Monday, October 29, 2007

To Erase or Not to Erase (or how much to cater to an agent)

On my journey to figuring out the age old question, "What next?" I find myself a little stumped in my query quest. I thought I'd try to get ahead of the game (or at least in the game) and seek the wise internet for exactly what an agent wants, only to find that not only do they not all want the same thing, what one wants may absolutely turn another against you, and not just in my novel writing, but even in just my query!

One site tells me the best way to "hook" a query reader is to ask the hypothetical question that will want them to read on, but blogging agent Nathan Bransford, one of my new favorites, has very strong sentiments against the hypothetical question. In the famous words of Nathan, "For the love of JustinBobby!" I certainly plan on customizing my queries to each agent, but unless I'm picked up by one of the first four (and I completely understand the astronomical odds against that!), I think I may die of old age before I could write a new and different query for each submission! It's taking me longer to get the query perfect than it took me to write the silly book!

And then, when five people read it and find five different things they would change to make it better, who to listen to? How does a writer go about figuring out what really needs to be adjusted and what is fine as it is? Do I follow my instincts? I have rewritten my first chapter fifty times trying to get it to that "I'd definitely want to read the rest of the book" stage. How much is too much?

I love that Nathan Bransford just let people submit their first paragraph for him to choose his favorites. No rose for me in that ceremony (or even a token carnation), but all the same I learned a ton. For instance, the other people independent of him that judged the entries for themselves picked entirely different favorites. Lesson learned? I need much thicker skin and a higher tolerance for rejection and failure, because there are a thousand people who will hate what one will love.

Maybe my husband is right: I should go into computers and math, because there is definitely a right and wrong answer in those fields. On the other hand, I remember using a lot of erasers in Calculus too...


  1. Well! I know!

    I'm on Round Two of queries and it's a different letter than the one sent out in Round One in August. Each one got personalized, and yes, I rewrote the first chapter about fifty times.

    In perspective- finished first draft Dec 31 06. Finished rewriting (with time off to get some distance) in August 07. Did another full edit early October 07.

    I fully expect that if/when it's accepted by an agent that I'll have to go through it again. There are many things I'm willing to change but I know exactly what I won't change. I'm going into it with that conviction.

    Isn't it overwhelming though???

    (found you on Nathan Bransford's comment section- oh wow, another writer named Heidi!)

  2. Definitely overwhelming! And I thought the hardest part would be finishing the book!

  3. Yeah- this all makes writing the darn book look easy!

    This is the second one I've sent off to agents/ publishers (the previous one is on the shelf now) and this is the fourth one I've completed. AT least I've proven that I can get a book done from start to finish.

    I'm just telling myself this is all part of the learning process...