children's writer

What I Wish I Knew Before Querying

Dec 14, 2015

While I still consider myself a baby writer, it's no secret. I've been in the query trenches quite a few times. Yes, I could probably cover my walls with the amount of queries I've sent on projects. While some projects did better than others, I made all of the mistakes writers warn about. Today I'd like to share what I wish I knew before hitting send. Some of them are quite obvious.

1. A GREAT PREMISE TRUMPS ALL

We put so much work into writing and editing our novels, making sure every word is just right. We put equally the same amount of time into our queries, making sure that the tone is just right. What I wished I knew before I started sending them out is no matter how well you think you've edited your novel, how hooky your opening pages are or how wonderful the voice is, if your premise isn't equally as wonderful it might not go anywhere at all. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and I've learned that just because I got an idea that excited me for a moment that doesn't mean it should be written. Take your time with your ideas, let them marinate for a while. Make sure that they're actually viable and can carry the weight of a novel.

2. KNOW WHEN TO LET IT GO

I got quite obsessed once with one particular book, telling myself that I wasn't going to give up until I sent at least one hundred queries. I would send them out in batches of five through ten every few weeks or every month. Don't get me wrong, I didn't send the same exact query to all those agents. I had maybe several versions of this query, thinking that my original one was the only thing wrong with my submission. And when just editing the query didn't work, I edited the first few pages. This was probably my most tiresome stint in the query trenches. I wanted it so bad that I refused to acknowledge that the story just wasn't working and probably needed to be rewritten with a stronger hook. Moral of the story: listen to your gut or all of those rejections.

3. THERE MAY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR PLOT AFTER ALL

Writing a query is a great way to see if those plot points are actually working. Sometimes when we're having a difficult time making our query sound compelling it might be because the story isn't compelling. I've experienced this before, and completely ignored it because I wanted to be out there with those other writers getting those requests and revise and resubmits. I wanted the bragging rights. Don't ignore this you guys. I learned the hard way.

4. IT'S OKAY IF ONE PARTICULAR BOOK ISN'T THE ONE

I know it hurts, but when you're down in the pit and all you're getting are rejections sometimes you have to suck it up and put that novel away. It doesn't have to be forever. You could always come back to it with fresh eyes later. I know how badly a lot of us want someone to say yes, but if something isn't working then it isn't working. There will be other stories and those stories will probably be better written because of all you've learned while writing the first book. It's quite hard not to compare ourselves to others, but I strongly believe that everything happens in its own time when it's meant to. Don't compare your journey to someone else's. It doesn't help. Just because that one person signed with your dream agent it doesn't mean you're meant to but it doesn't mean you won't eventually either. Go forth into your next story with all you've learned while writing, editing and querying. As C.S. Lewis said, "Courage, dear heart."


 What have you learned in the query trenches? Did any of these resonate with you?
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