

Jemi Fraser said...

And yet we still replant and resend. We are beggars for punishment and believers in possibilities all at the same time :) Love this, Yvonne!

J.B. Chicoine said...

Oh Gosh, that sounds all too familiar. I think everyone sending out a query experiences some variation of this angst. I can't believe some of the queries I sent--and in the end, I still got published! Take courage! :)

Yvonne Osborne said...

Tony,
Thank you so much. I don't think I'm brave at all. Just a glutton for punishment. But thank you. A lot.

Tricia,
Yes, hope for the future. Thanks!!

Jemi,
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

Bridget,
I take heart from you and others like you who have persevered and succeeded. Thanks!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Don't you love seeing that error after you'd sent it?

Yvonne Osborne said...

Diane,
As I said, I was horrified. There's no better way to describe it. Thanks for understanding. But will they??

TALON said...

The query I can handle (barely), but the synopsis? Ick! Yuck! And every four letter nasty word you can think of, Yvonne! :)

Al said...

I love the analogy.

But I must say I have never felt the level of anxiety over seedlings that I have felt over queries!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's why it helps to be busy doing something else, as the wait can make you crazy.

Searching for the Story said...

I can't speak to agents in general, but if I get a manuscript with a premise I really connect with, a few errors aren't going to stop me from requesting more of it.

That's what editing is for, right? We go in to this knowing we're going to have to do some degree of work on each manuscript we pick up.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Talon,
Totally agree on the evil synopsis. And why would they want one? It'd be like picking up a book and reading the last page. Thanks!

Al,
Thank you so much. Admittedly, the level is a step or two below.

Alex,
I've been told that when you get a rejection you should immediately send out another query. Makes sense. Thanks.

Ethan,
I know you're right, but you still can't help but have an anxiety attack when you accidently send out something less than perfect. Thanks for reminding me to chill out.

Other Mary said...

You describe the agony perfectly! Good comparison to starting seeds too Yvonne. And, I'm finally, finally following you! What took me so long?

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hi Mary!
Thank you so so much!!

Romance Reader said...

Agents - some people can't live without them and some people do quite well without them. It's hard to know what to do for the best.

Maria RR

Yvonne Osborne said...

Maria,
Hi! That is very true. I figured I'd at least give it a try and see what happens.Thanks for leaving a comment.

Stafford Ray said...

My experience is that we can be much more confidant that our seeds will sprout than an agent will take us on. Maybe it is time to plant my book! :-)

Yvonne Osborne said...

Stafford,
Hi. I like that....time to plant a book! Tis the season. Thanks.