Query letter

Comfort and Screw Ups

Fire shrimp

Fire shrimp

New tank occupant, I’ll call her Celia because I like that name.  Shy and nervous, she spends her days upside down behind a rock.  I asked her to make room for me this morning, but she ignored me, didn’t so much as wave her antennae in my direction.

In my mind, I’ve been working on a blog post about Ferguson, the need to keep this conversation going.  I thought I would sit and write it today, but then this morning I went over my files for Astonishing, to see if there’s anything/one I should be following up with.  Yah. Don’t know if I mentioned it here, but in a moment of I have to try something, I sent a query to a small press a few months ago.  This small press promises a fast response, I hadn’t heard anything, so I pulled up my original email/query to them and found…

…a request for a full from the editor.  In my “junk” folder.  From a month ago.

“You screwed it up, Bobby Terry!”  Does anyone else have random quotes from novels that have stayed with them forever?  That one is from Stephen King’s The Stand, right before Bobby Terry is flayed and flambeed by Randall Flagg– the Dark Man.

Get a grip, Mrs Fringe.  No evil being is waiting to fly across the desert and eat me because I missed an email that was caught in my spam filter.  If any one of my writer friends came to me melting down about this, I’d reassure them that it happens, in the world of publishing a month’s lapse is not even a blink, any editor/agent/professional will understand. This is nothing in the days of being a wannabe.  This is less than nothing in the face of Ferguson, what the verdict represents and the false focus of so much of our media.

Still, I decided comfort food was in order.  How about if I make grilled cheese for dinner, kiddos?  This, of course, meant I went to Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  Clearly I was punishing myself for not checking that fucking junk mail folder regularly enough.  And why buy 10 items when you can buy 11 and stand on the slower line?

I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?

I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?

What Cannot Be Controlled

Still life of the unpubbed life.

Still life of the unpubbed life.

Is there a 12 step meeting for queriers?  Except I’m not really querying now, just waiting for responses on requested material.

Every afternoon, when it’s 6PM and I don’t have any responses in my inbox, I think, “Tonight after Art Child goes to bed I’m going to have a drink, so I will relax and remember only that it’s out of my control at this point.”  I even bought lemonade to go with the gin. Instead, by the time I would do this, I walk the beasts, have my 8000th cup of coffee or tea and go to sleep.  Art Child and Nerd Child have enjoyed the virgin lemonade.

The other day a comment was made by someone on the writers’ forum, to the effect of if the manuscript is good enough and the query letter is good enough, you only need one agent to request…if that agent rejects, the manuscript isn’t good enough.  The type of comment that always makes me freaking nuts. a) It reeks of sanctimonious superiority, and b) it isn’t true.  There are many reasons why a manuscript can be rejected, and not all of them have to do with the writing/story. I didn’t respond to the post, because I know I’m feeling overly sensitive right now as I wait for replies, and didn’t trust myself to do more than splutter.

I was thinking about this yesterday, when I walked past a local church and saw several people waiting to go in the side door.  I assumed for a 12 step meeting, but it could have been Bingo. Or something.  Anyway, it had me thinking about the whole Let Go and Let God approach to what’s out of our control.

Step 12.  Oh 12.  That’s the spiritual awakening.  What is the equivalent of the spiritual awakening here?  It could be an offer of rep, but it could also be the acceptance of when it’s time to trunk the manuscript and move on.  Maybe it’s the (to me) mythical ideal of writing only for oneself, being satisfied with or without validation. Damn. I’m gonna be asleep forever.  Spiritual coma?

To decide to write a book, to do so, to tell people you’re doing it…all of this requires not just a leap of faith but big brass ones.  To query, well, that means polishing them up to put them on display.  But then once the work is out, humility.

For the moment, I will contemplate cleaning the bathroom, and decide what to cook with the goodies I bought at the farmer’s market this morning.  And blast the iPod.  Nerd Child always has interesting new (to me) music.


Poetic Meltdown

Shooting for the Moon

Shooting for the Moon, but not quite focused

I’ve been trying to get a good photo of the moon from my terrace.  As yet unsuccessful, but still trying.  I took a few  shots last night and when I was uploading them today, I realized that in some ways this photo nails what I’ve been feeling and thinking these last several days.  A little further away than I’d like, not as sharp as I’d like, out and visible just a little too early.

Writing, working on the WIP.  I’m getting close to the end, but it still feels very far away.  Further than it actually is.  And I’m antsy about it.  But if I’m honest, I’m also totally and completely excited.  So I’m doing exactly what you aren’t supposed to do, obsessing over my belief that this is the ONE.

I believe it, and I shouldn’t.  It’s good.  I think it’s really good.  I think it’s good enough to happen.  But is it marketable?  Is it marketable enough?  I fucking hope so, but I’m not an agent or a publisher.  And it’s magical realism, a genre that makes most people say “huh?” when I mention it.  Umm, surrealist fiction, sort of.  The conversation only gets more jumbled when the other person asks what it’s like, and the only authors I can think of who are known for magical realism are authors no one of the unwashed and unpublished persuasion should ever compare themselves to.  Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez?  Isabel Allende?  Salman Rushdie?  Paulo Coelho?  Toni Morrison?  Umm, it’s weird.  *I am not trying to suggest my writing is up there with the aforementioned authors.  It’s the style/sub-genre of literary fiction.

I should be cool.  Tattoo all the stats and odds against me across my forehead while I continue writing and face a mirror, and know that this might or might not be the ONE.  In the interest of balancing reality and dreams, I’ve been working on the query letter.  Another shouldn’t.  This one–I shouldn’t hate query letters.  They’re a tool, one of a few used to catch an agent’s eye.  But I do hate them, because I’m not very good at them, and so I figured it would be a good idea to start working on this well in advance of sending any out.  Less pressure.  But really, looking at a blank document and typing “Query” across the top, all I want to say is this:

Pretty sure that would be the ultimate cliche.  Would that change it from cliche to kitsch?  Hmmm.  I’ve been getting some feedback–questions and thoughts–from several excellent, skilled query writers.  I really want to stomp my feet and say well fine, you write it for me. Except a) that isn’t cool, and b) I would be even less happy with what any of them wrote than with what I come up with.  I have no doubts what they came up with would be enticing and fantabulous, but it wouldn’t sound like my “voice,”  or capture the tone in Astonishing.

Queries are always tricky beasts, and I’m having a particularly tough time capturing the right notes in this one.  One thing keeps sticking in my head.  I already tortured my buddy kk whining about this.  I can’t whine to Husband, his response is “just write, you lunatic you.”  OK, he doesn’t actually say that last part, but I can see him thinking it.

Your turn, Fringelings!   A couple of people used the word “poetic” in reference to what I wrote in the query–and I know that I still haven’t hit the right note.  Poetic sounds suspiciously like a polite substitute for “purple.”  For any readers who aren’t writers, “purple prose” is the phrase for overwritten, melodramatic scenes, usually stated with a sneer.  The manuscript is not purple.  Descriptive, but not purple.  I’ve been happy with the feedback I’ve received so far on Astonishing itself, and much of my feeling pleased centers around a few readers using terms like “clear,” and “clarity.”  (And squirm, but that’s a Mrs Fringe thing, I love it when a reader really feels the scene, mwahahaha)  Clarity is important in any writing, but when I’m writing lit fic, it’s probably the biggest compliment I could receive.

I wrote poetry a million years ago, in my angsty teen years.  In my mind I was Anne Sexton.  In reality, I was more like Patti Smith circa 1977 at the end of a show, angry and sweaty and wanting to make. my. fucking. point.

I’m nervous.  Because I do believe Astonishing is The Right One, at the Right Time, written with the Right Words.  God knows I spend hours reading and rereading and taking out the Wrong Words.

Dear Agent,

Please read my manuscript.  It’s better than my query.

Thank you,

Mrs Fringe

Anne Sexton

Cover of Anne Sexton

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And Then

The Story Thus Far

The Story Thus Far (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revision hell actually hasn’t been too hellish.  Once a few things clicked, I was rolling.

When you think you can breathe a sigh of relief, you have to write a query letter.  And a synopsis.  Cue young Jamie Lee Curtis scream here.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the final g...

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the final girl of Halloween. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For my non-writer fringelings, a query letter is an introductory letter to an agent or editor, giving a very brief snapshot of your book in the hopes of enticing them to request the full manuscript.  A synopsis is kind of like a book report on the story, hitting the major conflicts, plot twists, and how the story ends.  Some describe it as the way you’d tell the story to a friend.  Some agents want a synopsis along with the query letter and sample pages, some want it if they request material, some don’t ask for it at all.  But you have to be prepared before you begin the querying process, so you’re ready to send everything requested (hopefully, see? I’m being positive) and not find yourself sitting in a puddle of tears trying to get it together and sent off before the agent decides your story really didn’t sound that interesting after all.  Or it’s still interesting, but you took too long, and they just signed two other new authors, their list is full.  Or, or, or.

English: Rejection

English: Rejection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have written and rewritten my query letter.  Actually, I’ve rewritten it about twelve times, and I think it might work now.  Time to work on the synopsis.   Shoot me, please.  It sounds so easy.  Tell the damned story.  Mmm hmm.  But trying to distill it into 500-1000 words, keep it clear, concise, interesting, not include every last detail but not omit anything that is important to the flow?  Here’s the thing, when you write a novel, you’re trying to make sure that every scene, every character, every detail raises the stakes, adds to the story.  Now figure out which of those all important and all contributing scenes and characters don’t actually need to be in the synopsis.

Just because you can write poetry doesn’t mean you can write an epic fantasy novel.  You might be able to write historical romance but not be able to pull off a picture book.  I occasionally have fun writing limericks.  Great for giggles, but with an editorial–or a serious reader’s–eye, they suck. I would never try to get them published, or showcase them to illustrate my writing.  Query and synopsis writing involve a different skill set than writing a manuscript.  Ready for the conflict?  Mrs Fringe has a completed manuscript and she’d like to find a literary agent.  To do so, she has to send competent, engaging query letters and possibly synopsis (synopsi?) to agents who seem like they might be a good fit for Mrs Fringe and said manuscript.

Today’s attempt at a synopsis left me ready to send a form rejection to myself, and scrawl a big fat YAWN across the top in red pen.

They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!

They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)