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March 21, 2013 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Preparing to Query

A while ago my novel, Speaksong, reached what I suppose I can call it’s “ending” (it has altered, lengthened and shortened since then, hence the quotes). Since that sort of happened two years ago I have been working with mentors and friends to edit, rewrite, delve deeper, and rip it apart to put it back together again a hundred different ways. Now, after all of that work and rereading my opening chapters quite probably a couple hundred times, I’m easing into what I’ve only imagined doing — sending my novel out.

Peanuts Snoopy Writer

So I’m not entirely new to sending my writing out. A few years ago I shopped an older novel around, to an obviously huge lack of success, after which I started Speaksong and went to writing school. Still, I know there are a few things I have to be ready for before I start stuffing my manuscript into envelopes. First of all, I have to make sure it is as good as I can possibly make it. After graduation I spent a couple hours most days rereading my work, finishing some rewrites and figuring out what to cut until my eyes started to cross and I couldn’t think of anything anymore. That’s when I emailed some of my friends, promising future favors if they would read my thing and tell me what the heck was still wrong with it, because there is always something still wrong with it. While I’m still waiting for a response from one out of the three, the advice I received from the other two CPs has helped me to fix some plotting problems and give me specific issues to sniff out as I make my way through reading the novel again (and probably a couple more times after that).

Next, I need to find agents and editors to send my novel to. I already have a couple in mind, thanks to short meetings Lesley University was kind enough to set up at the end of a couple of residencies. But I obviously need more than two, so I need to get to researching. I already have a copy of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market with a few scribbled in notes, but I need to really look these places up to make sure that my book would actually fit in, or fill a niche, before I just send my work out blindly. But, if I focus, I feel like I can get myself organized and figure out a plan.

I also need to actually write my query letters, which I’m not always the best at. I always feel that I sound stiff, and not all that interesting, when write a cover letter, so this may be something else that I’ll need to have people look at and help me with before I send things out. (Once again, I can hopefully rely on that community of writers to lend a hand.)

But the biggest thing, I think, is that I need to feel like I’m ready. I have confidence in my work, which is probably a good thing, but what also is boosting me toward readiness is realizing that others have confidence, too. One of my CPs told me that she thinks this is ready to go, and my own mother, who is reading it to read it, not necessarily to give advice, told she can’t put it down — and I know, she’s my mom, she’s supposed to tell me I’m special and awesome at what I do, but still, that made me feel really, really good, like maybe I actually am ready to do this.

So, fellow writers, what do you think: am I missing anything as I get prepared? Did you (or do you) have trouble building up the right amount of confidence to send out your manuscript? And, seriously, any advice on writing a query letter?

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