Monday 30 May 2011

When It Starts To Feel Like Work

At the moment I'm editing my novel, Storms in Teacups, for submission. When you first start to write a book and you only have a few thousand words under your belt, submitting feels like a finish line. You write your first draft, edit, edit, and edit again. You rewrite parts that aren't working, cut sub-plots that seem to go nowhere and then shove it in an envelope and send it off. Alas, it's not quite so simple.

First you have to research your agents. I've drawn up a list of around fifteen agents, and each wants to be approached in a different way. Most want to be approached in a standard way in the British Isles, which is a packet sent by post that contains a cover letter, synopsis and the first three chapters of my novel. Each agent has different ideas on how long this synopsis should be, so I have to write different synopses for each one. All cover letters have to be personalised, generic letters are apparently a big no-no. Then I have to write a query letter for agents who like to be approached by that method. All this takes an unbelievably long time.

Now, the one thing that query letters and synopses have in common is that they both involve distilling the essence of your novel down to a page or two, and convince the person reading it that they need to read this book. This is hard. Added to this is the fact that hundreds of hours of work have gone into your novel, yet it's fate hinges on just one piece of paper. This is nerve-wracking like writing a CV (or resume) for a job that you really want. Which, when you think about it, is exactly what it is.

With all this serious writing, I'm looking forward to getting back to some proper fiction writing in June.  How do all of you find the submission process?


  1. I find the whole submission process to be quite frustrating at times that they all want to it written in different ways. The synopsis is different with all agents and I think that was quite annoying... kinda. I wish you good luck with everything!!

  2. I agree with Krista - submitting to traditional publishers is difficult, frustrating, and a looooong process. Good for you for getting it done - I wish you the very, very best of luck, Christine!

  3. Yes, writing a great query letter is certainly a nervewracking process. I am about to submit my new mss draft to my agent, and I'm quaking in my boots a little. It's never easy.

  4. Man, I HATE the query synopsis thing more than just about anything... Good luck with the very painful process... Buy a big box of wine, send in batches... and after each batch, have a few glasses of wine...

  5. Good luck with your queries!

    I always like to think of query writing as writing flash fiction. All the components are kind of the same, character, conflicts, ect. It's just much much shorter. That being said, it's still super hard. Good luck!!


  6. I too hate writing the synopsis. You could start with agents that don't request one. Then if they ask for it with more material, you have pressure built in. Nothing helps my creative juices like being forced to write one.

    Good luck with the process. I like the chocolate and wine method. Can I use that one on the first draft too?

  7. Sheesh, this seems so tedious! But I guess it's the kind of pain that involves a great reward at the end. Good luck!

  8. @ Krista: Thanks, it's nice to know I'm not alone in my frustrations

    @ Alison: Did you go submit to traditional publishers or had you always got your heart set on self-publishing?

    @Catherine: Glad I'm not the only one who is ridiculously nervous about the whole process!

    @ Hart: Am really liking the sound of a box of wine right now, it can only improve my queries, right? Right?!

    @ Brit: That's very true, and very helpful! Thank you.

    @ Ice: I think chocolate and wine improve every stage of the process!

    @ Michelle: Thank you!