My bursa are bubbling and burning red but I am finally finished my “final” edit.

The third draft is only 1,215 words longer than the second so I am pleased with the outcome. I managed to address a few continuity problems (always a concern when dealing with time-travel) and conducted an adverb genocide.

After the adverbs, I went on a killing spree of all the nodders. There are still a few people performing silent confirmations but they proved quite difficult to kill. (I’ll revisit them with fresh eyes once they’ve let their guard down.)

I also killed a lot of commas. Maybe too many.

We used to get along smashingly, the comma and I. I used it frequently and at times even to excess. The preceding sentence would definitely have had two commas and maybe even three if I was feeling so wild. But the comma and I had a falling out. I’m not sure when or why and I don’t care to point fingers but I’ve decided to put some distance between us.

However… it is a YA book so perhaps I’ll need to sneak a few back in to satisfy the pedantic. 

This one will be sent off to agents. Let the queries begin.

One of the agents I queried required a query (what a mouthful) follow a very specific format, so I found myself copy and pasting lines from my synopsis.

After reading and re-reading the query, to ensure it ticked all the boxes, I realized this letter sounded better than my synopsis. Therefore, I was soon copy and pasting lines from my letter into my synopsis.

I deleted a few words. Then I deleted a few more.

Feeling like I was at the controls of a power juicer, I watched pulp fly from my synopsis as it went from 477 to 456, ultimately resting at 282 words.

I look back at that first synopsis and shudder.

Apologies for all the juice analogies.

It’s been a long road so far, but I feel like I’ve just pulled out of the driveway.

After polishing my first three chapters, drafting my synopsis, fine-tuning and personalizing each query letter, researching and selecting the most suitable agents, I sent off half as many queries as intended. The goal was six, so three more to go.

Reading comments on Query Tracker is helpful, as they give a good idea of what to expect in terms of rejection content and turnaround. If I hadn’t read the comments, I may have felt a little defeated when my first rejection came just 10 hours after I sent it.

So, armed with that tired adage of “every no is one step closer to a yes”, the rejection didn’t feel good, but it felt like something. Each hurdle, no matter how big or small, feels one step closer to being (I loathe the term) a “real” writer.

After all, it’s better to be a little known writer than to forever lament how “I always wanted to write”.

I’ve been researching/querying literary agents for the past few days, putting in around 20 hours total so far.

The (p)research I did, reading everything I could on finding and choosing an agent, didn’t make it sound simple, but didn’t prepare me for this. Maybe I’m putting too much thought into it, being too discriminating, but I don’t think so.

One common sentiment I saw often was that choosing your agent is a lot like choosing your spouse. (It should also be noted that’s a two-way street.) But perhaps the quote I like most, doesn’t come from the myriad of sites and blogs and tweets about writing and publishing.

It comes from an article about sniping defenseless animals in the wild.

I’m in no way suggesting anyone start shooting agents (unless it’s with a water pistol full of champagne while celebrating a book deal). After all, I just got started in this. But just toss the word agent in front of the quote, and it sums up everything I’ve been learning quite nicely.

(Agent) Hunting requires research, patience, flexibility–and a willingness to fail.

It couldn’t be truer. A few days ago, I decided to start my first batch of queries by contacting a half-dozen agents. I would aim high, personalize each query, and send them off.  Apparently not learning from my experience thus far, I naively thought: “This shouldn’t take long.”

Even so, I decided to give myself ample time, planning to send (only) two queries a day. Perfect. I’d have six queries sent off by the weekend. 20 hours later… I’ve sent two queries. One yesterday and one today.

Getting back to the hunting quote, the 20 hours are the result of research, and it is definitely requiring patience (and persistence). I’m sure quite soon I’ll encounter flexibility. And I’m counting the days until I get that first rejection!

That should test my willingness to fail.

If the world can’t even agree on universal units of measurement, the shape of power outlets, or how to spell wi-fi, why would literary agents agree on a standard submission format? It stands to reason they differ on what they want. Some ask for the first chapter, some ask for the first three, while others ask for none. Some want a synopsis, some don’t. But they also differ on how they want it, so there is no single answer. The only thing people seem to agree on is 12pt Times New Roman.

Now that I had my “final” draft ready, my query written, the synopsis painstakingly crafted, and a few agents researched, I was ready to send my submission. Still, it was best to take a few minutes to double-check standard formatting rules. This shouldn’t take long.

Reading endless articles and posts about what agents consider ideal, I came across:

“The ideal emailed submission includes… a covering letter, with a synopsis and the first three chapters attached as two separate files.”

“Your safest bet is to include sample pages in the body of the e-mail, under your closing line several spaces.”

“Don’t send attachments. Links to a website [URLs] are ok.”

Remove all [URLs] links to websites.”

“In a day and age when gender is no longer binary… the safe and courteous way to address the agent is:” Dear Jane Smith.

“Dear Ms. (or Mr.) Last name COLON. No first names, no nicknames.”

“Simply use the first and last name.”

It goes on, and on, and on… so I won’t.

Everyone agrees that your manuscript must be double-spaced. But what about if pasting it into the body of the email?

Yes, it should be double-spaced. But also, no, it should really be single-spaced. Double-spaced is easier to read on devices, but also, single-spaced is easier to read on devices.

Awesome.

Eight hours later I was ready to send my first query.

 

As noted in the previous post, writing a synopsis of your novel after it’s written, is a painful, miserable exercise, it is nevertheless a valuable exercise.

Squeezing 130,000 words down to a few hundred was no simple task, but I must say I’m glad to have done it. And I (humbly) think my synopsis turned out okay. I was content.

Then I pulled out my map, to see where I was heading next, and that contentment came to an end.

The first paragraph of the query letter doesn’t sound so bad. I should simply tell the agent why I’m contacting them. The third paragraph doesn’t sound too bad either. Talk a bit about myself. It’s that middle paragraph that sounds like a real bastard.

In a sentence or two, describe my book. 

Basically, squeeze that synopsis until nothing remains but 50 or so words.

I have a feeling by the time I get to the of this journey, I’ll just be writing private eye solves murder.