The Starving Novelist
Ahh . . . it seems like it was only yesterday I was sending my very first query out into the cold, cold world; with nothing but a hope and a wish to keep it warm.  Oh, the memories . . . 

Seven months later, litters upon litters of queries have been thrown out into the world to fend for themselves, and just a couple of weeks ago, I entered the realm of triple digits.  Yes, I have sent out over 100 queries (I will not say how much over, because I do need to maintain some dignity).  Admission is the first step, right?  I actually felt embarrassed and ashamed at first, like I was some kind of loser who “couldn’t get the hint” (self-deprecation at it’s finest).  However, when a member (Raven1- maybe you know her?  If not, she’s QT’s own resident cheerleader) recently congratulated me on reaching this milestone, it caused me to re-evaluate the situation.  Hmm . . . maybe it wasn’t something to be ashamed of.  It’s not like I just randomly sent out 100 queries in one fell swoop.  Those queries are a representation of hours, upon hours, upon hours of hard work and determination.  Not to mention, I’ve read plenty of success stories from people who got offers of representation after hitting the 100 milestone.  So maybe this is something to be proud of after all.

How did the number get so high? 

First of all, can I just say this whole ‘send out about ten at a time to see if your query is working’ philosophy is a bunch of phooey?  Theoretically, it does make sense, but realistically?  Not so much.  More and more agents are switching to the “no response means no” rule, and those who do respond either (a) do so with a vague form letter and/or (b) take forever to respond.  I think twenty queries at a time seems more appropriate (especially if this is your first time querying a novel).  If after about three weeks you haven’t gotten a single request, then you know for a fact your query isn’t working. 

My query wasn’t the greatest at the beginning, but it was good enough for me to get a submission request here and there.  To make a long story short, it took me sending out seventy queries (and several sub rejections) before I’d gotten enough feedback to realize my ms needed revising. 

After three months of revising, I was ready to jump back into querying.  Needless to say, after about two months of being back, I’ve easily surpassed the 100 mark. 

Why keep going?

This is my first novel, and if I’d quit after 20 queries, I would’ve been doing myself a huge disservice.  It’s very likely this novel will end up getting trunked, but it’s been a HUGE learning experience, and I don’t regret one second of it.  I’ve learned so much by putting this project out there.  For example, if I had quit early on in the process, I would’ve never known that my dialog has a tendency to sound “choppy,” or that I really need to be careful not to bog down my beginning with back-story.  These have all been invaluable lessons that I would’ve never learned had I given up fifty queries ago.  My next project will surely benefit from the hard work I put into this first novel.  I hope.
I have decided to take a break from the querying process.  In the past month and a half, I have sent out 54 queries.  I have gotten 20 rejections, one partial request (rejected), one full request (response pending), and 32 no repsonses.  I know, I know . . . I'm not supposed to get discouraged- just keep on trucking!  Right?  Except for the fact that I can feel the life getting sucked out of me everytime I sit down to do it.  I was also starting to slack off.  Sure I'd peruse the agency's website and make sure I sent my query to the right agent, but that was the extent of my "research."  I no longer checked to see what books he/she represented, or what the agency's commision rate was.  I even commited the query cardinal sin- I sent one out with the wrong agent's name on it.  Yep, I was suffering from query burn-out.  So, I have decided to take a sort of sabatical.  I'm not in the right frame of mind to send out queries right now.  I'm not giving up, just giving my spirits a much needed rest. 

In the meantime, I am doing some major brainstorming (or in my case- daydreaming) for my next novel.  After going through this process of trying to get published, I'm feeling very confused on which route I should go.  I REALLY want to make a living at writing, so do I write what's "in" and popular?  You know, put my own two fingers on the pulse of america?  OR, do I write what's inside of me . . . the stuff that oozes naturally from me?  Young Adult is a popular genre, but the idea of going back to high school, even if just mentally, makes my skin crawl.  Oh, and there's always vampires, demons, wizards, and werewolves . . . hmmm . . . RELAX, that was a joke!  Seriously, there's got to be a life-span on that stuff. 
I still have about a month left before I start on my next novel, so maybe some wonderul idea for a book will just come to me . . . maybe in a dream . . . (some Stephenie Meyer humor there).  I have an idea in my head that keeps shifting and growing, and no matter how many others keep popping into my head, this one seems to overwhelm and take over all those little ideas, so maybe this will be the one.  When it comes down to it- I am who I am, and I can only write what's inside.  No matter what, a book can't be forced, and as a writer, it's my duty to give it that sense of honesty.