First, I talked to a bunch of people, and read a lot of advice, and decided that getting an agent is a good idea.
Then I did a bunch of research into agents, making my pretty little lists.
Both of those steps were actually kind of fun. Socializing is amusing, and I like research. I get to put those reference librarian skills to use. But then it’s time for the next step. Preparing my query letter.
Query letters are just little one page things that say hi, I’m [author] and I’ve got a [genre] novel of [so many] words sitting right here, wanna see it? That’s easy enough, right? Well, there’s the other part, where you list your writing credits. That part’s not too bad either, at least now that I have a few credits to list.
Problem is, there’s one more thing you have to do in a query letter. Describe the book you’re pitching in a paragraph. Maybe two. That’s the part that makes me want bite through my keyboard.
I churn out dozens of those paragraphs, trying to find some balance between succinct and descriptive, dramatic and informative. It doesn’t help that whenever I’m reading them back to myself, the voice in my head always sounds like the guy who does all those movie previews- In a shattered world, one woman dares to stand against the alien menace from beyond time… CUE EXPLOSIONS.
Then, when I’ve finally beaten the query into something half-decent, I have to do the synopsis. Which is a short (3 pages- maybe) description of the book. Not dramatic this time, oh no, the synopsis advice all agrees on that. Except the ones that don’t, and insist that succinctness must be traded for intensity, otherwise you will seem boring, boring, boring.
Eventually, that gets done too. Now I need to check what each agent actually wants to see from me.
Snail Mail? OK!
Web Form? OK!
Just a query? OK!
Query and synopsis? OK!
Query and first ten pages? Thirty pages? Fifty pages? First chapter? First three? OK! Just let me start slicing up these files…
Query and synopsis and some combination of changes? OK! That, and that, and that…
Query of a certain word length? OK! I’ll just cut that down then…
One page Synopis? Two page? Ten page? OK! So that one gets chopped, that one chopped more, that one stretched…
Once each one gets handcrafted, out the door they are punted. Over the next few weeks and months they’ll come back. Rejections, partial requests (wanting to see part of the novel, usually the first fifty pages) and full requests. Then I get to wait on those.
Waiting, waiting, waiting, and meanwhile, writing, writing, writing. It doesn’t matter if I get an agent or not out of this round, the next book needs to get shoved out of my head, and the next and the next.
Because whether I have an agent, a publisher, or even an audience, the stories keep coming. And they can make a hell of a mess in my head if I don’t regularly throw them out into the world.