If you google "query advice", there's already a lot of great tips out there. Here are the ones I found most helpful.
Hello, fellow #PitchWars mentors and mentees! This is my first year participating, so here's my #PimpMyBio.
I write fantasy. For this year's Pitch Wars, I'm entering my genre-blending debut, a history-meets-fairy-tale, multi-POV YA fantasy. There's a thread of romance, too =)
The book is called The Paper Throne, and it's about a bookworm princess who plans to burn her father's paper throne. She'd rather DYE than host a powerless court. To stop a mercenary coup, Adelicia must spin a textile revolution.
The story is inspired by the shepherds of pastoral Andes, natural dyes, William Morris's Arts & Crafts Movement (any knitters/spinners/weavers out there??), and the famed medieval city of Leuven (known for its linen; current-day Belgium). If you're wondering/worried if there is too much unoriginal medieval Europe influence, let me assuage your fears now. The book is layered with cultural and linguistic diversity...YES, there are characters who speak ESPERANTO!
- The Queen of the Tearling (b/c tough heroine + multi-POV)
- Bitterblue (b/c broken kingdom + enormous responsibility)
- The Goose Girl (b/c fairy tale re-telling)
- Uprooted (b/c plants + the dangerous woods)
A BIT ABOUT ME:
Since earning an English Lit degree from the University of British Columbia, I've held a variety of jobs in communications, events & program management. After telling stories from a heritage building, a garden, and a farm, I quit the non-profit field in June 2015 to write my own. Since then, I've immersed myself into perfecting my craft, as well as expanding my portfolio and skills as a freelance web & print designer.
I am always reading something—even while I'm eating, which is hopefully some variety of noodles, soup, or seafood. Or tea. Because tea is a meal and a delight of its own.
I belong in another era, because I'd love to spend my days working with beautiful yarn, making my own soap, restoring antique furniture, daydreaming in my private library, tending my overcrowded garden, and wandering the sunny meadows of my (imaginary) hobby farm. Alas, I must be content with a sunless patio, three meager bookshelves, and a chirpy Russian Blue cat. For now.
MY WRITING PROCESS
I prefer to write chronologically. That is, Chapter Two after Chapter One. While I enjoy strategy board games (7 Wonders, Small World, Castles of Burgundy, anyone?), my head gets muddled if I jump around in the plot. I outline, to an extent. Then I write. Then I go back to the outline. Then I get stuck. Then I move to pen & paper. Then I transcribe into type. Then I keep typing...
AS A MENTEE
I LOVE to know what I'm doing wrong. Does that sound weird? I relish constructive feedback, because it gives me the opportunity to improve. I. WILL. WORK. You—future mentor—and I have the same goal: to make this book a better one.
MY IDEAL MENTOR
Someone who gets the vision for my story—who doesn't want me to reduce to a single POV, dumb down the vocabulary to contemporary YA (I've ignored advice to remove words like "broach", "atone", and "paragon") or add an obligatory sex scene. Someone who falls in love with, or maybe already loves, the idea of natural dyes, and a manipulative heroine with a heart of gold. Someone who goes beyond pointing out problems, and offers possible solutions. Someone who resonates with something in common, above! =)
In glassmaking or blacksmithing, you purposely heat and cool your material in order to increase its strength. Sometimes, you mix it with another material. This process well describes my emotions these past 5 months: the roller coaster of emotions when I receive an agent's request for the full manuscript...only to receive their one-sentence rejection 24 hours later.
Waiting is hard. You can distract yourself with make-work projects, spring cleaning, crafts, hobbies, exercise... but eventually, you exhaust your attention span and you're back to waiting.
The last month has felt like an eternity of waiting—waiting on contracts, orders, responses.
Fortunately, the reality of waiting, is that something eventually happens.
Both times, my first rejection stung. It's personal, and there's nothing you can do about it.
22 years ago, I was in first grade, crushing on the precise penmanship and beguiling eyes of Justin Davies. He wrote me valentines professing his love, though word through the grapevine was that his devotions were generously distributed.
Then my mother cut my hair. Pixie-style, just more boyish and less cute.
The next day, Justin gave me one long look of revulsion and turned away.
I must have cried my body weight in tears. I still remember my mother holding me that night, curled on the kitchen floor, sobbing in despair at his fickle affections while she apologized for choosing a hairstyle that she had becomingly worn only five years prior. Oh, mothers. Oh, elementary school loves.
This time, I didn't take it so personally.
If you're an aspiring author and you're querying agents, it's only a matter of time before someone unequivocally turns you down.
Quality is subjective. So is style, and emotion, and that hard-to-describe resonance when a story connects with you. So, it's only fair that there will be people who like your story, and there will be those who dislike it, and also those who just don't feel anything about it.
Fortunately for my ego, my first rejection came from one of the latter:
She was right about the "years" part: I pitched this editor over 2 years ago at the 2014 Surrey International Writers Conference.
But look at her title.
Yeah. Senior Editor.
FYI, Editors are the people whom literary agents pitch to. So this woman was one BIG step up the rung in the tall publishing ladder I'd have to climb.
But I knew she was a long shot from the beginning. Even when I pitched to her 2.5 years ago, she was primarily looking for children's lit, and I was very fortunate to receive request at all.
"How do you feel?"
I wondered how it would feel. I was sad. I had that hopeful jump in my stomach when I saw who the email was from, and then the sinking feeling when I read the words. It's made me a little more reflective today, but not dejected. So don't feel sorry for me, I'm okay! I've read enough cautionary articles and talked to enough writers that I was prepared. I wonder if the second, and the third, and the fourth rejection will feel different.
What I'm supposed to do next
Keep my chin up. Grow a thick skin. Keep on truckin' on, which boils down to 3 main activities:
- Accomplish other things while I wait for query responses. Avoid twiddling my thumbs—or, if I'm going to, I might as well knit (I bought some yarn last week).
- Keep sharp. Maintain the blog, my online circles, comment & contribute to others' drafts, read writing books, start a new project (I have, but I'll share more another day).
- Plan my next move: in a month or so, I'll have likely heard back from a few agents—hopefully with some helpful advice. Then comes Querying - Round 2, which involves potential revisions (*wince*) and emailing COLD queries.
Cold queries are sent to agents I've never met, who don't know me from a hole in the wall. I will be one of hundreds of writers who might sell their left kidney to get published. It's a chilling, discouraging thought, but it's a reality that many of my writer friends have faced. Once your Golden Tickets are gone (aka submission requests from agents you've met in person), the only thing that will distinguish your story amongst the dross is your writing.
But I'm not going to think about that just yet. Heck, I've still got 9 horses in the race! Nine agents whom I've met and sparked their interest in my story. Nine agents who have my manuscript in their Inbox.
Either way, I'm looking forward to hearing from them.