Sunday, August 16, 2009

Embrace Action, Release Results

I've been on a wild querying streak lately for my last novel MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE (MTC). I've done tons of research and am being very particular about the agents I query. This takes time and focus, but as strange as this may sound, I love the querying process. I like writing query letters, and the process is akin to courting your future partner, which can be both frustrating and exhilarating.

The key, I've found, is to Embrace Action and Release Results. In other words, be as proactive as possible in your search for an agent, but once you hit the "send" button, let go of the result. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it's a good game plan. And, when you're determined to be published, you must have a game plan!

Here's how I've broken it down:

1) EMBRACE ACTION - Write the best freaking book you can!!!

a) Take your time. It's not a race. Slow down and concentrate on the story at hand.

b) Have word count goals and a completion date goal. Some of you may remember a prior post I did on the Daily 1,000. For me, that's a daily word count goal that is achievable. If I go over, great! But, I do my darndest to get at least those 1,000 words a day in.

2) Have one or two people read your first draft.
Find one or two people you trust to give you the good new and the bad news of your first draft. For MTC, I had two people read my first draft - a beta reader (kudos to Julie!) and my faithful alpha reader (love you, hon). The crits I got at that point were PRICELESS and had me revise in ways I wouldn't have thought of on my own. I know some of you think you'd rather have hot needles stuck in your eyes than have someone read your first draft, but trust me - this can be the smartest thing you do. I highly encourage it!!!

3) Edit the book OVER AND OVER AND OVER again!
Seriously, edit and revise until the point you can practically recite the pages by heart. I read straight through for the first revision, and then over and over until I feel the whole story flows and is 'complete.' You may want to review a chapter until you've got it right, or keep reading from beginning to end, or maybe a little of both. How you choose to do this is up to you! Just, make sure you do it until there's nothing of any major importance left to change.

Remember - you're a writer. Therefore, there will ALWAYS be wordsmithing to do no matter how many times you read through your ms. But, you need to get to a point where you know that changing this word or that sentence may be a good idea, but it's really not necessary. You have to know when you are done.

4) Have beta readers read your 'finished' project and give you feedback. Take what they say graciously, but with a grain of salt. Only make those final changes that completely ring true for you.

Then, and only then...

5) Start the querying process!

a) Write your query. Polish it until you feel it's sleek, to the point, and interesting enough to spark an agent's interest. Remember, the idea here is NOT to hit on all the characters and all the plot points, but to give an overall feeling of your work. ALWAYS INCLUDE: Title, Word Count, Genre, and Contact Information!

b) Research agents thoroughly. The tools I use are: Querytracker, Agent Query, and Publisher's Marketplace. You should also check out the agent's website to learn about the agency and the indivdual agent's backgrounds and genre preferences. Absolute Write is another great tool to see what other writers have said about various agents. There are other useful sources, but these are the ones I tend to use. If you've got questions on any of these, please feel free to leave it in the 'comments' or to e-mail me at dlschubert@verizon.net.

c) Make the queries personal where you can. If you've met an agent or heard an agent speak at a conference, be sure to mention it. If you adore a book they've repped, mention it. Those types of things help get their attention and create a personal connection. As scary as agents may seem, they're human! We all like to feel connected. Here's a great article from today by Agent Jessica Sinsheimer that addresses this very subject.

d) Be prompt, courteous, and professional when responding to partial or full requests from agents. Make sure to give them exactly what they request in the format they request it.

6) RELEASE RESULTS! Congratulations! You've done what you can do. You've written a great book, gotten as much feedback as you can, researched agents, and sent out queries. Now, trust the universe to do its job, and get to work on your next project.

As written in my header, "Little By Little All Your Sweet Dreams Come True."

Here's to all of our sweet dreams coming true.

Namaste - I bow to you.;-)

36 comments:

Stephanie Faris said...

Great tips. I don't know if I've ever met anyone who liked writing queries. Actually I don't mind them as much as synopses. Those things drive me crazy!

Jody Hedlund said...

An excellent article! The release part is hard because even though we release it in the physical sense, we're still attached to it in a big way emotionally! But since we'll only show ourselves to be unprofessional if we follow up too quickly, the best thing we can do is release and start on something new.

DebraLSchubert said...

Stephanie, I know, I'm kind of a freak that way (re: liking queries.) I also like writing the synopsis. It's challenging but fun. (There must be something wrong with me...!)

The Peach Tart said...

Great article as I'm in the query process as we speak. Mine is memoir but most tips still apply.

DebraLSchubert said...

Jody, Glad you liked the post. Releasing it is hard, especially for those of us 'control freaks' (ahem, cough, choke). Having a great next project is the best possible remedy. Because, watching your e-mail 'in-box' can be quite unfulfilling...

DebraLSchubert said...

Deborah, Good for you for getting to the query stage! Yup, the process is really the same. You may have more trouble with the 'release' phase, however, given your story is memoir. Do you have a project you plan on starting next?

Lazy Writer said...

I like writing queries, too. But as Stephanie said, the synopsis is torture for me. This is a great post, though. I love the part about release. It's so true. At that point, we really have no control.

DebraLSchubert said...

LW, Just like letting your kids grow and learn and make mistakes is hard, releasing your 'work' into the world is the hardest part of the process. But hopefully, in the end, the most rewarding.;-)

Big Mark 243 said...

No seriously, when my best selling book is turned into a movie, I will be sure to thank you for your help in the process :0).

Really, reading your journal is fascinating and makes me think that there is a book or two in me trying to get out. Thanks for the tipS!

DebraLSchubert said...

Mark, You can thank me by letting me write the music or have a cameo role in the movie.;-)

T. Anne said...

Sage advice! I've done al those things in reverse (lol) unfortunately learn most my lesson's the hard way.

DebraLSchubert said...

T. Anne, Too funny! I absolutely queried my prior novel way earlier than I should have. But, that's how we learn sometimes - by making really dumb mistakes! I feel so much more confident this time around about both the book and the query. Only time will tell...

Kelly said...

Informative post, Debra! I will be agent hunting for the first time (after I am finished with numerous revisions of course). It's nervewracking, but necessary!

DebraLSchubert said...

Kelly, Good for you! If you'd like any advice or encouragement when you're ready, you know where to find me.;-)

Uninvoked said...

Releasing the results ought to be #1 on the list. -.- I can't tell you how many times I've freaked out because I accidentally made a typo in the query letter...only to have my short story accepted. If the story is good, it will sell. (Maybe not to the first person, but eventually...)

DebraLSchubert said...

Uninvoked, Good point. You should release the results from the very beginning. Write for the sheer joy of writing and move forward from there. Thanks for pointing that out.;-)

The Vegetable Assassin said...

That was really interesting, thank you! I enjoyed the article too. I'm writing something at the moment myself but I'm completely new to the whole literary business world so it's nice to read tips on the process from someone who knows! :)

DebraLSchubert said...

VA, I'm learning as I go, which is all any of us can do. I know how hard it was for me to gather good info at the beginning, so if this post helped you, I'm thrilled! Sharing information and cheering each other on is tantamount. We're all on this short journey together. The easier we can make the ride for our fellow travelers, the better.;-)

Karen Walker said...

Great step by step approach, Debra. Here's another step that comes after the "take the action and let go of the results" step: "Let go and let God." This addresses the emotional letting go that is so much harder than the physical letting go that Jody mentioned. I can't take credit for these slogans - they come from the 12-step programs, but they sure do work when we can apply them.
blessings,
karen

DebraLSchubert said...

Karen, "Release results" refers to psychically and emotionally. Physically, we need to get back to work on the next project! That phrase you mentioned is lovely. I'm all about whatever works.;-)

Beth said...

What invaluable advice. IF I ever get to that point, you can bet that I'll be looking to you for information!

DebraLSchubert said...

Beth, Stop hiding your talents from the world. Get back to that story you were writing. I can still remember how awesome it is...

Kathryn Magendie said...

What a great post! full of wonderful advice....

Kathryn Magendie said...

PS - Love the new LOOK! I didn't know it was you at first glance :)

DebraLSchubert said...

Kat, Glad you like the post. The pic is not me, it's just a really awesome photo I found on-line and decided to use. Thanks, though, I'll take that as a compliment!!!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Those are great tips! Although liking queries, um, NO!

I wish you the best of luck as you wait to hear =)

Karen Walker said...

Hi,
There's a surprise for you on my blog today (8/19).
Karen

DebraLSchubert said...

Sherrie, I know. I'm a freak. Most people hate writing queries, but I think they're fun. I'm sure it depends on your genre. And, thanks - luck is a huge part of what I need!!!

DebraLSchubert said...

Karen, I'm so excited! I'm heading over there right now...

jamiemason said...

Oh good luck to you! I hope to hear great news very soon.

xox

DebraLSchubert said...

Jamie, How are you? It's so wonderful to "see you" again! How is life on submission? I'd love to hear from you - I'd also love to interview if you've got time. Email if you can. Hugs, D ;-)

Mandy said...

Listen to you Mary Friggin' Poppins. You seem so optimistic and upbeat. Go on with your bad (err, I mean great) writing self - just using some jive talk for ya!

Thanks for the tips. Although, I don't know if I will ever get to your point. I admire people (like you) who have enough stuff in their heads to write a novel. I don't have any plots or characters in my head right now to even attempt a short story. I just write quick things and real life stuff, yada yada yada, snooze.....

Any tips for a beginning writer who doesn't know what to write about?

(p.s. - I'm sorry you didn't win my Amy Sedaris cookbook giveaway. Blame Vivian. She didn't pull the right name. But darn if she's cute anyway, right?)

Stop by and say hello when you can. You can edit my letters to the days of the week. LOL.

DebraLSchubert said...

Mandy, I promise to stop by soon. Bummer about the Amy Sedaris book - maybe I'll win next time. And I have no doubt you've got at least one full novel in that pretty little head of yours.;-)

prashant said...

No seriously, when my best selling book is turned into a movie.

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kanishk said...

I don't mind them as much as synopses. Those things drive me


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