Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Five Things I Wish I Knew BEFORE I Queried


Happy Tuesday.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with some fascinating writers at Philly Lit Night, organized by Simon C. Larter and Frankie Diane Mallis. Thanks for a great experience. If you scroll down to the bottom of my blog, I've linked to all of the fine writers I met. Go Philly!

The subject of blogging came up and we shared how we draw a blank sometimes, don't blog everyday and then ended up talking about the cool people we've formed connections with. Just discussing blogging got me thinking on the drive home. My car is definitely a think-tank for me (when it's kid free).

I am a firm believer in "giving back" and "paying it forward". This is an incredible online community of writers, filled with people who are willing to share advice, cheer you up, reach out when you need it the most, join in your heartbreak and celebrate with you.

In that vein, here are five things I wish I'd known before mailing my first query letter:

1. I wish I knew about the query forums on Absolute Write and Evil Editor. Let me warn you: NOT for the faint of heart. But, if all you want to hear is how great your query is, then you may not be ready to query. I didn't find out about these two sites until well into my query journey. And my ass was handed to me each time I posted - but my query got stronger and stronger and stronger. I often wonder how much shorter my query hell would've been if I had known these sites existed before I'd mailed (and emailed) out a single query. Hindsight is 20/20.

ADVICE: Get query feedback from reputable sources and get a lot of it. Don't take one person's opinion as gospel - get a ton of opinions. Join Teen Fire or YALitChat or She Writes. Download Elana Johnson's FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL. It's free now you know!

2. I wish I didn't take the gushing of family members (obviously well intentioned) as a sign from God Almighty himself that my first novel was ready to query. It wasn't. I have always been a "get it done and get it done fast" kind of person. I wish I would've been patient and let the book sit and stew for a while - taken my time with it. But I didn't. I rushed and it cost me countless rejections and frustrating moments on my journey.

ADVICE: Don't be fooled into false confidence when it comes to your first novel. Do everything you can to get feedback from industry people and fellow writers. How? Go to conferences, join a writer's group, submit your work to public contests.

3. I wish I knew the power of a solid critique group earlier. I didn't let another writer read my manuscript until I had written my fourth novel. Yet I continued to query that first novel, which desperately needed a re-write. I just didn't know it yet. The rejections continued to pile up for that book. AFTER my crit parters (*waves at Christina, Susan & Weronika*) gave me solid feedback on my fourth novel I queried it. And the requests came in quick - ultimately landing me my agent.

ADVICE: Let other writers you trust read your work and give you feedback. It is crucial.

4. I wish I joined QueryTracker.net earlier. Oh, I used the site frequently but not as a paying member. After joining, a whole new world of information opened up to me and it helped me be very precise as to who I queried and when. That site is just an incredible resource and I can not sing it's praises loud enough. And no, I have no affiliation with them whatsoever. I'm just a lover of what they provide.

ADVICE: I'm thinking it's obvious. Check the site out and you'll see.

5. I wish I didn't compare my query journey to other writers. Yes, I know it's human nature, but it's also extremely unhealthy and seriously gets in the way of success. I wish I'd had the mantra of: This is your journey, not anyone else's. Instead, I did a lot of comparing and boo hoo'ing. I wish I didn't do that.

ADVICE: Do everything in your power not to compare. Every writer is different. Every book is different. Every agent is different. Your query journey is your journey for a reason. Learn from the obstacles put in front of you and don't be distracted from doing so by comparing to others - it gets you no where. Trust me.