Over the last few days, I’ve been making the most use of the fabulous and handy QueryTracker to organise the dispatch of my newly-polished query to several agents seeking women’s fiction. I’ve sent out tiny batches of queries in the past, but this query has been through the ringer. It’s polished, it feels like it hits the main points of my plot and themes, and the perfectionist in me has stared at it for hours (probably literally) making sure I feel good about it.
I’ve sent about 9 queries over the past week. My top agent of that lot? She responded in less than 12 hours. That’s a record. And yes, it was a rejection. I have to say I’m honoured she took the time to copy and paste my name at the top. The querying process should be renamed the wearying process, because these awesome agents, they all get thousands of emails a week and have to make pretty quick decisions on emails they’ve just skimmed. But us writers? We have to spend days, weeks, months perfecting our letter, tailoring it to them like a cover letter for a job (which I’ve also been doing, for 20 months, without success… but that is definitely another story altogether), making sure it seems perfect. We hem and haw and we take words out and put them back in. And they probably spend about 10 seconds looking at it before sending out the rejection template, or just binning it and moving on.
And I TOTALLY get that — they’re super busy! I’d do the same thing if I were an agent. But so many writers seem to face this process like an endurance test: “If I just keep trying, if I just polish a bit and send another batch, if I listen to whatever every single person tells me to change, I’ll get bites, and one bite for a full will eventually lead to an agent, then a publishing deal, then bingo, I’ve hit my stride.”
But what if that’s not true? How do I know when to pack it in with my first ms, the one I’ve been working on for over 5 years? I’ve learned SO MUCH from writing this, and then editing it, then trashing it and starting over. I’ve dedicated my last 20 months of job-hunting to also reading every blog, article, and book I can get my hands on about writing. I feel like I’ve enrolled in full-time education on the subject of polishing my manuscript. I’ve loved every second of reading about the craft and putting what I learn into practice. I’m *proud* of where my ms is today, thanks to the help of all these awesome writers, agents, and editors who share their experiences and wisdom.
So, after taking a writing/job-hunting break yesterday and editing together audio clips of the Samantha jokes from I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, I’ve decided that the “when” comes when one of two things happens: when I feel I’ve exhausted possibility and nothing’s happening, or when Samantha jokes stop making me chuckle and lifting me up.
When Humphrey Lyttelton’s voice reading off crass-sounding yet ostensibly innocent jokes about the ever-delightful “Samantha” fails to make me giggle after another bad writing day, I’ll know it’s time to move on.