Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WIP Wednesday -- Forging a query

Remember WIP Wednesdays?  Sure you do.  It's that thing I used to do on Wednesdays, back when I used to update my blog fairly regularly.

So.  My 'work in progress' this Wednesday isn't a novel or anything like that, it's a query letter.  Actually I've been toying with it for like six months, but these last two weeks, it's kind of been my full-time job (when I'm not working one of my other two jobs).  I'm not even going to mention what a joy they are to write, because that's as obvious as saying "the grass is green" or "gosh this malted beverage is refreshing".  But for those of you who may not have had the pleasure, query fun is multiplied exponentially when it comes time to workshop it on the message boards.

My lil guy spent the past five or six days running the gauntlet in 'Query Letter Hell' at Absolute Write.  Some of you probably know this because of my last blog post, where I asked for your help and crit.  And thanks for your help and crit, but don't bother scrolling down to find said blog post now, because it has since been deleted.  Why?  Because seriously -- who wants a direct link to humiliation on their blog?

Okay, maybe 'humiliation' is a little strong, but I am embarrassed by the first few drafts now.  I didn't think they were so bad at first, but the folks at AW schooled me otherwise.  As always, they did so with their trademark inexplicable hostility, using words to describe me and query like 'pretentious', 'off-putting', 'newbie', and 'preachy D-bag'.  Mostly in response to the statistics I included at the beginning.  

See, a long time ago query letter advice use to encourage writer's to say something about the marketability of their book, but guess what?  Now it just pisses people off.  'Inexplicably-hostile-people-who-may-or-may-not-have-ever-written-a-winning-query-letter' anyway.  Ultimately I was able to see beyond the inexplicable hostility, and accept the fact that my statistics did, in fact, seem pretentious, and off-putting, and even preachy.  So I cut them.  And rewrote the rest of query according to their specifications.  And just when it seemed I'd almost crafted something that softened the inexplicable hostility, a second wave of writers showed up to insult me with renewed fervor.

I'll admit it.  I flaked out a little bit.  I started seeing demons in every sentence and I was convinced that every word I typed was tainted with arsenic.  I lost all perspective and all hope, and more importantly, all confidence in my ability to write anything more complicated than a grocery list.  Until Kate Walton talked me down.  And let me just pause here, and just say a big 'thank you' to her once again -- thank you, Kate -- you're a true friend and inspiration.  (Her book 'Cracked' came out earlier this year from Simon Pulse: check it out here).

As a result of her calm encouragement and sage advice, I have now made the uncharacteristically mature decision to get the hell away from my query letter for a while.  And that's where things stand on this WIP Wednesday.  My query in one corner, and me in my own, catching my breath.  Tune in next week when the bell rings for round two.


Anonymous said...

These other writers are most likely bitchy, jealous, and lame, because your query letter decribes what sounds like an outstanding book. But listen to them anyway, take their criticism to heart, commit to one last rewrite, and wing that letter on it's way. At some point you have to trust that someone will recognize it's a book and author worth signing for. Your goal is to get submission requests, and I have no doubt you will. This is your Mom, I'm signing in as Anonymous.

Kelly Polark said...

You really need to take mass critiques with a grain of salt. It usually is helpful for a few tweaks, but the majority of suggestions you can do without. Stay with your gut.
And good luck. And go have a malted beverage.

Vikki said...

Okay, first, I had the flu and apparently totally missed the whole query crit thing, otherwise I would have offered up some POSITIVE constructive feedback.

Second, who called you a preachy d-bag? Seriously, I want a name and an address. I will assault them with frozen Twinkies.

And third...queries are of the devil. Honestly, if I could capture my book in 2-3 paragraphs, I would write 2-3 paragraphs instead of a whole freaking book. That being said, I know they're a necessary evil and you are SO brave to put yours up for mass crit. Kelly is right...take it with a grain of salt and instead, listen to the crits from people who really want you to succeed (like me!). They're going to give you the most useful honest advice. But right now, yes, you must put it down and step away. Have a beer. Read a book. Make up a dance. Watch a show about the zombie apocalypse. You'll feel much better about it after a little breather.

Anonymous said...

A breather is just about the best thing you can do at times - that's where I've been for the past quite a while. (In case anybody wondered -lol)

But I'm back, and I'm making the rounds of all my writer buddies I've missed! Oh, and I like the new look! (just in case anybody wondered...)

Jean Davis said...

Queries suck to write. Agonizing, confidence-shaking things. Evil. Go with your gut. You know your story. The main bits to take from others are the things that make them go, "huh?" and the things that sound pretentious. But I think you've already covered that. ;)

Best of luck to you and, by all means, take a breather before diving back into query hell.

Ray Veen said...

Anonymous -- You have to say nice things about my writing because you're my mom.

Kelly -- You're right, and tweaks were all I was really looking for when I first posted it. Then I got weird.

Vivi -- The frozen Twinkie hit list will include eight or nine names. You still in?

Wendy -- Nice to see you again. Have you updated?

Jean -- The pretentious thing was that I included a statistic. Turns out it was an ignorant thing to do, but not pretentious. Never pretentious.

Unknown said...

I think I was the one that said "off-putting." That sounds like a word I'd use. But I wasn't referring to you personally, or even to the query as a whole.

I was going to post my current query on that thing, but it wouldn't let me. Haven't been a member long enough or something. Instead of faking maturity, I think I'll turn the whole thing into a flame war with everyone who offers a critique. You know, to change things up a little.

Ray Veen said...

You and I could stage a flame war. I could let you pwn me so badly everyone would be afraid to offend you -- 'first-day-of-prison' style.