Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bad Query Contests Are Good for the Writer's Soul

Recently I participated in a Write a Bad Query Contest. Alas, I didn't win, but It was a pleasure to purposely write a bad query. It wasn't difficult; all I had to do was channel my litany of bad queries and poke fun at my own mistakes, or rather misteaks. The contest was a hoot, and I enjoyed reading the variety of submissions and comments. They all poked fun at the shared experience of crafting the dreaded yet necessary query letter.
I despise the query process. It forces me to dress up and behave, but the fabric itches, the pantyhose bind my fat, and these shoes are killing me. I’m not good at faking it. When I tried acting in High School, the audience erupted in laughter with each of my lines. It wasn’t a comedy; I had portrayed Joan of Arc’s mother in The Lark. So I wonder if each time I submit a query with a sample, the agents and office staff roar with laughter.  If  they save the best of the worst to read aloud at the annual holiday party, I wonder if some of mine are in that batch.

Here is what I wish I could send:
Dear Agent. 
Here is my book. Hope you like it. Call me.

Unfortunately, the work cannot speak for itself..We have to sell the agent on the idea of even reading the manuscript. .

About a year ago I hired a consultant to help me with the whole wretched query process. Part of the process forced me to analyze my writing history, the successes as well as the failures. Mark helped me recognize my weaknesses, which are many. (He has yet to help me cure them.) Even though I still languish in the dark, scum ridden pool of underrepresented authors, with Mark’s help, my rejections are now gold standard .
Currently I am reading The Fire in Fiction: passion, purpose, and techniques to make your novel great by agent Donald Maass. I am hoping to gain insights into what agents look for in a manuscript. Maass presents several examples of what he deems great openings, and examples of passionate writing  While I do not find every example engaging as Maass, I agree with his statement, "passionate writing makes every word a shaft of light, every sentence a crack of thunder, every scene a tectonic shift." (I plan to print that up and tape it above my work area on my desk.) So far I have only read the first two chapters, but Maass has helped me rethink some thin gs about one of the novels I have been shopping. While I have a passion for the story and the two main characters  my secondary characters are beige. Also, my story starts in the wrong place. So in effect, every agent who has rejected me has done me a favor; my novel needs surgery. (Yes, I know it's not about me, it's about the story, yet it still stings. I care about my characters and it's a little like not everyone adoring your children.)

I’m not a gamer, but it seems like like  D& D or WOW, persistence is the key, and if I don’t give up on this writing gig, the keys to the kingdom are within my reach, even though by the time I make it to gate I will be bloodied, bruised, battered, and hairless, and I will need to hire someone else to pose for my author picture so I don't scare off readers. But it will be so worth it.
Happy writing (and querying.)


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