Query Rejection Party

Thanks to Laura Stanfill for bringing me out of hiding.  I often forget how tough it is to practice my craft and pursue publishing hopes while trying to raise four kids.  Having some response rejection to my recent equeries has really helped to put some things in perspective for me.  I do work as a paralegal from home, and the end of the month is an extremely stressful time in industry which has sadly taken much of my efforts lately.  Add that to the end of the grading period for my school aged kids, bills, and life?  Well…it leaves little room for reflection and figuring out how to fine tune any literary skills I think I have.   Life is a balancing act?  Half right.  Most of the time in my four walls, it’s a balance of chaos with no harmony to be found.  I tend to resent the word ‘balance’ since I have no concept of what it actually means.   The rest of the time I’m just trying to make sure my kids are clean, responsible, productive, and well-informed members of my community that think for themselves without having knee jerk responses to fear and propaganda.  So sure, there’s balance there…I guess.

I have had three responses to my three paragraph e-query (I sent 10, and only queries, no synopsis), and they have all been rejections.  Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, and put some effort into work (the one that actually pays money) and disengage from my characters for a bit, I realized that this was exactly what I needed to understand that my pitch was wrong.  I had been writing nonstop, then editing nonstop… then putting together the query, then, then…  I needed to step away.  It doesn’t really matter how well the book is written if the interest isn’t sparked enough to get a request for more.  So, I embraced my ‘real’ job and took any chance free time to reflect on my plot, my characters, how I was going to enrich both, and pitch my book to the next round of agents.  That being said, I don’t think I’ll go the e-query route next time. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually glad that I got responses (and they were even addressed to me) so this tells me that someone at least opened the email.  I don’t know how much they read, but they at least took the time to respond.  So, keeping in tune with the Lemonade from Lemons mantra in my house, I took it as a good sign – or rather, I forced myself to find the good, and rejoiced.   Next time around (after having some feedback from people who have read my first 3 chapters, the synopsis and the query) I need to approach agents that want more than the query, because to those readers – the query wasn’t enough.  For this project, I’ll have to agree… environment and waste notwithstanding.  If the query was at least read and responded to electronically (and anonimously… for both agent and author), then perhaps packaged correctly and marketed to the right agent was sorely, and obviously overlooked.  Speaking of agents, I found that I boxed myself into a corner with the genre I was soliciting (despite any specific admiration for the agents I queried and my novel’s inclusion criteria).  Apparently, I left off a rather huge aspect of my entire story that I simply hadn’t noticed was there (did I just say that?  how long have I been writing this thing?) until my editor gently guided me to a higher concept.  The result?   It’s time to read my novel again, and perhaps bring out the red pen.  I may not use it, but I do need to read it again.  When I feel as good as I did 4 weeks ago – I’ll work on packaging 10 snail mail queries and I’ll start this lovely process of angst all over again.  I’m quite sure my attachment to the queries the next time around will be significantly different.

Dealing With Writer’s Block

**** UPDATE ****  I tweaked this post a little bit, added a few more tips and published it on Ezine.  It’s official, I am a published writer.  (Who cares if I didn’t get a dime?)

It happens to all of us.  You stare at your keyboard and read the same sentence ten times, trying to fine tune so it strings together fluidly and matches the elaborate scene in your head.  In the end, you have tortured the English language, and now you have the shanks. Here are a few things that get my neurons firing again:

1.  Step away from the computer and go get something to eat.  You would be surprised at how poorly your brain functions without the right nutrients.  It’s a nice distraction that you can turn into a character development exercise by imagining what some of your characters might choose to eat.

2.  Do some housework. Mindless tasks are extremely therapeutic.  Shuffle some laundry around and pick up items that are out of place.  Sometimes a disheveled environment sneaks its way into your mind and tangles your thoughts.  If your house is clean, then choose a closet to unclutter. Organizational tasks become very subliminal for me, and it’s worth a shot.  You could also go outside.  It might sound insane, but my favorite appliance is a leaf blower.  I rather enjoy the immediate satisfaction of blowing away the debris making a mess on my front or back porch.   You could parallel it to your cluttered mind… it really works for me and I have calloused both hands from using it so much.

3.  Play some music.  Music can put you in any number of moods, so choose to your specific block (ie. romance, choose something romantic and so forth).  You could also opt for classical, my preference is piano.   The pure sound of the keys have a profound effect on my thought process and I don’t get caught up in the lyrics, which can sometimes be distracting.

4.  Do some writing exercises.  Write in different narrative modes and from different character points of view.  I’ve learned a difficult lesson with my first novel, and it’s resulted in rejection from the only agent I’ve queried thus far.  If you can’t articulate the voice of your novel and its concept, then you’ll have difficulty hooking an agent that will ultimately believe in your manuscript the same way that you do.  It’s not enough to have a good story.

5.  Start over from the beginning, and edit.  Editing is probably the easiest thing you can do to find a way back into your story.  The more you read what you’ve written, the easier it is to find the voice of your story and see what is working, and what isn’t.  If this doesn’t work, then you need to shut down your computer and step away from your manuscript for a few days.  Sometimes you get so close to your characters that you can no longer tell your story.

6.  Fix something. If you life in a house as old as mine, then there is always something to either renovate or repair.  So do it.  Taking your mind through a practical troubleshooting exercise can expand into your subconscious mind and allow you to connect dots that you previously could not.

I’m always open to suggestions too, so if anyone has something that works well for them, I’d be interested in hearing it.