(aka My Biggest Regret as a Newbie Writer / aka The LONGEST Blog Post EVER)
Oh mah goodness! You actually thought I was going to expose myself didn't you? Perv. You should be ashamed of yourself.
I'm going to expose my shame and my biggest regret in my journey as a writer.
I've been writing for a few years now, but my first few ideas were put aside when EVER came to me. I think that when the idea strikes, you have to go with it or you risk losing it.
And so it was with EVER. I finished EVER in under a year, including the monstrous amount of editing and revising I had to do, thanks to my good friend the English major/teacher/librarian. It was brutal. It was awesome.
A few weeks ago I had to come to grips with the fact that my query is the worst thing ever. I've sent it to Query Shark, but Ms. Shark herself (Janet Reid) has been busy with The Liz Norris Pay It Forward Contest (in which I entered my baby, EVER - just to say I did it!) so she hasn't been fervently attacking any queries lately. Click on the link to stay up to date with details on the contest. Even if you didn't enter, I'm sure you will find some sick pleasure from watching all of us entrants get torn to shreds over all of our MANY mistakes. And there are MANY. *sheepish grin*
In my review of the steps I've taken thus far, and my painful look back at what queries I've sent to which agents, I've completely depressed myself.
It is PAINFULLY clear that I'm in desperate need of the vehement beating that only the Query Shark can provide. I should have waited until it happened before I started querying.
Damn you, hindsight.
I am learning so much every day. Seriously, SO MUCH. Through talking to other writers, following many agents and writers on Twitter, reading various writing blogs and agent websites, I'm already growing and maturing as a writer, and I haven't even published yet! It's exciting, and I love it.
Now, I am not one for regrets. I just don't believe in them. A friend's boyfriend once told her this: "Everything I've done has brought me to you." It stuck with me because its true. Very true. Everything I've done, in ANY aspect of my life, has made me who I am today, so I try not to dwell on the less-than-awesome things I've done.
But, alas, I've realized something in this writing process.
I have found that I do have one regret.
I should not have begun sending queries when I did. The agents that received the worst version of my query letter will never know if my writing is any good, and I'll never know if they like my story. They probably never even got past the pathetic excuse for a query. So I failed in that sense. I did NOT put my best foot forward, or make the best first impression I could have. But I'm not giving up, and I've given my query the best makeover I possibly can with what I know, what I've read, and what my smartypants friends think. Is it the best query ever? Heck no. Does it reflect my writing ability? Double heck no.
BUT. And there is a BUT.
I have decided to stop making myself crazy for a while and focus on my writing, not my query.
So, I have shelved my beloved first novel, my story of EVER. The queries have all been sent. I set a query goal for myself with how many queries I would send (my secret to keep), and I obtained it. The rest is in the hands of the agents. If they pull me out of the slush pile, I will be MORE than ecstatic. If no one does, I will be highly disappointed, but I will continue to write. I know that I will get better with each word I type. My characters will grow, my stories will morph and change, and eventually, I WILL write the story that just has to be heard [read]. I'm striving to be better in every aspect of my life - it's what we are supposed to do as humans, and especially as adults - so why not also strive for maturity and growth in my writing? It seems like a no-brainer.
So. You want to know if I'm exaggerating about how awful my queries are, don't you?
Well, you're in luck. I'm posting my queries for you. It's a good way to inflict pain on myself, and I'm kind of a masochist .... no, no, I'm kidding. I'm not really a masochist. (Well, we all are a little bit as writers, aren't we? Why else would we put our cherished writing out there for the world to critique?)
But seriously, why not show you the mess of query writing I've been through? Why not expose my worst qualities now? Maybe I'll help someone in the future by doing so. Maybe you'll read my queries and see that you've made a similar mistake and I'll inspire you to REVISE REVISE REVISE!
So, for you, my faithful reader (yes, leaving that singular was the point), I will share two versions of my query for EVER - the first and last drafts. ***Please note that though there have been many changes and revisions along the way, and many faces of this query between point A and point B, I will only post the first and last. Posting them all would take an insane amount of time, and possibly run the risk of boring you to death; leaving me with not even one faithful reader.***
And so I present my FIRST query:
Ever Van Ruysdael knows firsthand just how finicky impossible can be.
The existence of ghosts. Impossible. Until she sees them with her own eyes.
Falling in love with a ghost. Impossible. Until she falls in love with Frankie.
But Ever pushes those feelings aside, because really, what kind of level-headed teenager falls in love with a ghost?
When Toby moves in next door, Ever is drawn to him inexplicably, and for someone who’s mastered the art of ignoring feelings, she finds she is absolutely helpless when it comes to ignoring him.
Now Ever is in love with two very different guys, only one of them who is actually alive, and if that in itself isn’t complex enough, she begins receiving cryptic warnings to stay away from Toby, while having frequent nightmares that threaten the safety of Frankie.
Confounding things further, Toby’s gorgeous and conniving ex-girlfriend shows up, hell-bent on getting Toby back, and willing to stop at nothing to do so.
Ever discovers how impossibly far Toby’s ex-girlfriend is willing to go to get what she wants, and in the end, what happens to Frankie has impossible staring Ever straight in the face.
EVER is a YA paranormal novel, complete at just over 74,100 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
And now, the most recent query. The last query. The "good" query. (YIKES!)
Two years ago, the only aspect of seventeen-year-old Ever Van Ruysdael’s life that could be deemed unusual was her homeschool education. But that was before her house became a crossroads for the dead. Not only was Ever forced to accept the very existence of ghosts, but she had to learn to share her most intimate spaces with the few that were unable to leave. Taking it a step further, Ever has fallen hopelessly in love with Frankie: an eighteen year old who has been dead since the late 1950's. Unbeknownst to Ever, Frankie is in love with her as well, and has been since long before she even knew he existed. Frustrated and hopeless, both friends keep their growing love for one another a secret. The fact that their undeclared love is physically impossible remains a painful unspoken truth between them.
Desperate for a normal, attainable connection and trying to get over her futureless feelings for Frankie, Ever pursues a relationship with Toby, who moves into the house next door. Good looking and charismatic, Toby inserts himself into Ever’s life – and the position Frankie has longed for – with little effort.
With the sudden appearance of nightmares, gripping fear begins to consume Ever’s nights. She awakes drenched with sweat, tangled in her sheets, and calling out for Frankie; remembering only a desperate need to find him. Responding to her cries, Frankie begins coming into her room at night, his compassion and concern for her adding fuel to the fire in her heart. She spends her days in a seemingly normal relationship with Toby. Her nights in secret with Frankie. All the while, her heart continues to be torn in two different directions.
Unbeknownst to Ever, falling in love with Toby meant putting Frankie’s soul in danger. Thrown into a situation bigger than she realized, Ever must choose between the two boys, knowing that the consequences could be catastrophic for all involved. Innocently or not, she has started something that must be finished, regardless of whose soul gets lost in the process.
EVER is a paranormal YA novel, complete at just over 71,000 words. As EVER is the first manuscript I have queried, I don't have any prior publishing credentials to provide you with. I feel that there is an honest and raw vulnerability in YA that is lacking in much of the mainstream adult fiction. I am striving to write YA in a voice that is not condescending to the YA reader; a voice that is open and truthful.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
ARE YOU EMBARRASSED FOR ME YET??????
You'll notice that my queries are not very personalized. I went with a TEENY bit of personalization in the most recent one, but with no fancy degrees and no prior publishing credentials, its kind of hard to church yourself up. I DID send a personalized query letter to a few agents who asked for funny, personalized and witty, and I'm KICKING MYSELF for it now. Those agents must have laughed their agenting rumps off. Seriously. Its that bad. TOTAL crap.
I've decided to stick with a formal, more professional approach from here on out.
And no, I absolutely WILL NOT share my "personalized" query letter with you. EVER. Don't even ask.