Out of the Query Trenches

I’d been in the Query Trenches a loooong time. For the past few years, I’d pretty much lived there. I had my own mailbox and a clown with a little dancing dog that came by every so often to cheer me up. (Okay—the dog is real, but my husband would not appreciate the clown metaphor.)

Anyone who’s ever written a manuscript and sent their baby out into the daunting world of slush piles and literary agents knows the particular kind of hell this journey is for most writers.

It’s said that Mark Twain wallpapered his attic in rejection letters before he published Tom Sawyer. I used to print and save my rejection letters and post them on the wall until I realized that a room decorated with rejection was really depressing.

So I treated myself to cupcakes (or wine) whenever a pass came in, and for the really tough ones—rejections on full requests—I bought shoes. And a puppy.

Emmy and shoes

But today, I’m relinquishing my spot in the query trenches to another hopeful writer. Not because I quit, but because I didn’t quit.

And finally, finally . . . I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!

*pops cork*    *twirls *

I am so deliriously excited to announce that THE AMAZING SARAH DAVIES of The Greenhouse Literary Agency has offered to represent me!!!

Yep. I just looked down, and my feet are still floating off the ground. And yes, her name requires SHOUTY CAPS–she is that kind of agent.

It is such a gift to have a champion for this story, and I know my manuscript is in the very best hands.

I’ll soon be pitching my tent over in the Submission Trenches. I’m sure the clown and his little dancing dog will visit from time to time. Hopefully, before too long, my story will find a home with a publisher.

Whatever happens, I’m taking with me the most important lesson I learned in the Query Trenches–one I want to encourage you with, fellow dreamers . . .

Never-never-never-give-up

 

 

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Out of the Zombie Slush Pile (my #pitchmadness entry)

Hooray! I made it out of the “zombie slush pile” with my pitch for THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY.  On to Round 2 of the crazy, creative frenzy that is #pitchmadness.

Many of my fellow zombie slushees requested I post my entry…so here it is, with a few thoughts to encourage as well…

Name: Jenny Moyer
Title: THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY
Genre: YA
Word Count: 89,000

Pitch:
Brier hides her ability to speak her dreams into existence, but when a secret dream lab comes after her she must push the boundaries of her dreamspeaking abilities to save herself and those she loves.

Excerpt:

When I turned six, I learned the monsters in my closet were real—but what scared me most was realizing I had put them there.

This is my first thought when I wake in the basement closet sprawled beside the baseboards. My fingers trace the grooves of claw marks—in the place my mother couldn’t cover with paint.  Her words from that night come back to me and I’m reminded that, as scary as the creature in the closet was, the people who will come for me if I’m discovered are worse.

My second thought is that I have to get my dreamspeaking under control, because this is the third time this week I’ve woken up in the damn closet

The floor creaks and a light switches on.

“Brier?”  My sister’s muffled voice reaches me beyond a wall of old coats.

Squinting against the sudden brightness, I scramble out on my hands and knees.  “Owen?  What are you doing up?  It’s the middle of the night.”

“I thought I heard you on the stairs.”  Her eyes search my face, drop down my Hello Kitty shirt and tattered flannel shorts.  “Why are you in the closet?”

“A…mouse.”  My eyes shift toward the shadows.  “I saw a mouse.”

“And you followed it into the closet?”

Taking her arm, I steer her toward the stairs.  “Just one mouse can cause a lot of problems.  We’re talking infestation.”  I switch off the light and lead the way back to our rooms.

Thoughts on contests:

I’m going to be honest: pitch contests will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride with the hype, the excitement, the swelling hope…and the sometimes letdown.  I know writers who find this process harder than querying.  Don’t get me wrong–I think querying writers should use every opportunity to get their work in front of agents–but I’ve learned that you have to keep contests in perspective so you don’t emerge crushed (and convinced you should throw your book out the window.)

#1: Use the opportunity to HONE YOUR PITCH/HOOK/LOGLINE.  Ditto with the first 250 words.  Make them as strong and grabby as they can be and LEARN from the other writers doing the same thing…

#2 DON’T LET A PASS GET YOU DOWN (for long) It’s subjective–just like in the real query world. Find encouragement from all the other writers in your boat, then hone your pitch and let the experience springboard you back into querying. (and writing and revising!)

#3 MEET OTHER AWESOME WRITERS This is the REAL gem of contests. I’ve met some of the best critique partners this way–not to mention fellow writers who are beside me in the query trenches.

#4 WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, WRITE THE NEXT BOOK  Is your MS drifting in an endless sea of rejection? Maybe it’s time to set it aside (for now) and dive in to that next book. Nearly every author I know has at least one “shelved” book.

I’m excited to have made it this far, but if I don’t make one of the teams, it’s on to #pitmad on March 29th (an even crazier contest!) Hope to see many of you there! Last time, I tweeted and pitched like a madwoman (or a very determined writer) and #pitmad led to multiple partial and full requests for THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY. It happens.

So, here’s to every one of the over 400 writers who bravely put themselves out on the proverbial rejection ledge, and diligently whittled their manuscripts down to compelling 35 word pitches for  #pitchmadness. We all deserve awards for bravery and commitment to our publishing dreams! So MANY GREAT concepts did not make it out of the slush, and even fewer will make it to Round 3.  Good luck to those of you still on the coaster, and for everyone else…NEVER EVER EVER EVER GIVE UP.  See you at #pitmad March 29!

#PitMad = Love

I just emerged from the trenches of uber crazy twitter pitch-fest, #PitMad. A challenging leap of faith I recommend for all aspiring authors. Most of us shudder when it comes to summarizing our books into tidy paragraphs. Queries disarm us with the task of distilling our 70,000 word novels into 1-2 sentence hooks.

Now pretend you have just 140 characters–or 133 to be precise. Right? Good times.

But the coolest thing happens when you rise to the challenge…you end up with some pretty great hooks. When forced to pare down your logline to the essential core of your MS, (and still make it unique and interesting), you do away with unneeded adjectives and words that sometimes clutter up the pitch. This is especially helpful when you’re modifying your pitch–giving it a different angle, etc, when tweeting it throughout the day.

I ended up receiving 2 agent requests–one of which led to a full MS request! But I also connected to some really talented writers, (who were pitching fantastic hooks as madly as I was) and emerged from the pitch-fest trenches with a renewed sense of this great community we share as writers–particularly the YA community.

The good news: there are ways beyond the traditional query process to get your MS in front of agents. So get connected, hone your pitch, and then go for it!! Take advantage of every opportunity and be ready to grow from it–whatever happens.

If nothing else, you’ll learn to pitch your book five different ways from Sunday–and that’s a useful skill for those of us in the book-pitching trenches.

Refreshing the Query

Today I am “blind speed dating” with my query and first 250 words. *hits refresh on phone*

That’s right. I’ve put my baby out there for the world to see…and comment on. I’m waiting for one of 3 anonymous “bouncers” to put me through to the next round so agents can view my entry. *hits refresh again*

If you’ve never visited the blog: Cupid’s Literary Connections, (and the contests there), I really recommend it. http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/2013/01/lets-get-it-started-bouncer-round-1-is.html

In just the first day I’ve met some really great writers (with some great queries) and gotten truly helpful feedback. (The kind where four people suggests the same thing, so you KNOW that’s the edit you need to make) *refreshes screen*

So, regardless of what happens with this round, I’ve made great connections with fellow writers, and my query and opening pages are stronger than they were yesterday.

And that, in itself, is truly refreshing.