I’ve said this before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll probably say this at least a hundred times again: when people tell you how hard querying a novel is believe them.
I didn’t at all. And this time my assumption only made an ass out of me.
How can writing a one-page letter be as hard or harder than writing a two hundred and something page novel? Why can’t people just commit to sending out one letter a day (or at least one a week)?
These are the questions I asked myself while reading the posts other writers have written about the querying process. These posts – the ones I used to judge – are now my life jackets in the sea of query confusion.
You can say writing is writing until you are blue in the face, but querying takes a completely different set of skills than writing a novel. It also takes a very different mindset, and the effects of this shift from a creative perspective to a commercial one can be jarring.
While I was writing Dreamers I filled myself with unending optimism about the story to get through writing the many drafts it took to feel finished. I was thinking about an audience and gathering feedback from friends and writing partners, but I didn’t let myself doubt that the story was worth my time to write. It was an idea that sustained me for almost three years. Some of my happiest moments in life were alone writing these characters and coming up with the plot.
I’ve lost a lot of that optimism sending out query letters. Long term I think this will be great for my writing, but short term it is playing havoc on my self-esteem.
Because when I get a rejection, I have no idea what I should be changing as I send out more letters. It could be my letter, my synopsis, my writing, or the whole idea of the novel. I wonder if there is a better way to research agents. I wonder if I should try to do another full fledged revision or abandon the project to work on something new. I start to doubt my story, and sometimes doubt myself as a writer.
The Internet is full of people saying to push through query fatigue. Keep writing letters they say. Keep sending them out. Waiting until you get 100 rejections until you feel discouraged.
But the Internet is equally full of people talking about how they held on too tightly to their first novel. They kept sending out query letters for too long. People seem to say this even more when their first novel is fantasy and they move on to writing contemporary.
I’m not ending the posts with any answers. And I’m not looking for answers from you.
I’ve got two new beta readers for my manuscript. Meanwhile, I’ll keep researching agents and keep writing new things. I’m hoping that moving to New York (less than one month now!) and starting classes for my MFA will give me the perspective shift I need. I’m also hoping that no matter what happens with Dreamers, I can feel like writing the novel was a success. It gave me the confidence and desire to start taking myself seriously as a writer. Which on its own is a pretty big accomplishment.