Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And The Joke’s On…

What do you get when you have five bloggers write on the topic of submitting their first agent query letters?

If you’ve been following the preceding posts, you’ll know that’s the topic of this week’s Wicked Writer posts, but I’ll tell you the punchline in just a moment. First, I’d like to share my newbie experience as a blogger with you and what led me to this point in time. (Stick with me. It’s part of the punchline.)

I’d been “working exclusively on my craft,” as I’d been telling everyone all these years, trying to become the best writer I could before I could ever even think of delving into the world of agent searches, querying, launching a web site, or anything remotely promotional.

Then nearly six weeks ago, some time before Christmas break, C.J., whom I’d known was in the process of forming a group blog and had so far enlisted three other writers to blog with her, called to tell me it’s two weeks before launch and she had one writer drop out. I was ready to give her my “can’t help you, I don’t know anyone looking to blog” spiel when I caught her next words: “…and so I have a proposition for you.” She followed up with how much she admired that I’d been working so hard to perfect my craft but that it’s finally time to “sh** or get off the pot.” (She’s an elegant one with words, our C.J.)

I said I would think about it, even though I was secretly thinking a great big NO. Why would I put myself out there like that? I felt sure that I was nowhere near ready to show my work to an agent, my writing’s probably not up to par yet, I have a lot of loose ends to tie up in terms of revising and polishing my first novel, and basically, I’m not really a blogging kind of gal.

What a month can do.

As anyone who knows C.J. knows first hand, she can wear you down—but in a good way. (I think she calls it “selling.” Um, sure, honey.) But she believed in me and my work and she wouldn’t let it go. I agreed to her crazy idea after I found out my fellow Guppy, Steve Liskow, was the first guy to respond to C.J.’s open shout-out for a male mystery writer on our news group. I’d always thought him well spoken and professional on all his posts. Maybe this was a good idea after all. Other people certainly seemed to think so.

But I still had my doubts. I was scared out of my mind, and spent the rest of my holiday break trying to write that first, scary post. (Do you see a scary theme here?) Then C.J. scared me some more: “if I’m promoting you to everyone I know, I expect you to get out there and promote yourself as well.” So she “encouraged” me (I think there was a pistol involved) to make the leap in telling my friends and family about our new venture and my first post, which revealed what I considered my most private secret: I want to be a published novelist!

The rest is history. There’s a terrific poem about a writer who had a lot of words and how all those words were strangling him. (I would tell you the name of the poet but, hey, I could be twisting his words.) That sentiment perfectly described me as a writer until about a month ago. How could I possibly tell people I was writing a book when I couldn’t get the words right?

But here I am, my fourth post in, and I’m raring to go. The creative juices are flowing, my writing is more focused, I have a specific plan toward publication this year, and for once, I feel absolutely excited about getting there.

Which brings me back to the punchline: I’ve never sent out a query letter.

Not yet. But I will soon. And the truth is, if not for C.J. and her holiday proposition, the right time may never have arrived, and 2010 would not have been the year I send out my first query letter.

Any other writers nervous about taking that first big step?


  1. Yeah, C.J. does have a way of wearing you down. I mean I got a severed finger in the mail, so I immediately signed up.

    But, seriously, this is a good blog. It's nice to see someone who was inspired to go beyond just keeping their work on the hard drive and never taking the next step.

  2. Supriya,

    Fun post, and lots of encouragement.

    Yeah, that first query is even scarier than your first kiss, but you need it to get that first rejection letter. Once you're over that hump, you find it's pretty easy to keep going.

    You've touched on a big point in the middle of this when you mention how helpful and supportive the Guppies are (I'm professional? Wow, fooled you, too). If it weren't for them, I don't think I'd know 10% as much as I do...which means there's only 99% I still don't instead of 99.9%.

    CJ made another big point by forming this group, too. You don't have to go it alone unless you want to. Someone will guard your back, probably CJ. Maybe she'll even give back that severed finger.

  3. And an extra loud laugh coming from me because I haven't sent one out either, although for different reasons you'll find out about Friday.

    After reading your post, I'm so happy you joined us! Every leap you take, we'll be here to catch ya.

  4. Steve, it's not just what I learn from Guppies but the excellent support system they provide. And same goes for my fellow Wickeds too. It is terrific to be able to work toward our goals together and be able to support each other.

    And Wendy, thank you for the same. I can't wait to find out how you got away with not querying yet.

    Greg, CJ's asked me to kindly stop mentioning her in every one of my posts, so one final thought: I hope you and Steve took her permission before mentioning the severed fingers in this forum?

  5. Smart Ass! I don't mind the teasing. I've got my big girl pants on ;-)

    And I give back no body parts - once I cut them off I toss them to my Staffordshire hell hounds. No physical evidence. That's me.

  6. Okay, okay, I'll cut back on the teasing. I'll zero in on Supriya and Wendy for awhile.

  7. Ah, Supriya, as soon as you send out your first query letter you should celebrate (any excuse will do, really). When I sent out my first query letter on my first manuscript (which should never have been queried) I jumped up and shouted "I'm in the publishing industry now!". OK, sending a query letter may not technically be "in the industry" but it's a start - and that's what I needed. Six years and three manuscripts later I'm still querying, but hey, I'll get there. And so will you! Just bit the bullet and send!

  8. I know, I've gotta bite that bullet and do it, and you'll be glad to know that's next on my to-do list. I'm just completing the "final" spit and polish on my first 3 chapters and have an early February goal of completing that first query letter. (I'm pretty sure I've written one before, just never sent one.) Will keep you posted. Glad to have you on the journey with me, Alli.

  9. I'm glad, too. Everyone needs a partner in crime. ;-)

  10. Great story about CJ.. hah! I know that 'selling'. Maybe she'll inspire me too... We'll see.. I'm a tougher nut to crack. Or maybe I'm just a nut.

  11. Umm - hello? Children's book? You have been inspired! I'm just waiting for you to send it to me so I can unleash my meager editing skills all over you ;-)