Thursday, April 5, 2012
The Most Difficult Part
I'm working on a query letter today. A new one, because after I've sent one off to another agency, I realize I'm not at all happy with it and that I should probably pitch my idea in a new way, in a new light, to the next agency. You sell the same book each time, but different agencies request different types of material, so, like a resume, you tailor each letter so that it sounds as fitting as it possibly can. But it's still a guessing game. The most difficult part of this stupid writing fascination of mine is the wondering.
At a dressage show, there was never any wondering. I rode down the center line, saluted the judge, and put my horse through the test pattern, whispering to him under my breath, wincing at the blunders, and by the time we halted again and exited the arena, I had a very good idea of how we'd done. But the proof came in the returned test sheet. The judge - well, her scribe really - had recorded comments beside each movement. Slow behind. Needs more bend through neck. Stiff in corner. Needs more impulsion. And at the end, a summary: pair shows promise. Lovely expression. Rider needs to work on suppling the horse through the more collected movements...etc.
When I submit a manuscript to a literary agency, I compose a letter according to the accepted standard: a quick summary, a catchy line or two, a short description of myself. I make five drafts and I chew my fingernails down to the nub, finally send it off with crossed fingers and...
No feedback of any kind. Most agencies simply do not respond to a project in which they are not interested. And I understand this - they have too many queries and the inbox is backed up. I'm okay with this. I'm even okay with the standard form-letter rejection. Though your idea sounds intriguing, we're afraid this story does not fit our tastes.
But the frustration takes hold when all this non-feedback starts to build up into a mountain of doubt. Was it the letter itself? Did the story concept sound stupid? Did I come across as immature? Is it my lack of credentials? Is it my age? Do they just want vampire stories right now? Should I stop writing altogether?
The only real option is to push the rejected story aside and start writing another. Rinse and repeat when that one meets the same end. I know this is how the business works, so I'm not whining, but as I stare cross-eyed at another query letter, I'm really wishing I could be passionate about accounting instead of writing.