Friday, May 08, 2015

Query Question: withdrawing a query

 Lets say you have sent out a certain number of queries and you're getting a rate of rejection that seems to beg a rewrite (even if its just of the first chapter). Not all agents whom you've queried have responded. 

Is it acceptable to send follow up emails to the remaining queries telling those agents that you would like to withdraw your query before they've reviewed it? (1) 
Would that be looked upon in a negative light? (2) 
Would it make querying those agents again harder? (3)

(1) Yes
(2) No
(3) No

I always want to see your best work. I'd rather you withdraw something if you've had a blinding realization that this isn't the best you can do.

This happens more than you think, and often with requested fulls. I actually have a file folder to store requested fulls that have been withdrawn pending revision and it's almost never empty.

And frankly, this is one of those things I'd rather help you avoid, instead of figuring out how to do correctly.

So, how do you figure out if your work is ready to be queried?

1. Did you let the book sit for at least a month, then go back and read with fresh eyes?
a. no--you're not ready. Do this, then go to 2.
b. yes, go to 2.

2. Have you read the book out loud to yourself?
a. no-you're not ready. Do this, then go to 3.
b. yes, go to 3.

3. Have you looked at each sentence in the book to make sure it is the leanest, most elegant sentence you can write?
a. no-you're not ready. Do this, then go to 4.
b. yes, go to 4

4. Have you asked beta readers, or critique partners to read the book?
a. no-you're not ready. Do this, then go to 5.
b. yes, go to 5.

5. Are the beta readers and/or critique partners enthusiastic about this project?
a. no-you're not ready. Time for a class or an evaluation from an agent at a conference.
b. yes, you're ready.

If you jump the gun, it won't kill you, but honestly you don't need extra rejections in your life. Making sure your work is really ready for the beady eyes of a mercenary agent isn't something you want to rush. And it's really not something you want to think "oh, it's good enough, let's just see what they say."


AJ Blythe said...

*licking peanut butter from my fingers* Did I make the schedule?

Oh, gosh. It's like one of those 'Choose your own adventure' novels... and I always seemed to end up dead.

The fact you keep the withdrawn mss is a little scary. Do you look at them when the resub is done? If not, why keep them?

LynnRodz said...

I think I'm almost ready, but I'm scared. So, I'll go back to #5 and get a few more beta readers before taking that step to query.

LynnRodz said...

Maybe Janet keeps them until the revised ms comes in and then she tosses the old one out. It's easier to keep track of that way.

See, AJ, I told you I'd wait for you so you could be the first to comment today.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

1.Six months to a year
2.Two times, and parts, more.
3.Each and every one, I think.
5.Four, one said it was as good as anything in a bookstore. One said she liked it, she really, really liked it, one said she loved it and one said it would change my life.
6.There is no 6. I think my books are great but what do I know, I’m an essayist.
7. There is no 7 but it's supposed to be a lucky number so I thought I add a 7.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Yes, I'd rather have a critique from a crit partner or beta reader first than a rejection from dream agent(s).

LynnRodz: does it ever feel like it's ready? My story is still so rough I can't imagine being where you're at--almost ready.

AJ Blythe said...

You're a doll, LynnRodz.

Of the list it's number 1 I always have the most trouble with. I know you should sit on it, but patience and I aren't on speaking terms.

LynnRodz said...

Lisa, no it doesn't. (At least, not for me.) I've done steps 1 - 5. I've even recorded each chapter and listened to each one, but when I do a "final" read through I'm still making minor changes. And then a few days later, I'm changing it back to what it was. Aïe, aïe, aïe!

Unknown said...

Printed and tacked to the bulletin board. I'm going to have to start a Shark infested binder.

ICE CREAM! I know my ice creams.

Donnaeve said...

The value of #1 and actually letting it sit longer is a huge eye opener.

I recently re-read my first book after not even touching it for almost three years. I re-read it for certain reasons, but, let me just say this; it was like someone else wrote it. I kid you not. If there is anyway, anyway at all to leave work alone for 30 days like Ms. Janet recommends, it will show you a new ms.

Anyway, as to reading out loud, that's got the same value too. VERY eye opening.

Lynn - if you're doing that, you're almost at that point where you're simply shifting comma's around. It sounds like you're ready. Do it!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Regarding everything on the list, number 2 is the biggest realizer of just how well written you are. The sound of the words absolutely illustrates the flow of what you are trying to say. Out loud is also the best way to pick up on repeated words and phrases.
My dogs love to fall asleep while I read to them.

Matt Adams said...

What Lynn said.

At some point you'e done all you can, and you have to be willing to let it go. Because even after all that -- and when you start getting rejections -- you can't help but revisit things that you'll skitter around and wonder maybe there's a better way of writing what you've already written.

I have a pal who just finished the writing process,a nd now she's into revising. I feel bad telling her how much further she has to go before it's ready -- and I haven't even read her book.

But I do think there's a key point missing from Janet's list, which is that after you've completed the flowchart, you have to be willing to stop. You can make it as good as you can make it, but you'll never make it perfect, so you do have to willing to admit that. Plus, by the time you're through with all that level of editing, you're going to pretty much hate the thing. So tell yourself when you've done all you can do, you're sending it out. That's a key step, too. The willingness to face the rejections.

LynnRodz said...

Donna, I couldn't agree more, with you and Janet, about #1. It's amazing the things you see after leaving your ms alone for a month, even two weeks makes a difference. (AJ, if you can't do a month at least try for two weeks. Lol.)

Matt and Donna, I know, I know, you have to stop sometime, but there's still the dreaded query. I've been working on it (off and on) for over a year and a half and I'm still not satisfied. I can't query until that's ready. (Or am I making excuses for myself? Hmm.)

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Except, you know, when you email AAA fantasy agent who has your full and was very enthusiastic to ask them to hold off because you're revising. Your email glitches and sends them nine emails in less than fifteen minutes and you get a form rejection. Then you weep because cosmic blue shirt and all.

Re my beta readers. They've found places I can cut more, but for the most part I am getting screamed at about cutting too much in my latest word search and destroy project. "It's ok to cut the fat, but you cut the fat, the meat, and the sinew from this scene. You lost Julie's voice completely."

And I noticed I had some scenes that were talking heads because I tried to cut as many dialogue tags as possible, as advised.


*goes off to write picture books*

Anonymous said...

P.S. Don't read Patrick Rothfuss when you're trying to cut words from a fantasy. He just makes you want to linger beautifully in scenes.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Actually Julie, you wrote a picture book yesterday. It was great.

REJourneys said...

Lynn: that's awesome that you record yourself. I would cringe at my voice, but that is a great idea.

Donnaeve: that's how I feel about something I wrote about seven months ago. As part of my job I am writing/editing training material for employees. I'm going back to work on a section now and it's like I took a time machine to an alternate time line. Hopefully I'm a better writer now.

I sat on my novel for a few months, and now I'm sitting on it for, well, until I finish the one I'm working on (at least).

When I read the opening, there is something I don't like, but I can't figure out what it is, so under the butt it goes as I work on other things.

P.S. YES! DOGS! Of course one image was of a dog either in surgery or the vet's because it was really sick. That's not ok and now I'm very depressed.

InkStainedWench said...

From Publisher's Weekly, 2055:

"Inkstainedwench's debut novel, "A Tree Grows in Carkoon," has just been released by RandomHarperMacPenguin&Schuster Books.

"She let the manuscript sit for several years, had it reviewed by critique partners, took classes, and read the book out loud.

"Ms. Wench will not be available for book signings because she died of old age 10 years ago."

Anonymous said...

AJ, you're not supposed to EAT the peanut butter...

Now I need more peanut butter...

I agree with everything above. Reading out loud is most enlightening. Recording your voice is a WONDERFUL idea, Lynn!

During my deletion edit (which I may rename my "Julie" edit for her hilarious comments above), its tradition for me to put the book into a word cloud at the end and see if I made a terrible mistake. If the biggest words in my word cloud are strange or something other than (generally) my characters names... i get to do another edit. It's no science, but it works pretty well for finding the right balance.

Adib Khorram said...

If I remember correctly, Stephen King lets his manuscripts sit for six weeks before he edits them!

I have never had trouble finding the patience to let my manuscript sit for a month. Where I get into trouble is when it comes time to go back. Several times I've started a new project and had a hard time switching gears back to the old one.

Unknown said...

Point 1.5 = while letting ms cool off start a new project.

Point 3.5 = whilst looking at your own sentences take the time to read other books that inspire + teach you.

I'd love to find myself in someone's 501 File.

LynnRodz said...

Sometimes I need to go back over my work/comments and take out commas or put some in.

REJ and Brian, it took some getting use to listening to myself read, but after a few chapters you don't think about it. It's harder than it sounds because your voice gets hoarse rather quickly. I always keep a glass of water next to me. The worst part is when I screw up right toward the end of the chapter and then I say without thinking, "Oh shit!" or "Damn!" and then I have to start all over again. LOL! Thank goodness my chapters are short.

InkStainedWench, could you give us advance warning not to be eating or drinking anything when you write something like that! I know better when I read comments by Julie or Carolynn, but yours came as a surprise and I had to do cleanup duty!

Matt Adams said...

Lynn, if you've been working on the query for 18 months (and following QOTKU's guidelines), it's ready.

If you've read the book out loud and it sounds okay to you, you're ready.

If you've had some betas tell you it's good, you're ready.

This is completely inappropriate and unsolicited advice from a a stranger (or, as Dar Williams put is, the easy courage of your distant friends), but it's time to send it out.

It'll never be perfect, and even if it is, 99.9 percent of the people reading will have a different definition of perfect. There will never be a time when you don't worry there's something you'll want to change, something you should have done differently. That's inevitable and unavoidable. But if you've read and you've edited and you feel like you've done what you can, then you need to get it out. Because right now you're dealing with hypothetical rejections from all the ghosts in your head, and you need to get some by actual people.

So from my chair in Denver, it looks like it's time to dive. C'mon in. The water's fine.

Unknown said...

I have a comment that's completely off topic, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone else so here it goes. Yesterday I googled something about agents asking for exclusive reads and come across a link to Janet's blog from 2006 and there were totally different people commenting! It was like ending up in a parallel universe.

One comment was from Emily St. John Mandel whose book STATION ELEVEN was my favorite book of 2014, so seeing her comment was REALLY COOL! And very helpful.

Clearly Janet has been helping writers since long before I even knew what a query was, and I kind of feel like I should say THANK YOU.

Back to today's topic. Have a great day everyone.

Dena Pawling said...

1. I let this one sit for 6 months while I wrote another one. Then that second one sat while I revised this first one and started a third one. While the first one sat, I had the proverbial blinding revelation and was excited to get back to it and edit/revise.

2. Read it aloud into a tape recorder and then played it back, grimacing at my icky voice. I need to re-think my current career wherein I talk for more than half of every work day. Revised more.

3. Read each sentence until I agreed with Matt and HATED this book. You did notice I used capital letters there, right? Revised more.

4. Had 3 betas and CPs, plus a freelance editor, read it and make suggestions, most of which proved that I'm still a newbie at this writing-fiction gig. Revised more.

5. All 4 persons above thought the concept was excellent and the book was good. Hey, some good news!

All of those steps were eye-opening, but the best ones, at least in my experience, were letting the manuscript sit for the 6 months and having lots of people look at it. The one I hated most was reviewing each sentence.

A few additional people are looking at it right now, and I'm getting some awesome new and different suggestions, so I'm back to revising again. Haven't withdrawn anything yet, and hoping I don't get any more requests for partials/fulls until at least next week or so.

Unknown said...

Actually, the post I mentioned was from 2009.

InkStainedWench said...


I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

*hands Lynn paper towel*

Julie said...

Re: Hating one's book.

There does come a point in the OCD process at which one says, "I CAN'T STAND THIS THING ANY MORE!" and simply wants to throw the entire MS, laptop and all, out the nearest window.

At that point, reading out loud, letting it sit, re-editing, or doing anything more to it - for me - becomes a moot point. Because I simply can't hear anything of the story any more except "Blah, blah, blah, yeah, I know, I know, I'VE READ THIS A MILLION TIMES!"

And then there really isn't anything for it other than to take the next step - whatever that next step is, as long as it does not involve me. Either it needs to go to a beta, or it needs to be queried, but I need it out of my hands.

The trick here is in ensuring that I don't edit so many times before reading out loud or reaching the end of the MS that I hit that point before I finish the end of the "Must Do" list.

In other words, if I edit so much in the first half of the book that I get tired of the book - and I can't stand it - and I haven't read out loud yet - that's a problem. And that happened with the first MS I wrote, and it was excruciating going back to it and plugging my butt into the chair socket and doing what needed to be done in the name of quality; but in the end, I was glad I did, because the last half of the book ended up being better than the first half - that I'd over-edited.

There's a balance in that flow-chart of Queen Shark's.

If one does the first steps too many times - one risks ruining the latter steps. (Or dare I say - the "ladder steps?" :) )

I should also add, lest you think that this all comes about simply as a result of the Manuscript Obsession from which I'm sure we all suffer (? Manumania? No, that would mean "Excitement of the hands." I'll have to think about it.), it actually happens because I seem to have a subconscious need to overwrite my own material, delete my own material, or otherwise have some Microsoft Error causing me to have to go back to previous versions and rewrite them. This results in no end of grey hairs, and my family is very familiar by now with the signs - and they know when to skedaddle and leave me alone, lest they get in the way of the Rising Writer's Tempest.

In this new MS? The one that is actually now becoming interesting to me? The one that was making me yawn a week ago?

I've already lost several thousand words perhaps three times.


That's me.

Put me in a PICU, and I'm fine. I'm great in a trauma; do wonderfully with kids in sepsis.

Stick me with my own manuscript, and I'll overwrite it every time with a previous version.


Off to the library, I'm overdue.


(Today, I'm feeling Knowledgeable and Ready... but not much else. Yesterday was absolutely intolerably awful - we had some really terrible news. Ugh. Ah, well. And I'm firing through the Louise Penny books, so if anyone has the next mystery series I should head for, now's the time to shout it out to me - I like the UK best.)

Mystery Fish

Megan V said...

1. Yes. Two Months.
2. Yes, more than once, and I worry that people on the bus may have feared for their safety...
3. Yes. Although, I'm not sure elegant is always accurate.When I think elegance, I think simple grandeur and sometimes my sentences are a punch in the face. Apt, perhaps, but not elegant.
4. Yes. Several I know, several I don't.
5. Yes! Woo hoo! Of course, being a woodland creature, I worry that my betas and cps simply like the concept and are just being nice.

Love these steps. Will use in the future. Thanks QOTKU.

Colin Smith said...

This is all good advice and I have absolutely nothing to add.

Recording your work then playing it back to listen to it sounds like a great idea too. Except I really don't like the sound of my own voice. Which might come as a surprise to people who know me well enough that I will bend their ears on any number of subjects. (I'm really quiet with people I don't know well). I guess if you like my accent that's some compensation for having to listen to me. But I can't imagine ever being asked to record the audio book versions of my work. That's a job for Morgan Feeman, or Benedict Cumberbatch. :)

Ooo... there's an interesting off-topic question: Who would you like to have reading your audio book?

Colin Smith said...

Oh pshaw!! Morgan Freeman of course. You know who I meant. Just laugh at my typos. Like I said the other day, here I am with my seventies frilly shirt, eighties tie, and mismatched socks.

Unknown said...

Before I read anymore comments, I would like to thank Matt for this; "'re going to pretty much hate the thing."

So true, and it's such a relief to hear someone else say it. I thought I was being a bad parent, because by the time my children were delivered into my arms by the UPS guy, I couldn't stand to even look at them. I made a show of being thrilled but I couldn't wait to get rid of them and finish the next one.

Anonymous said...


Shelby Foote were he still alive for my Civil War book.

Jack Whyte for FAR RIDER, but that's impossible and probably a female would be better. Still, I would gladly snuggle and listen to Jack.

Now, back to work for me being a baby woodland creature and fretting about words.

Flowers McGrath said...


InkStainedWench said...

I'd pay to listen to Shelby Foote read the phone book.

Donnaeve said...

Jenny C, I thought I was the only one who did that! Occasionally Ms. Janet will link to one of her previous posts from "back in the day," and I'll notice the same things...a whole gaggle of others making comments. One name stuck out from a few years back on one of the older posts, John Ol' Chumbucket Baur.

I think I showed up around 2013 or 2012, but I wasn't as consistent. Or maybe I mean as persistent.

LynnRodz said...

Jenny and Donna, I go back to the archives as well and it's interesting to see different names in the comments. I also noticed Colin wasn't as verbose not that long ago. (An observation, Colin, that's all I'm saying.)

Janet has mentioned as well that she records her pitches to editors. (I think it's her pitches, she'll correct me if I'm wrong.)

Matt, diving is not my forte. I've always been afraid of water. When I was a kid, I used to put one foot in at a time in the shallowest part of the pool and stayed where my feet touched the bottom.

I did fall into the Atlantic a few years ago when the boat I was on capsized and I ended up underneath it, but that's an entirely different story. One I prefer not to think about. You may be right, however, it's time to dip my toes in and wiggle them around a bit to see if the water's warm.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem leaving things to sit for awhile. There's always something else to write. Then I come back, and - as others have mentioned - I can read it completely objectively. Since I'm no longer immersed in the dopamine cloud of the writing frenzy, I can read the words for what they are, not as I think they are. So helpful.

Lynn: Yes, you want to have the best query letter you can write... but it's not going to do you any good if you don't start sending it out. My advice would be to send it to the kind Ms Query Shark NOW, to get feedback on it. You can rewrite it again after that using her wisdom as a guide. Then you can send it through again. Time-consuming? Very possibly. But a year and a half is an awfully long time to be writing a business letter.

Julie: I agree with Lisa Bodenheim - your picture book yesterday was darn good. Not that I know much about picture books.

Julia: I've been searching through Word for a way to avoid overwriting files. The only thing I can think of right now is to protect your document each time you finish writing for awhile. What version of Word are you using? If you're using Word 7, you need to make sure you have the Developer tab on top. You may need to check that in the Word properties. Then, any time you finish writing, click on the Developer tab and click on Protect document. Then save it. When you go into that document again, it will be Read Only, so you will have to save it in another document to make any changes. Do you think this might work?

Anonymous said...

Gads, I am not gong in the water. I'm positive someone would drown me. My physical therapist used to drag me to the deep end of the pool after some perfectly harmless story. "Julie Weathers, you're a horrible person. I'm going to drown you now."

Ardenwolfe said...

Yes, indeed, a lot of hopefuls suffer from premature querying. Withdrawing beforehand often solves that issue.


I swear I wasn't trying to make this sound sexual. . . .

Julie said...

@BJ - Perhaps; I update every few days like so: my current project is shorthanded "Kennedy I." So, for example, if I'm working on Ch 16 (as I am right now), I'll save it as "KI Chapter 16 20150508." The only problem is that occasionally (not so occasionally lately), I work quite late.

When this happens, I mistake the "Save As" and the "Open" buttons.

And instead of "Opening" old files - I "Save As" old files.

So my previous files end up being "Saved As" my new file titles - and there I sit, at 2 am, having spent the previous five hours typing...

Wishing to compare what I just wrote to yesterday's work...

And saving YESTERDAY'S work...

As today's.

Et la.

Isn't muscle memory fantastic? In a single double-click, several hours are gone. And no amount of "Ctrl-Z" will fix it.

This is just one example of the many ways in which I have irretrievably lost my work. Last June, I lost twelve chapters of Angylaidd. For me, that's maybe 40,000 words. I didn't speak for a week. I had switched computers. Brought my thumb drive from one computer to another to escape the sturm-und-drang of children who had suddenly been released from school. I retreated to my bedroom and used a computer I hadn't used in weeks.

Unbeknownst to me, the last time I'd shut down, MS Word hadn't shut down properly, and when I started up, there was a dialogue box that said, "Do you wish to save?"

And I clicked "Yes."

And there went my manuscript. Bang.


I ran back to the last computer, thinking it would be there, but in my frazzled state of mind, I somehow took the new "Bang" and it was what opened on the previous computer. I don't know what I did. Must've overwritten what I'd worked on or something. But the twelve chaps were gone.

I'm obsessive with my work. I have it virtually memorized. I save and save and save. And it's not as if I don't know what I wrote. And I type ridiculously quickly. So it's not a matter of not being able to reproduce it. But... twelve chapters. Really.

So anyway. I've taken a rather whimsical view of it at this point, as you can see... and as I've completely FAILED Colin's and Karen's HTML lessons, I'll just put this here:

It demonstrates my current (theoretical) view on the matter. :)

Anyway. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be focusing on Kennedy. Being good and all that.


They-got-my-coffee-wrong-at-McDonald's-this-morning Fish

And why has Captcha decided I'm all numbers all of a sudden? It's all or nothing with that Captcha, I swear. All food, all arrows, all numbers...

Julie said...

@Ardenwolfe - The Agent General does not recommend this method as a means to prevent manuscript rejection.

Scott Sloan said...

I agree emphatically with the letting it sit for a while; and the longer you can let it sit, the better.
My novel sat for about 10 months, while work (the worst job ever) massively interfered.
When I came back to it, it was as if I had written it when I was five. I found it the most infantile, purile, and all other evil things ending in "ile" you can think of.
Terribly embarrassed to have actually had a friend read it.
That we are still friends… well…
As for the recorded version, my narrator is a strongly opinionated old man; so if I'm type-casting, I'll go with James Earle Jones.
If I'm being whimsical, I'd go with Michelle Pfeiffer, or maybe Gwen Stefani!

Julie said...

Ah, let the rejections come flowing in...

Better than no responses at all. :)

Colin Smith said...

Lynn: Like I said, it takes a while for me to get comfortable with people. And if it takes that long in comments (I've been lurking for 3 or 4 years now), imagine how long it takes me IRL! There may be other reasons why I decided I needed to be less reclusive, but I can't think of them at the moment. :)

To answer my own question, my only stipulation about audio books is that the voice actor needs to match the voice and/or setting of the book. If it's a novel set in England with an English MC written by an English author, I want an English narrator (Mr. Cumberbatch would do nicely). If it's a female MC, I want a female narrator. The MC voice is especially important if it's first person.

Karen McCoy said...

1. Yes. Two months after spending a year polishing the second draft.
2. Yes. With each chapter I revise, I incorporate hand edits, print those out, revise, and read aloud before moving on to the next chapter.
3. Yes. This is part of the two-step print out process outlined in #2.
4. Pending. This will be the next step once I get through this round of edits. 71 pages finished so far.
5. Pending. We'll see what they think.

Bookmarking these steps for future reference!

Donnaeve said...

Ardenwolfe, as soon as you used the word premature...for me, sometimes that's all it takes.

One well placed... word.

(Emphasized in case you thought I was going elsewhere with that.)

Anonymous said...

Julia, if you have a Mac you might consider setting up Time Machine and a remote hard drive. It saves your work at regular intervals so you can just pick a date/time and retrieve that version.

Have any of you taken the online self-editing class by Angela James (no relation), Before You Hit Send? James is the Editorial Director at Carina Press and has a boatload of experience. I highly recommend it. I think the mechanics of my writing are pretty strong, but I learned SO much in that class. You can "edit" a story until your brain turns to mush, but if you don't know what you're looking for, you might not even know whether you're improving things or just making a mess. Her site says the next one is in September and it's worth every penny of the fee.

LynnRodz said...

Bj, I've not only followed Janet here, but I've read every single query on QueryShark. Back in March I sent my query to her (on QS) and so far, no go. I've learned a lot from that site, but I'm still not satisfied with my query. (What can I say, I'm a slow learner.) Even though the 120 days aren't up, I'm not holding my breath that she'll pick mine because she says very plainly:

There are no rejections. If your query is not posted within about 120 days, it probably won't be.

This can happen for several reasons: you didn't make any really good mistakes; you made the same mistakes everyone else made; it was so bad I didn't know where to start. Pick the reason that makes you feel best, because that's the real reason.

I didn't pick any on those reasons, I chose these:

The chance your query will be posted is low. There are more than 100 pending queries for each query selected.

It's harder to get a query posted on QueryShark than to get a request for a full, just FYI.

Letting your work sit is good advice for query letters as well. Several times I thought I finally had a good one and then I let it sit for months at a time. When I returned to it, it wasn't as great as I first thought. Anyway, when I say I've been working on it for a year and a half, it's not like I've been working on it everyday. (Thank goodness!) I've probably revised it five or six times in that period of time.

Colin, believe me when I say this community would not be the same if you were still lurking. I'm glad you came out of the verbal closet.

Christina Seine said...

I wrote my first book quickly (less than a year). I shudder to think how awful it is now. Maybe someday I'll be able to look at it again without cringing, and then perhaps I'll find enough salvageable stuff to start the major rewrite it requires. Maybe.

This second WIP feels like it will never be done. I actually thought it was done last summer, but then I went to a conference and had the manuscript professionally critiqued. I'm just now nearing the end of all the major changes I made based on that. The horrible thing about going back and making changes halfway through your MS is that it changes everything. It was worth it, I think. I hope.

I am taking my sweet time with this second book. Not rushing a thing. I remember reading once (and I don't remember who said it) that when you start a book you'd better be prepared to spend the next 4-5 years inside that world. During that honeymoon "I gotta get this out of my head and onto paper FAST" phase, when the creative adrenaline is flowing, that seems easy. When you're two years into a project, spending hours over one little line of dialogue, it's different.

One thing I find really helpful is to upload pages to my Kindle and look at it in a different format. It's amazing how what looks great in MS Word on my PC reads like idiotic dribble on my Kindle.

If I could have anyone read my book aloud, it would be Helen Mirren. Because she could hold the book in one hand and simultaneously repel marauding bears and Ninjas with the other. When I eventually grow up, I want to be her.

Good choice, Colin, on choosing Mr. Cumberbatch. He could read binary code and I'd be riveted.

Unknown said...

I sent my first book off when I was about 17 or so. I was fully convinced it was ready to go. I didn't know how to write a synopsis (didn't really know what it was) and didn't know how to write a cover letter. But they told me to send it in, so I did.

That is the novel I'm nearly finished rewriting now, 10 years later. The idea was definitely good, but the execution was lacking. I did an almost complete rewrite, taking nothing but the base idea, character names, and two of the settings with me.

And this time I'm gonna get feedback before I send it off. And let it sit. And rework and reread until my eyes bleed.

Alex Ivey said...

I had two beta readers comment on the book but their reactions didn't yield much in the way of changes. That seemed completely wrong to me. It was a second draft of my first real novel. How could there be no significant changes?

Now, I've got a few more reading but I still have no group of serious writers reviewing and that is a problem.

But ... I do love the idea of recording yourself reading passages. I'l have to get over the awful sound of my voice in the speakers but perhaps the alien sensation will help. It will be like a different person reading it.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ LynnRodz - Commas! Seems so easy - they're commas for heaven's sake. We learned how to use them in elementary school! But . . . they can be pesky little buggars! Too many, not enough. Obeys 'that' rule but not that one! And what a weird rule to put a comma before the word, too. Many big-time authors do it, but it's still weird to me! To me, it looks like an afterthought.

@ JennyC - What an interesting random tidbit! I've done that before, too, in another arena. "Oh, look, at one time she was a simple woodland creature like me, and now she's a published author with a career writing books!" Very INSPIRING.

Anonymous said...

LynnRodz: I'm sorry if I came across as critical. That wasn't my intention. Chalk it up to pre-coffee brain.

The thing is, if it's the query letter that's holding you back, then you need to get it written. And thinking about how much you have relying on that letter... it's just the wrong thing to do. If you have a critique group, have you passed the query letter past them?

Was it Craig who posted the necessary things in a query letter? If your query letter contains all that, send it out.

And if Ms. Shark doesn't get to your query in the time she gives, think about this: you know all the mistakes writers make, because you've been following the Query Shark blog. So if you made that mistake, you would know it. Somehow, after reading QS, I can't think that there are many she'd get that would be so bad she couldn't tear it apart. Unless the person didn't have a decent control of English (which you obviously do) and didn't have any idea what a query letter is supposed to do (again, you obviously do). Plus, you are one of her woodland creatures. I can't think of any reason she wouldn't critique your letter, unless it were because it's good just the way it is.

And if you want another writer to look over your letter, I'm sure most of the folks here would help. I know I would. Email me at bjmuntain at sasktel dot net (you know how to make it a working addy).

And if any of this helps you get your courage up, I wish you the best of luck. And if it doesn't, then I've failed. :-( Sorry.

I got pizzas this time! No more numbers and letters and arrows for me! But does anyone else click on the sample image? Because I don't. Not at all. Not ever.)

Colin Smith said...

LynnRodz: That's very kind of you. But you know, it takes a village to make a Shark Tank. Or something like that. :)

Christina Seine said...

I think it takes a village to *clean* a Shark Tank. Or maybe it was "to feed a shark, thanks."

Anonymous said...


Send me a copy of your query if you'd like, not that I am a great query critter, but I am fresh eyes. My contact info is on my blog Julieweathers dot com. Click on Contact Julie.

LynnRodz said...

Bj, don't worry, I didn't take it wrong. I'm just saying Janet has so many queries to choose from she has to be selective and I'm sure she picks the ones that are most helpful to most people.

Julie and BJ, thank you so much for your offer to critique my query! I will definitely take you both up on that. Let me go over it one more time (Ha ha!) before I send it out to the two of you.

Thanks again!

Ginger, those commas are pesky!

It's time to eat, grandma.
It's time to eat grandma.

...and it's time for me to go to bed! ('Nite everyone!)

AJ Blythe said...

Colin, I've been lurking since 2009. Was too embarrassed to mention, but you coming out of the closet first got my courage up.

IRL (another for the glossary?) at conferences I flit from hiding in the palms to forcing myself out there. Now that I have friends I meet up with each year it is easier (and thanks to the bazillion volunteer hours I've spent for the writing org - the joys of a cyber world).

I've learnt, though, that you have to make opportunities happen. There aren't many of them in the palms.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

The big 5 on the short list.

Line editing is the hardest. I read a book, Line by Line, written long ago but it still applies.

KD, thanks for that link.

Thursday I rearanged my work space. It looks like a hurricane went through. The main point of the upheaval is to create a comfortable writing space. Lots of shelves in front of me. Now I won't have to haul all the files to the kitchen table and back.

Dena, maybe one of your children could record it for you.