There are days when my writer’s doubt makes me want to load up my typewriters, cameras, laptops, iPads, clothes, tent, sleeping bag, the axe, the dog, my notebooks, and typing paper and head far into the woods of Upper Michigan, far from the silence of waiting for the next ding from Mac Mail that might be another rejection from an agent, or might finally, just possibly be an email from an agent wanting more of what I’ve queried.
To date, I’ve sent out 77 query letters. I’ve received 31 rejections and have two agents who have asked for more. One asked for three chapters more on May 3rd and I’ve heard nothing more. Another asked for a full on July 2. It’s now August 9, 2018.
In an effort to keep myself from going stir crazy, I have been revising Book 3, which will be Book 2 to query. Since most agents supposedly vacation in August, I’m spending the month revising, and I’m spending the month doing what I can to work toward my goal set by Heather Sellers in Chapter After Chapter–to read 101 fictional works with the understanding that I will be a much better writer for having done so. As of today, I am on book 74, 1/3 of the way through Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.
Query Letters and The Synopsis
What I’m also learning on this quest is that there is no right answer, no one way for doing any of this.
What one agent will tell you about how to write a query letter will not match what the next one tells you.
The same goes for the dreaded synopsis.
I was taught to do it one way. In this month’s Writer’s Digest magazine is an excerpt from Ammi-Joan Paquette, who says the synopsis should be one page for every 10,000 words, meaning a good solid synopsis should be five to eight pages in length.
Only problem with that is when you get down to querying and agents ask for a synopsis, they ask for a short one of 1-3 pages, generally.
It’s all a moving target, and for someone trying to break in, it’s mind boggling.
Then there is what to make of rejection letters. Most of them include a sentence that says, “we get so many queries, we don’t have time to provide a personal response why we are passing on your book.” So that’s of no real help.
And then when someone does take the time, it doesn’t jive with what the others have said, so there’s no consensus.
The one consensus is, “I’m not the right fit, but keep trying.”
I keep getting told not to worry about any of this until I hit triple digits in rejections. That leaves 67 more intolerable more dings and quite possibly more ambiguous reasons for why my book got a pass. And of course there are going to be those agencies that simply don’t respond at all. No dings, I should probably call them.
What an unnerving and humbling and disturbing and troubling process.
It’s time to go get back into Ng’s book, to try to trick my mind and ears to stop listening for the ding, like a teen waiting for a girl to call him.
I’m going to get published. I’m going to find an agent. Where are you? Why is it taking so long?
THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB is a rich blend of STAND BY ME, the Netflix series STRANGER THINGS, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. The commercial fiction work would be found in the adult section of a book store and is 89,000 words.
In 1977, four teen boys on an Air Force base in Upper Michigan, led by KIRK CARSON, build a tree house near the secret hideaway of a Russian spy.
Kirk is fighting his own Cold War among friends, a bully, and himself.
To tell the story, he tries to type “I’m trying to change my life,” but instead his typewriter clacks out, “I’m trying to change my lie.” He wishes he could use white out on the whole year.
How Kirk handles the ultimate test of a December blizzard and the Russian spy who has been trying to scare them all out of the woods means life or death for his friends.
THE VOODOO HILL EXPLORER CLUB is a nostalgic reminder of an America where kids played outside until their mothers signaled a summer’s day’s end by turning on the porch light.
I have written in journalism and public relations, and for governors and school superintendents for more than 30 years. Since 2014, I’ve been part of Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program.