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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Burning bridges: because every author needs to f**k up at least once

All of the submissions guidelines say it. All of the how-tos on query letters tell you. But do you listen?

No. Because you're excited. You're ready. So what if your novel is missing a hundred pages and a climax, denouement and conclusion? You can whip that up in a couple of days after you get the request for a full. You want to submit now.

For the love of god, don't do it. Just -- don't.

My first query was a NIGHTMARE. No really. Probably the stuff that makes literary agents wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night. I spend a lot of time on QueryShark. I have a general understanding of what these poor people go through.

And why was my query such a nightmare? Because my story DIDN'T HAVE AN ENDING.

Yep, that's burning.
Tell me: how do you expect your query to be any good if you don't even know what the stakes are for your character? And no, knowing the gist doesn't work. I wish I'd told myself this earlier. Because you know what else I've discovered?

Agents really don't want to read your query again, no matter how spectacular your editing is. It's not that they won't -- you might find someone who believes in second chances. But agents read a LOT of queries. And if they passed the first time, they probably don't want to read it again.

So, let's check on our list of truisms:
  1. The moment you sit down for a long meeting, you will need to pee.
  2. "Dry clean only" or "hand wash only" on a tag just means that clothing will never be washed.
  3. Calories don't count if they're from birthday cake,
  4. or wine,
  5. or eating sadness,
  6. or just tasting,
  7. or somebody else's plate.
  8. Your cat is cuter and smarter and way better than all other cats.
  9. My cat is actually better than your cat.
  10. Looking both ways before you cross doesn't protect you if you live in a city with a lot of cabs.
  11. Almost remembering something actually isn't different from forgetting ...
  12. ...unless you're participating in some kind of trivia event, in which case smacking the table and exclaiming, "Ah, of course!" should get you half credit.
  13. If a coworker can't remember your name, then they can't get you in trouble for the shit you do.
  14. If somebody exclaims that something stinks, and then holds it out to you to smell it -- DON'T SMELL IT.
  15. Querying a literary agent with an unfinished novel is a bad idea.
Everyday we get a little wiser.

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