The only thing keeping me strong with revisions is the thought that I might someday be done with them. I love revising, I do (where else in life can you hit the DELETE button on your mistakes before anyone else can see what a moron you are?). But sometimes revising seems endless, especially when you are
anal retentive neurotic obsessive a teeny bit of a perfectionist like me.
So I have this list:
There's more, of course, but I don't want to give my brilliance away for free.
The list is three pages long, and I’ve checked off many of the (super quick) tasks over the past two and a half weeks. As soon as everything is crossed off, I will give the manuscript to some
poor, unsuspecting super-lucky friends. While they read it and give me frequent updates on how awesome it is, I will be readying myself and my (super-brilliant) manuscript for the Query-Go-Round…the most uncomfortable part of wanting to be published. (Once a writer has published something, there is probably a whole new batch of horrors, but I don’t know anything about those yet. Thankfully?)
This will be my third trip on the Query-Go-Round, and I think I’ve learned a few things from my first two trips.*
First Lesson: A list of agents and a query letter are not enough.
Yeah, there are a few agents out there who don’t want anything except your pitch and maybe a few sample pages. But there are so many others, and some of them look fabulous, who ask for a synopsis. I limited my options with manuscripts 1 & 2 because I didn’t write synopses (yes, the plural form of synopsis is synopses). So this time I’m going all out: a one-page synopsis, a two-page synopsis, and a “detailed” synopsis, which, according to various sources, could be anywhere from twelve to 50 pages long. I’m going to shoot for ten.
Second Lesson: The synopsis is only painful if you don’t show it who’s boss.
Seriously. Once I stopped referring to it as the Dread Synopsis, things got a little easier. Then easier still when K in my critique group brought in a book jacket blurb. I don’t remember the book at all, but the jacket cover told quite a bit of the story, and it sounded actually interesting (unlike every previous synopsis I had attempted). The trick, we decided, is to infuse the thing with melodrama. My reasoning here is that a) I’m really great at melodrama, just ask any friends from high school, and b) you can always back off on the melodrama once it’s in there. But if you start with a dry recount of your story, nothing will give it life.
Third Lesson: Do your research.
It’s so much easier to query an agent when you know that he or she is a) actually looking for new clients and b) represents manuscripts similar to yours that you actually admire. Nothing is more awkward to me than telling an agent she should look at my manuscript because…because… I always look at the Acknowledgements page of books I love, because their agent (usually acknowledged) loved the same book, meaning we have similar taste, and naturally, she will love my book too. (Maybe not my first or second books, but definitely my third book.)
Fourth (And Last) Lesson: Don’t freaking give up after ten rejections.
I don’t know if I gave up too soon or not. It felt right to give up on manuscripts 1 & 2, because they didn’t feel like the Best Thing Ever. Why would I want to try to sell something that wasn’t my best? At the same time, maybe it was too early for the second manuscript. I could have revised for character, but werewolves seemed already overdone…I mean, I didn’t even want to read about them anymore, & I used to think they were the coolest.
With this manuscript, though, I plan to query agents in groups of five, then take what information I get back (assuming nobody offers to represent me on the spot, which, given my winsome charm and manuscript of awesomeness, is quite possible)…what was I saying? I’ll take whatever feedback I may get, and mull it over, consider revising, and revise or move on to the next wave of agents. Possibly. It’s an evolving process, and I’m learning from it all the time.
*Because I am not yet a Published Author, I don’t feel qualified to give writing advice. However, I’m really good at getting manuscripts rejected by literary agents, so I think I can talk a little about that.