Thursday, 23 August 2012

This query business is queer (but not that way)

If anyone ever tells you writing a query is as easy as baking a pie, they are either delusional or referring to when they were kids playing in the mud.  Remember mud pies - dollops of brown sloppy clay and dirt squashed into little round aluminium pie trays and left in the sun to bake?  Not much to that, is there?  It was just the cleaning up afterwards that was always problematic.

Writing a query is the cleaning up afterwards.  After you've breathed a sigh of relief that the last word is digital ink on a screen, that your characters will leave you in peace (for a while), and that you can finally say "I did it!", what's left to do is carve from the block of already hewn wood that is your manuscript a miniature replica.  Rather like condensing the feel of your entire week into one 'tweet'.

When I discovered yesterday that one of the agents to whom I had sent a partial wasn't grabbed by the query but thought there might have been something of interest behind it, which was why she requested a good-sized chunk of the manuscript, the mood-and-motivation barometer plummeted.  So I wrote to the one of the two agents who had rejected me with a personal touch and begged (nicely) for a glimmer, a smidgeon, DAMMIT any shred of insight into whether it was my writing style that was the problem, or the query.

I didn't expect to receive an answer.  But I did.  Ten lines of wisdom and a link to a query the agent had accepted.  So I've been hacking, tossing, re-wording (pulling out my hair and sighing) until I now have something that looks nothing like my query of the last two weeks (which while it drew a few positive responses, let's face it, was drawing an awful lot of negatives), but is a lot simpler.

Is it any better?  I have no idea.  At least when you clean up after baking mud pies you can see the results.  But sending out a query is like stuffing a message in a bottle and hoping whoever finds it understands what the 80 000 words you've now crammed into 140 actually means.

So.  It's now sailing its way through cybersea to dock in the mailbox of five new lucky agents (plus the one who gave me the feedback - hey, there's nothing like persistence, is there?).  The 'no, not interested' replies tend to arrive very fast (there's always an exception to the rule), so by about the end of November I'll know whether this time I've nailed it.

All of which makes the latest email I received a few minutes ago rather ironic - an Australian imprint has just asked for the full manuscript.  And here I've been editing a query all day instead of the book.

*runs screaming from the room*


  1. Next Oprah's people will be booking your guest appearance! :-)

  2. Oh absolutely. Just not because of my scribblings :D.