“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” Audre Lord
I spent more than a year researching before I wrote one word of The Call. Then I wrote the Prologue in less than an hour. Then some months went by and I began Chapter One. In fits and starts I finished. Some chapters took hours, some weeks. Much is rewritten, all has been edited and reedited to a honed and polished work after critique by my writing partner, my wonderful copywriter sister-in-law, and suggestions by my fellow authors in the Wordsmiths Writers group. But since last June I have languished and avoided finishing my query.
Oh, I researched agents, narrowed down selections, and wrote several versions of letters targeted to those I liked best. And I searched for tips on writing the best queries on blogs, Writer’s Digest, Publisher’s Market, and through Google. I have read innumerable queries that worked and sold the book they were about. But none seemed a match for me or my book. So… I sent nothing.
Query writing is the art of ‘the hook,’ the turn of the catchy phrase for the cover blurb. I have a 374 page manuscript that has to be reduced to a marketable quip that will excite an agent to the possibilities of selling The Call, and interest potential readers enough to buy the book. No small challenge in itself.
A thousand questions arise. What is critical? What can be omitted and still capture the book’s nuances. You see it also has to be more than a sales pitch. In that one page the agent must get the flavor of my writing style. Tough to do. Certainly for me.
My style involves crafting an elegant phrase, but also building excitement and tension for the reader to the “I have to stay up into the night and finish this page, this chapter” kind of read. I have tried to take Stephen King’s suggestions in “On Writing,” very seriously.
And I have one superstition, one fear hanging over my head. My whole life long I have always excelled the very first time I attempted anything. My first backflip was a perfect arc into the water when challenged by someone who said I couldn’t do one. Luckily for me he didn’t stay to watch the next 50 bellyflops. I got the first scholarship I tested for. I got into the first college I sent an application. The first short story I entered into a contest was published. Firsts are where I excel, but it is like I use up every last bit of luck I might have in that first attempt. Then many belly flops remain! So my first query letter looms in importance to me. I need to get it right.
But John Paul Jones once said, “It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win.” Of course he is most famous for saying “I have not yet begun to fight.” I agree with both sentiments.
You might guess that I am a ‘recovering perfectionist’ who learned through writing grants on deadlines that you get to a point where good enough must do. Jones is right. If I don’t send my query, I will never win an agent.
So…..today’s the day. I promise. I am sending it. I think I have found the perfect person…whose self-described interests seem an ideal match for my book and for me. Will my selected first agent “hear the call” in it and ask for more, and fall in love with my book, and….. We’ll see.
Stay tuned….I’ll keep you posted. And I will mumble a prayer not to go down with my ship when I hit send. Anyone have a lucky rabbit’s foot handy?