That Other Thing

I opened up my novel-submission notes today, and realized with chagrin that it’s been two months since I did anything on that front. I was moving house and all, but a lot of it’s on me: I’ve been meaning to do another round of queries for a long time, but apparently I prioritize almost anything else—including blogging, scrubbing the toilet, and performing daily maintenance on my son’s wooden railways—over writing, or marketing my writing. So it always just seems like I never have the time for it. Well, of course I don’t, if it’s literally my last priority!

The following is jargon-y. A quick gloss: a “query” is the standard pitch that agents like to see. Some agents request that the query be accompanied by the first five pages, while some want the query to stand alone. Agents who are interested will request a “partial,” typically the first fifty pages. Agents who are still interested after seeing the partial will request a “full,” i.e. the full manuscript.

I noted earlier that my query seemed to be working well, but my opening pages were not. The submission stats for my first round of queries look like this: 35 queries sent > 6 requests for partials > 0 requests for fulls > 0 offers of representation. ALL of the six requests for partials were generated from queries that had no opening pages attached, and none of them led to further requests. This indicates, like I said, that the query letter is good (a one-sixth response rate is completely acceptable in this industry) but that the opening of my novel is weak. Critiques from the people kind enough to read early drafts of the book confirmed this for me: the beginning chapters were too slow.

I also blogged about the trouble I was having cutting material from those first few chapters, even after I knew it had to be done. Well, it was painful, but I eventually managed to cut ten pages out of the first sixty, which I think tightens up the opening considerably. (Incidentally, I also changed the working title of the book, from Avalon 2010 to The Millennial Sword. The first title is out because there’s no way this book would come out this year, and plus, it ensures that the novel would be dated as soon as it was released. I’m not purely happy with the second title either, but I couldn’t think of anything else that better conveys the concept of a modern-day girl who ends up wielding Excalibur. Suggestions welcome!)

So today I sent out five more queries featuring the new, improved opening pages. I’ve already gotten back one request for a partial, which is truly heartening: I’m no longer losing the agents’ interest by page five! Yay me!

On a less-good note, Robin made it really hard to carve out the time to review the rewritten pages and send out the new queries. He and I struggled a lot today over the issue of my attention not being firmly directed at all moments towards himself. He is, in fact, as I type this, attempting to clamber between me and the keyboard. Also I have to go make dinner. I feel good about making some progress towards marketing my novel—but not good about how very difficult it was finding the time to do so.

One Response to “That Other Thing”

  • Kristen Says:

    My mother’s trick for getting things done was dogs–I spent more time rolling with the beagles as I did inside. Going by the look most parents give me when I suggest it, though, I’m guessing it might have had repercussions vis-a-vis my social skills, so I guess it’s not really a valid recommendations for anyone outside the Ozarks or the 12th century.

    Also, improved response is awesome!

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