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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Discouraged

   
Author Topic: Discouraged
Jess
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I feel like I can never win. I'm trying to learn how to write a query, but nothing is helping me. I write it, share it, edit it from good advice. Then I share it again and someone doesn't like the very things that the first people loved. So I rewrite it completely based on the new (and good) advice. Then someone else doesn't like it. so I fix it based on their advice and someone else doesn't like it for more reasons.
I've done this for so long. It's like trying to make a blanket longer by cutting off the bottom and sewing it at the top.
I don't think I'll ever get a good version of the query.
Maybe I just can't write queries . . .
[Frown]

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babooher
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Sounds to me like you're trying to please everyone. Don't let the query letter be the gatekeeper that bars you from submitting. Believe in your writing, believe in yourself, and keep trying.
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extrinsic
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Think of a query as three parts. One, the pitch. The pitch is a taste of the main dramatic complication the novel is about. Mary Kyle fell off the turnip wagon on the way to town and lost her way home. Keep it brief, less than twenty-five memorable words so an agent or editor can pitch the novel off the cuff at a contentious acquisition meeting or in an elevator ride on the way to the meeting. Two, the summary of details like a brief plot synopsis without giving away the plot, and details artfully related about what the target audience is and how the book might appeal to them. And third, personal introductions, like relevant publishing credits and a personal detail or two about the writer. Like that you write while sky diving or bungee jumping.
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LDWriter2
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I know the feeling. It's been a while since I've sent a novel out but I spent a long while trying to get that query just right.

But don't. There will always be someone who can tell you how to do it better or what editors and/or agents want. Get the basics right and send it- send it- send it- send it- send it. I placed five sent it-s there because someone said it's a good idea to send out five at a time.

Some editors-agents may want it a little different so check the guidelines and any forums you can find that tell of agents but other than that as I said make sure the basics are right any nitpicks are fixed than send it.

I know the feeling of having to get it just right but that takes way too much time. Some critting is okay of course to make sure everything makes sense and fits the right format but like a story too many can ruin it. Some editors may not take a second glance while others may read it throughly. Which is why you send out five not one at a time.

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Meredith
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The thing is to sort out the advice you agree with from the advice you don't. At some point, you have to say, "All right. I like this. I'm going with it."

Then be prepared to revise again after a dozen or two queries if you're not getting any requests. [Wink]

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MartinV
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Or you could self-publish and stop trying to please anyone but you. [Wink]
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Osiris
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I actually blogged about this on Friday. You can read the post if you like ( Walking The Tightrope) but to summarize and apply to your situation, it sounds to me like you want to learn how to handle advice in a balanced way. That means that not all advice is good advice, even if it looks like good advice, and bad advice can be helpful if you look for the reasons that advice was given.

I encourage you to take a scientific approach to deciding what advice to act on and not to act on. For me, I act on advice if three or more people flag the same thing, OR, if it resonates with my own sense of what is right (usually that means it is something I had the knowledge to catch myself, but didn't).

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Foste
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If you are feeling discouraged you are bereaving the world of your awesome writing.

Think of it that way. [Wink]

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Robert Nowall
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No offense, but I think this is the kind of effort you should put into writing the thing you're trying to sell with the query, not the query itself...
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Owasm
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It's just like getting a lot of critiques for a story. Some people will like your story, some won't. Some people can get your query and the gist of your story and others will have a hard time digesting it.

You make the final judgement about your query. Use the advice that makes sense and the feedback that is obviously personal taste, take with a huge grain of salt.

Don't get paralyzed by feedback. Use it and then send some queries out. You can't get anything perfect because of people's differing perceptions so do your best and move on.

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rcmann
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Ultimately, it's your name on the story, and your name on the letter. Therefore, you are the final authority. How many people do you think actually *liked* James Joyce when he was trying to get published? I mean, how many sober ones.

Screw trying to please anyone else. Remember why you are doing this. A query is a simple business letter. Follow the KISS principle in all business correspondence and you will rarely go wrong. Let your story sell itself, you don't need to sell it in the query. You are writing a brief greeting, not launching an ad campaign.

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MAP
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Jess, all your queries are good. Chose the one you like the best. The one you feel best captures your story and send it out.

A query letter doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be interesting (well grammar-wise it should be perfect).

Not everyone is going to love it, but you only need one agent to say yes. It is good to ask for feedback and consider what others have to say, but in the end, you need to trust yourself. No one knows your story like you do.

Good luck.

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Meredith
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One more thing, here. You'll probably get a lot of comments asking you to put more into the query--more details, more of the story.

For the most part, resist. Take that as a sign that your query is doing its job. People want to read more.

That's what the query is for. To get the agent to request more.

You want enough details to make it interesting. You do not want to put so much into the query that the agent doesn't need to read more.

quote:
No offense, but I think this is the kind of effort you should put into writing the thing you're trying to sell with the query, not the query itself...
I respectfully disagree. For at least half of your queries, this is going to be the only piece of your writing the agent sees. Most ask for only a query letter or maybe a query and synopsis. (Trust me, you're going to hate the synopsis way more than the query.) You've got to make it as good as you can. You also have to develop a sense of when to say enough and send off something you like, whether other people do or not.

After a dozen or two dozen queries, you'll get a sense of whether that query is working. If not, rewrite (not just revise, start over) and try some more.

The voice in your query was good. Whatever you do, don't edit until you lose that.

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LDWriter2
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I haven't read your query so don't know your voice but

quote:
Whatever you do, don't edit until you lose that
Is one thing I was trying to say.
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Robert Nowall
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quote:
For at least half of your queries, this is going to be the only piece of your writing the agent sees.
Seems little point in it all if the ultimate piece of writing disappoints and, worse, doesn't live up to the awesome query...
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Jess
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Thanks for the nice words of advice.
Keeping the voice of the query is essential and I needed that reminder. I've been worried for a while about losing the voice of the query. In fact after the fifteenth or so draft, the voice is sort of blah. So I've gone back and figured out what I liked about each draft and stitched together a few new options using the strongest voice.
Still trying.

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KayTi
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My suggestion? Yet another piece of advice but here it is:

Having recently re-read all your various versions and having some idea of the kinds of things people gave you feedback on, leave them all ELSEWHERE, and just from your head re-write a short one page query. One para intro (maybe something directed toward the specific agent/publishing house - this you might customize each time you send a query), one para about the book (active salesmany voice. Hard for writers to get right because we tend not to write this way. Leave it with a question - can she tackle the flying space octiped and save the tryhardinate before the yerbs eat her baby brother?), one para about YOU. This is supremely hard for most writers to do, but write about why YOU are the best person to write THIS book. Know what I mean?

Think about it for a second - why do you write at all? Why did you write THIS book out of all the possible books you might have written? What makes you the expert?

For me, it's because I write the books I wanted to read as a young tech geek teen girl who loved video games and computers almost as much as she loved nail polish and wedge espadrilles. So I write the books I wanted to read.

Without looking at previous versions (don't succumb to the temptation to pull up stuff and cut/paste from previous versions) you'll be able to write in what is your natural voice, which comes through in first draft writing the best. Your natural voice is what makes YOUR work uniquely YOURS and is what sets you apart from other writers. It should come through in blazing glory in a query. Your voice is you and what makes you an awesome writer. There is a readership out there for EVERYTHING. I read this on the smashwords blog yesterday and it made a dent in my head, reminding me of why I write and why I am convinced others might like to read what I write. When you think about it, we writers must have very large egos. [Wink]

No matter what, though, good luck. And send it out!!! [Smile]

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