Don’t touch that – it’s hot.
I’ll bet your 3-year-old self didn’t listen. Mine didn’t. It hurt. And I cried.
Mom’s advice was based on experience. She learned the hard way that her mother was right. So did I. And I’ll bet you did, too.
That’s being human. Experience is our best teacher. No matter how often others try to help us learn from their mistakes, we’ll do the same thing. And then we tell others to learn from ours. And they don’t. The cycle continues.
The Book is Done! It’s Query Time!
You read it in every writer’s magazine. Every how-to-get-published book tells you the same thing. Agents warn us not to do it. Award-winning authors tell us they made this mistake with their first novels – many of which remain unpublished. Learn from us they say:
Don’t send queries until your book has been through so many rewrites and readers that your head is spinning. Then set it aside for a month or more and look at it with a fresh eye.
I took the advice to heart – most of it. I edited multiple drafts of Summer at the Crossroads. I had readers critique it, and I incorporated their comments. I’m lucky enough to know a professional editor. In addition to a thorough copy edit, she suggested dialogue revisions and plot points to consider. It was all good advice, and I did more rewrites.
As I did, I prepared my query letter and short synopsis. I researched agents who take mainstream novels with a “different” concept. And some of those agents accepted sample pages.
I took a deep breath and sent out some queries – twelve in all over the first few months of 2011. That’s not many, but it was enough to let me know something wasn’t right. No one asked to see more of the book. You could argue the problem was my “hook,” and it wasn’t working. Or I didn’t query the right agents, or enough of them. Maybe.
But through it all, I had a nagging feeling the book was too different for anyone to take a chance on it. So I set it aside and focused on completing a draft of Death Out of Time. When I sent that manuscript to my readers in October, I picked up Summer at the Crossroads and looked at it again.
And the colored pens came out. Why wasn’t there more action in my opening scene? Where did those passive sentences come from? Why were there so many adverbs and double adjectives? [Note – this is my single-spaced working copy. The sample pages to agents were all double-spaced and formatted to specific guidelines.]
You see what happened, right? I never set it aside or looked at it with a fresh eye. I knew I was supposed to. But I had edited it so carefully and incorporated all those critiques. I’d done so many of the things we’re supposed to do. I didn’t need that “cooling off” period.
Don’t touch that. . . .
I have a new opening scene. Existing scenes have been revised and re-polished. Characters have had to open up more about their lives. The book is getting better. But it’s not done.
Will you learn from my mistake? Only time will tell. But before you query, put the book away for a month or more. Then read it again before you send it out.
But if you don’t wait, you’ll find time eases the sting of agents passing on your queries. When it does, look at your book again. Revise, edit again, but above all, if you do what I did – don’t give up on it or your writing. Learn from the experience. And keep going forward.