I’m ready to query! So… what’s stopping me?

#writing #tips #novels #creativity
By Whitney Jones

I’m ready to put my little self out into the literary world and seek representation. I’m ready to query.

So why aren’t I typing in email addresses, copy and pasting my letters into emails, checking submission guidelines twice, three times over to ensure correctness, and hitting send?

If you figure it out, could ya tell me? Cuz I don’t have a clue. That’s where this blog post comes in–it’s my attempt to figure out what’s stopping me by looking at what’s not stopping me. A round about way, perhaps, but indulge me…

It’s not required materials

ready to query 2There’s a lot of required materials that agents may or may not ask you to send on over when you query or if you make it to round 2, and I’ve prepared them all.

I’ve got a completed manuscript, revised over and over again. I’ve got a basic query letter that’s been vetted by two agents who specialize in my genre. I’ve got a hook, tried and tested at a pitch conference. I’ve got a list of researched agents and paragraphs showing how my project is just what they’re looking for. I’ve even got a synopsis that’s not too crappy.

I’ve got it all, dang it, but I’m not querying. My documents, ready though they are, sit idle in their files, languishing in the dark, whispering: send me, send me, send me! 

And still my fingers hover in inaction.

It’s not fear of rejection

Really, it’s not. I swear. I’ve already sent out a round of queries and received various forms of rejection from “It’s not you, it’s me” to the much neater Silence of Death. And, frankly, it didn’t bother me. I expected it, but also, I’m a pro at being rejected. Two years on the academic job market makes even the softest of softies turn into granite, diamond, diamond inside of granite wrapped in more diamond. Rejection just sort of rolls off me now.

Besides, writers accrue rejections. It’s just what happens, and that’s okay. I’ll keep writing.

It’s not lack of time

2017-01-22-16-57-35Nope. Unfortunately, I can’t use this as an excuse. While my time is pretty stretched thin, I certainly have the five to ten minutes it would take (cuz I’m gonna stare at those submission guidelines for at least 4 minutes to burn them into my brain, let’s be honest) to copy and paste a query and other required docs into an email and hit send.

Ten minutes. I got that. I can make that.

But I’m not. Why? 

What’s left? 

If it’s not time or fear of rejection or having the required documents that’s stopping me, then what’s left? After I’ve stripped all excuses away, what do I have? This, I think:

Each unsent query is a tiny possibility–a bit of the unknown that can be filled and imagined any way I wish. If I never send them, then they remain that–possibilities. I can always think, I never sent that, but if I had, maybe… that one agent was perfect for me after all…

So, I seem to have two choices:

  1. Continue to not query and carry this potential around with me, but never see it fulfilled, or
  2. Send my queries out into the world and embrace whatever comes of it, accepting the loss of potential through rejection.

With choice number one, querying is a fairy tale, a story I tell myself: If I had every sent my stuff to agents, I can tell myself, I would have made it.

Little Whitney bringing home the gold.

It reminds me of being in gymnastics (I know, but hang with me for a sec…). I TOTALED my knee my senior year of high school, really ripped my ACL to shreds during the second  meet of the year. I never competed again, but I did, masochist that I was, go watch my teammates compete at the state championship. I sat there the whole time, holding back tears as best I could, thinking, If I had competed today, I could have won. I can’t say for sure whether this is true or not, of course. Therein lies the temptation of this option. I can choose which story to believe, which reality to construct, about something I never did in the first place.

In this situation, you don’t risk loss and rejection, but you don’t do anything either. And that day, the not doing was more painful than the fairy tale of winning was lovely. If you could have asked me that day if I would rather have the fairy tale of winning or the physical ability to compete, despite the risk of not winning, I would have chosen to compete in a heartbeat.

The second choice… I think the second choice is harder. There’s more to risk with the second choice. The carefully constructed fairy tale could come toppling down. I could experience more rejection. I could find out no one wants my book. And that… that will hurt.

BUT, as I tell my writing students, we have to think of rejection or suggestions for revision not as markers of our failures, but as opportunities to improve. Maybe my first book isn’t publication worthy. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe the second book I write will be the one, or maybe the third or the fourth.

ready to queryAs long as I keep writing, keep learning, and keep sharing my work, I’ll improve. In other words, as long as I act, participate, do, I’ll move forward toward my goals.

Yeah, putting yourself out into the world is scary. It’s why I hesitate, leaving those poor query documents languishing. I want to save their potential. But I’m left wondering–does that potential matter if I do nothing with it?

And, is doing nothing really saving potential, or is it merely wasting it?

Perhaps I should I should take action, open up my email, copy and paste, and hit send after all.

And maybe, after all this fuss and all this worry, there won’t be any reason to worry anyway. While rejection is a possible risk for acting, winning is a possible reward. Ya never know, I could have won that day at the state championship, and I could win this as well. But I’ll never know until I act.


What about you guys? Are you ready to query? Are you scared? Excited? Ready to act? Let us know how your querying process is going in the comments. 



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