Well ladies and gentlemen, the time has arrived where I have begun work on my actual query letter. The superbly talented editor Ellen Brock has graciously agreed to help me polish this bad boy until it shines so brightly, everyone who reads it will have to wear sunglasses! Now that you have that wonderfully light image in your head, we can move forward into the darker times of this process.
I can say, without a doubt, this has been the hardest thing for me to write thus far. A query letter expects so much of you in such a small space, it has been very difficult for me. I am so grateful for Ellen, she has been patient and helpful through all of it. We aren’t done yet but I have no doubt she will continue to give the same skillful service until the end. We are on draft three and I am still in need of some drastic rewrites. If you read the interview I did with her here on my blog (and I highly recommend you do that Ellen Brock Interview) you read what she said about one of the hardest parts of her job. She said it was telling an author that they needed a lot of re-writing. I know after she told me (gracefully and tactfully) that I needed yet another re-write, I felt like crying. It’s extremely hard pouring yourself into something and hearing that it’s not good enough.
Those who think that writing is easy, or that it isn’t “work,” you need to be paying attention here because both those assumptions are false! A good writer agonizes over their plot lines and character developments and dialogue authenticity. They call or text their friends at random hours asking them if something sounds right, or if they need to bounce ideas off them, or if they just need some encouragement to not give up. It’s days, weeks, months, years working on one story. All that time, effort, and tears spent in pursuit of something without much validation. Then you give it to a critique partner or an editor only to hear that you need a lot more work. It can be devastating.
Now I know I’m just having my query letter edited right now, but if you look back through my blog posts you’ll see, I’ve spent months researching this. I’ve spent months thinking and planning and jotting down notes. I’ve spent months working on the body of my letter and my synopsis. There has been a lot of work and emotional equity poured into this. It’s not something I have just whipped together. So every time I turn in a new draft and every time I hear back that I need more revisions, I feel like I die a little inside. It is a tough business. I’m not writing this for you to feel sorry for me (well maybe just a little) I’m writing this to give you a real glimpse behind the scenes of what it’s like to write and publish a book series. Ellen doesn’t sugar coat it (and I love her for that) and I won’t either. It can be downright painful to go through this experience.
BUT here is where I want you to listen to me. If you are a writer, this is not the time to give up. This is the time to tighten that armor, polish your shield and water your mighty steed. It will feel like a battle, it will feel like you are preparing for war. And I think that’s a good analogy. But you need to remember who your enemy isn’t. It isn’t your editor. Your editor is the warrior fighting beside you. They have agreed to take up their sword and cut out every bad cliché, any aimless meandering words, all the subpar sentences. It may be difficult to hear what they have to say, but they are there to make sure you win the war. They are there to help you slay your ill-written dragons. Learn as much as you can from the advice they give you. Your war is against bad writing and their suggestions are one of the strongest weapons in your arsenal.
So I will continue to fight the good fight. I will shed my tears of frustration but then I will move on and work even harder. I will not stop until I have won my war and I will remember those who have fought beside me. This includes each of you reading this now. You’re faithful reading and encouraging comments help keep me going when I don’t feel like trying anymore. Each week you give me something to look forward to. The chance to reach out and connect with you means so much to me.
Now before I go, you may be wondering why I didn’t mention anything about what to do when a critique partner or editor has issues with a creative decision you made. Some of the critiques you will receive will be about things that are a difference of opinion. The person offering you suggestions might not like certain things about your story. I purposely didn’t talk about this in-depth because this involves choices you will have to make for yourself. You will have to determine how much weight to give to the opinion of the person offering you advice. If it’s a knowledgeable and experienced editor/critique partner, they should receive more consideration than Joe-Schmoe down the street who reads occasionally for fun. You need to use your own judgment in these situations and do what you think is best. In the end it is your writing so you get the final say because the consequences of your decision are all on you.
Writing something worth reading takes time and a lot of hard work. It’s not something to be done lightly and if you’re not willing to fight for it, then this probably isn’t the path for you. Just remember, constructive critiquing may be hard to hear, but it is essential for creating a good manuscript. You’re going to need a thick skin. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel sad or frustrated, I’m saying that you shouldn’t quit because you feel sad and frustrated. Keep going, the world is waiting for your story. It’s up to you to make it the best it can be.