Monday, October 21, 2013

Sending queries

I just sent off a new query for Modern Ark.

This is significant for a number of reasons.  A few years back I went through a long period of sending queries for this manuscript, and didn't get anywhere with it.  I was as frustrated as you can get in this process.

It was the first manuscript I'd done this with, the first book-length story I'd completed after the three NaNos that produced The Cloak of Shrouded Men, a superhero story I had less faith in finding a home for than something that featured vampires.

I completed the first draft of Modern Ark in 2009 (which seems like a lifetime of several lifetimes ago now).  Since that time I'd gotten to think of it as the first of the yearly manuscripts I've managed to complete to date, but it's also a particular baby of mine, no matter how difficult it's been.

It was supposed to be a simple story, and yet it became what remains my most elaborate and complicated one.

And that has made it difficult for me to sometimes think of in the simple ways that are necessary to make it seem attractive to publishers.  If they can't understand it, they will find it all the more difficult for readers to comprehend.  Who wants to look at a book in the store that they don't get on a basic perusal?  Me, I like to choose the books that come with praise I can respect, the careful cultivation of trusted writers.  But that's just not the way most people choose their books.

The first readers are always the ones you have to solicit.  Not the ones who are potentially glomming onto a phenomenon, however big or small.  You need to capture attention with the work itself for those initial readers.  And only so many of them are doing it for the sheer love of reading, of discovery.  Only so many readers approach a book like the most discerning critic.  Here I imagine Anton Ego (so brilliantly voiced by the ever-evolving Peter O'Toole) in Ratatouille.  These people are hard to impress.  These are the readers I imagine as my best audience.

But I can't even begin to imagine facing them if I can't get the thing published.  And so I face rejection with fortification.  I try to understand my own story.  And that's something I've tried to do with Modern Ark for years.

It's perfectly possible to overthink even a complicated plot.  The thing any writer always needs is the ability to see even their own work with clarity.  Especially their own work.

I'm not talking about interpretation.  Interpretation's another bag entirely. 

Clarity is the first mark of inspiration.  It's why you want to write a story in the first place.  Except that story can sometimes evolve into something else as you're writing it.  That happened every other chapter in Modern Ark.  And so I needed to rediscover the clarity of the work, not in broad idealistic strokes but for what it was, what had never changed despite everything that ended up in it.

And so that's how I ended up writing this latest query.  Even if this one also ends up going nowhere, I'm starting to see real progress in this process.

And I'm starting to feel good about Modern Ark again.


  1. Querying is probably my least favorite thing about the writing business.

    1. Sometimes it's a delightful challenge.

  2. I don't even remember what my first query letter said. I'm sure it was lame, but hey, it worked, and that's all that matters.

  3. Dude,

    As long as you feel it, ride that Query Pony until you're tired and need a break. I'm doing *exactly* the same now with the memoir and it is a long and arduous process, but I gotta believe someone out there will *get* the ms as much as I do.

    So I keep sending...

    GOOD LUCK with Modern Ark, man.

    PS... Thanks for your comments, but this writer will always be an ANGEL, no matter what Southern California city they are named after :)

    1. You write well enough to capture someone's attention. Good luck with your efforts as well!

  4. I wish you the greatest of good luck. Queries, and the tiny synopses within them, are the bane of my writerly existence. I cannot shake the feeling that whoever is reading them is looking for the "new and different" box to tick, and not for a well-written work.

    1. Me, I'm always hoping for both. The problem is you just never know if they're looking for either one or quickly skimming and dismissing these queries. It's the sheer number of applicants that's always the problem with writing. Imagine being a teacher who reviews homework from more than just their own classes...


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