I moved too fast. In my head I was thinking, "The novel has been done for six months, let's get these queries out! I swore I would befor 2007 was over." So, in October I sent out a handful of queries. Not a ton, but among the first I sent out was one to my top agent pick. I then proceeded to ignore my query and move onto other things.
A month later with three rejections under my belt I went to AgentQuery.com to look up more agents that accepted e-queries. I pulled up my previous query letter and realized that my hook was far too wordy, and it wasn't enough of a hook. With frustration I reworked the hook, finding one I really liked and elicited a "wow" reaction from someone I was talking to.
I retuned the query letter and began sending queries again. I got halfway down my list of 18 and made another realization. I'd spelled a word wrong in my query letter. Yup. A typo in a query...GREAT first impression. Head hung in shame, I corrected it and sent out the rest of the queries.
In the days after sending out the round of queries I realized something else. I always knew my novel was on the high-end of word count (over to some agents), but I never saw anything "extraneous" to cut. Three days after I sent out a query I thought, "well, my first chapters HAVE to be tight. I'll just triple check them." I pulled up the novel and started 'tightening' the first two chapters. I cut close to 2,000 words in two chapters. Stunned, I sat back staring at my computer.
What had I done? I'd sent out 20+ queries in two months - several of which asked for the first 50 pages or 3 chapters - with a novel that I had just 'tightened' to make better for queries.
So, I put myself in the penalty box. If any of you have ever seen the movie Slap Shot, you know what I mean. To quote the movie:
"You go to da box for 2 minutes, ya know, by yourself...you feel shame...and then you get free." ~Denis Lemieux (Slap Shot)
So, knowing that the holidays were coming up, and I couldn't paper query until I had the funds to buy stamps and ink, I put myself in the penalty box. For two months, no querying, no agent search, no nothing but tightening Lisabeth. But that wasn't enough. I was allowed to tighten Lisabeth only on the condition that I also begin research on the next novel. Lisabeth could no longer be my focus, my baby. She was my pride and joy, and I'd been so eager to send her for others to love, that I hadn't realized she wasn't ready.
Sometimes you have to take a step back. I thought I had, but even though I'd taken a month or two to ignore the novel before going back to edit. But it wasn't enough. I had to find something else within me. Another story to write before I could truly look and see what work had to be done.
Every piece of writing is important to us. But if we focus on something too long (Lisabeth is 3 years old now, and the only storyline I've focused on for all that time, including her continuing saga of sequels) we fail to see its flaws.
Take your time. Don't send your baby into the world until it's ready. Find something else that drives you. If we are true writers we do have more than one story within us...we just have to find it and give it love and attention. Then we can look back at our older 'child' and make sure it's truly ready. When it is, it will shine bright! And you won't have a bit of regret in sending it out into the world!