I See A Pattern Emerging...

The 5 Stages of Querying

At the end of each year, I like to look back on the previous years' posts to see how my perspective and my goals have changed over time. One year ago, I sent my first submission to a real, live, honest-to-goodness agent. It was nerve-racking! It was exciting! Oh, but was it ever glaringly and gloriously premature. :)  I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and naive as all hell. I was also squarely in the first stage of querying: DENIAL.

Stage 1: Denial

My version of "denial" looked something like this: "I am a special, special unicorn. I shall bestow my beloved (under-revised) opus upon a well-respected agent in New York City and he shall weep from the sheer joy of reading it." Okay, I may be paraphrasing to some degree here, but not by much. This was my blog post about it, feel free to judge for yourself. Oh sure, I was all coy and demure when I wrote things like "I fully recognize that sending an unsolicited query into the slush pile of an agent in NO way guarantees me any type of beneficial outcome" but, trust me,  I just didn't want to come off as being too cocky. #AllTheUnicorns ;)

Stage 2: Frustration

After several we-regret-to-inform-you's, and a few this-is-a-highly-subjective-industry's, any wishful expectations of instant gratification were replaced with uncertainty, frustration and a cocktail of self-reproach with the odd (but fleeting) spike of jealousy. 

For me, reality started to sink in around the time of my post on Querying Truths when I learned you could do everything right and still end up with a gracious "no thank you." Of course, that line of thinking could still be taken as a scapegoat of sorts, perpetuating the denial of stage 1 ("it's okay self, your submission was great, the agent was just in a grumpy mood that day") but you can only get so many rejections before you start to realize that there's a trend forming... And as Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." #BangHeadHere

Stage 3: Bargaining

So I upped my research of prospective agents, searching for past interviews or posts where they might have discussed their preferences so I could tailor my queries to increase my odds of success. This would normally be considered a wise and reasonable approach.  But I'm not one for half-measures, and this stage also had me combing through agents' twitter posts and toying with inserting random comments about "corgis" or "Hamilton: An American Musical" or "knitting" into my cover letters to match whatever interests I could glean from their tweets.  

Here's to common sense prevailing cuz that sure wouldn't have come off as stalker-ish AT ALL... Nooooo siree bob!

Note to Self: Restraining orders and offers for representation generally don't go hand-in-hand.

On a more constructive front, I did a lot of revision over this time period and things started to improve. But the changes I made weren't necessarily all for the better. In fact, by the time I'd written this post, I'd torn my first chapter completely apartmaking it significantly worse in the processin my quest for a magic formula to catch an agent's eye.

Stage 4: Depression

And here's where I found myself for the latter half of 2016, starting with my post on Competitions & Critiques all the way on up to my post on writer's block a few weeks ago.

My solution was to disconnect from writing and switch to other creative projects to recharge. It took some great words of advice from some writer friends (thanks Ben and Eric!), some prompting from my brother during a holiday road trip (thanks Jay!), and a post about a local writing competition to finally kick me into gear and get me back to work.

Stage 5: Acceptance

And now here we are. It would be amazing if "acceptance" in this context translated into an offer for representation, but so far it hasn't. What it does mean is that I'm back to believing that my manuscript is actually worthy of readership. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I finally accept that not everyone will love my book. My writing doesn't necessarily fit the mold of what sci-fi generally sounds like. So be it. I've weathered the storm of the Five Stages of Grief Querying and I'm proud of what I've written. 

I'm hoping I'm less "unicorn-ish" in my perceptions this time around (as opposed to a year ago)... but who can tell? As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Happiness is just an illusion caused by the temporary absence of reality." So by Emerson's measure, either I'm back to complete denial, or I'm living large in my own little world. :) Either way, I'm happy.

A Writer's Prayer

[NOTE: background images taken from the following sites: cherry tree, pegasus, flames, puss in boots, rain on a window, zen tree, cliff]



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two Responses to "I See A Pattern Emerging..."

  1. Eric Thomson
    Eric Thomson on 13-01-’17 13:25

    Glad to see you climbed back on that writerly unicorn – er, horse ;-)

  2. A. Lee Ripley
    A. Lee Ripley on 16-01-’17 19:16

    Well played, Eric… well played. ;)

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