Characters and Queries, Alive, alive-O!

I spent this afternoon between a clock and a hard-case.

That is, I was attempting to finish revisions to my novel by deadline, while one of my characters ran rough-shod over the edits.

Oh come now, don’t tell me this never happens to you. I know plenty of authors who have disagreements with their own characters now and again. Unfortunately, I have one particularly disagreeable character who likes to dictate his own parts. I confess to actually having an  argument with him once or twice…out loud… and there’s nothing like getting caught yelling at an empty sofa. My husband knows me too well, however. He no longer asks “who are you talking to?” He is more apt to say “Jaydeun again? Give  ’em hell, sweetheart!”

But today, we were not arguing over the text at all. We were having a tangled discussion about the process of writing a query letter. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend a fortified constitution…and perhaps a thorough reading of some agent blogs or essays (I rather like “The Perfect Pitch” by Sarah Jane Freymann). The trouble is this: it took you hundreds of pages to write the novel. How, then, do you get it hammered into a short but compelling synopsis without sounding like a mewling, tripe-headed, flea wit or a pretentious git? (Pardon, Jaydeun is fond of Shakespearean epithets). I have written a lot of queries in the past–and I have decided that, apart from the academic job market, there is no more enervating process to be found anywhere. What is a beleaguered author (on the cusp of a new academic semester and desperate to get the fiction abroad before classes begin) to do?

As they say, patience is a virtue. Despite the ticking clock, my solution has always been to write a very different letter for each situation, and that means a lot of time spent learning about the agencies or publishers to whom I send. In case you have ever considered canvas submissions, remember what I tell my students: crap out equals crap in. If you send nameless form letters, expect to receive nameless rejections. Chances are you will receive plenty of rejection anyway, but if you put a lot of thought into what you send, you are more apt to get thoughtful response or even advice.

And, of course, you will rest secure in the knowledge that you haven’t been a mule-born clotpole.

So, having acquitted myself honorably (one hopes) from the task of the query letter, I can return to more pressing matters. Such as addressing the revision of my final chapters and returning to the sequel, which is in process–and about which Jaydeun has already put in his two cents. Oh, villains. They are never happy…

[the thumbnails are ink etchings from the first volume of Witchwood at Nob’s End)

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