Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Querying Agents - When is Your Manuscript Ready?



Querying Agents - When is Your Manuscript Ready?

I drove the long commute to work this morning, pondering this same question. I began to tick off all the additional questions I had learned (and been advised) to ask before tackling the agent querying process.

A few weeks back, I received the final revisions of Violet Storm from my developmental editor, Susan Malone. There was one scene--one element--missing, she'd said. I thought it over, and emphatically agreed. But as I started to read page after page of the manuscript I realized with great dismay, that in the two months I had been away from the book, I had learned many more writing essentials that the piece was seriously lacking. I was a different writer than the writer two months ago, and of course, the writer who began that story almost two years ago.

So I rolled up sleeves and got to work. One week passed, and then another. I had barely made a dent in the revisions. "This is crap!" I'd often hear myself yelling with frustration. Sure, I was being hard on myself, after all Susan loved the book, and my writing. But this was going to be my first published book (or so I'm praying with every fiber of my being), and I didn't want it to suck...logical, right? (Above is a photo of a real edit I did on VS--I use pencil when I edit because I like playing around with the revisions.) 

I quickly sent emails to all my beta readers telling them, "Don't bother reading the MS. I will spare you from wasting your valuable time reading such utter crap."

I was embarrassed.  

The second week, I hit my lowest. You know the feeling...when you begin to ask the really terrible questions like,"Why do I put myself through this? I HAVE a real job...one that pays," or "Why am I even trying so hard?" it starts to hurt when thoughts about "never getting there" take you in a downward spiral of self-doubt--that writers black abyss where it's possible you may never return from.

Thankfully, I'm stubborn, and mostly rational. I'd gotten this far. I wasn't going to throw it all away because I was intimated by the amount of work...and the overwhelming pressure. Weeks passed and I started to feel much better. I refused to give up. Not after all the time, tears, and nightmares I'd endured. So now here I am, feeling marginally better about the "utter crap" I wrote.

 I want to start querying agents. Mind you Violet Storm has been queried before to about nine agents. Two asked for the first ten pages, one of which asked for the next fifty. Another agent asked for the full. They handed my butt to me staked on a red pen--meaning the MS needed some serious editing. Too much exposition, one said. I took that to mean it was boring. 

After doing some serious editing on my own, I decided to work with a developmental editor, enter Susan Malone.

So here we are, on the precipice of querying VS again. And this is what I am asking myself:

1. Have I given enough time away since the last round of major edits? (Minimum of two weeks)

2. Have I created a generous list of well researched agents who are interested in this genre?

3. Is the manuscript at its absolute best? (Ask yourself this question honestly. And I think if the answer is more out of fear, have someone else, trusted folks from your writers group, your dev editor, or beta readers give you an honest answer.) 

I'm going to stop there because I don't have a good answer for any of those questions on VS.
So...I am not ready to query.

What other questions do you ask yourself when thinking about querying an agent?  

4 comments:

  1. I see what you mean about dynamic view. It's pretty, but I think it makes the blog run a little slower than the old fashioned view.

    Ref: agents
    I've changed my focus so I haven't thought about querying agents in a long time. I think the only other question I'd ask myself is what kind of contracts as he signed recently. If you follow Publisher's Weekly you'll get the latest scoop on who's sold what.

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    1. Hi Maria, Thanks for taking a look at the blog! I did notice a bit of a longer delay in loading. Something to consider. I had to look into the "trunkated" view you had mentioned. That was first time I'd heard of anyone mentioning their concerns on it, and I think you have a very valid point!

      As for the agents, thanks for the tips! I will certainly follow Pub Weekly. Thanks again for stopping by!

      Cheers,
      Anna

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  2. Anna-this post is like a healing salve, believe it! Not that I rejoice in the suffering of other writers, but it helps to know that I'm not the only one who takes an occasional plunge into the crapper.

    Are we really rational and objective about our own work? When I read my own stuff, it seems immature, sloppy even. I'm not sure I trust my judgement. I no longer trust my memory, that's for sure.

    As for agents..."Two asked for the first ten pages, one of which asked for the next fifty. Another agent asked for the full." That's almost half the agents you queried showing some interest. I think that's pretty impressive.

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    1. Joseph, I absolutely know what you mean, in knowing that we are not alone in our occasional crap plunging endeavors...LOL

      As for the agents, yes it was very high! Three out of the nine connecting with me was something to be proud of. The idea and pitch of VS was good, but the writing needed tweaking. The query had a lot to do with attracting their interest, which I spent quite a bit of time crafting. Sounds like a future blog post idea!

      Cheers,
      Anna

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