QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, August 2, 2010

Guest Post-Cynthia Watson: Premature Querying

Our guest post today is by aspiring author, Cynthia Watson:

Premature Querying (Rapid Submission), or, It’s Not Me, It’s You

A lot of us unagented, unpublished writers have probably been there at one time or another.

You’ve just created the MS of your dreams; exciting, funny, sensitive, fantastical, cerebral, beautiful, sexy. You’re walking on air; you want to shout it from the proverbial mountain tops; share your feelings of euphoria, and amazing good fortune with the agenting world. One word of advice: DON’T. Although you’re sure this is THE ONE, please heed my advice, and remember your judgement is clouded; it’s usually high on expectations, and low on reality. You are not seeing your MS clearly. This is commonly called the Honeymoon Phase.

Regrettably, the Honeymoon Phase is often accompanied by the embarrassing but little spoken of malady many writers suffer from: Premature Querying, sometimes referred to as Rapid Submission, or RS. Some factors that commonly contribute to RS are unrealistic expectations, inexperience, excitement and ego; not to mention high levels of caffeine, or nicotine. One of the downsides of RS is psychological. It can decrease self-confidence, increase frustration, and cause many a writer to prematurely break up with their MS. And, of course, RS will force many a literary agent to head for hills, shouting, “It’s not me, it’s you.”

To gain control of your relationship with your MS, and avoid the unpleasant, and humiliating side effects of RS, slow down, and wait for the next stage in your relationship with your MS: The Reality Phase. This is the most important phase and one where the real work begins, with eyes wide open. You need to develop a MS that has lasting qualities: perfect grammar, structure, pace, voice, vivid imagery, realistic dialogue, conflict, resolution; in other words, polish. This phase takes great care, patience, and TLT (time, love and tenderness, in the words of Michael Bolton).

Once you have gained control, and developed a rock-solid relationship with your MS, you can avoid Premature Querying, penetrate the querying process with confidence and satisfaction, move on to the Commitment Phase, and maybe even live happily ever after.

* * *

Cynthia Watson is in the query process for her first novel, WIND, a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, while writing the second book in the saga, SAND.

Cynthia lives just north of Toronto, Canada, with her Cocker Spaniel, Symon, and five rescued cats. More about Cynthia can be found on her website and her blog.

Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her wisdom with us today.


Unknown said...

I appreciate this post and this actually tells me that what I did over a month ago was a good choice. I went through the premature querying phase, luckily I got out in time before I made a complete fool of myself!

Always excellent to be reminded!

Terri Tiffany said...

Been there done that one! LOL This Time my motto is to NOT RUSH IT. That means lots of Beta readers, critique partners and even a professional edit.

Theresa Milstein said...

When I first submitted, I did the same thing. I've learned to let the manuscript sit, get feedback, and edit to death before submitting.

Scott said...

Great post and advice. Distance. Always put distance between yourself and your MS. I normally give myself 2 weeks between phases.

Example: finish rough, set aside for two weeks, do read through, set aside for a few days, begin editing. Finish editing, set aside for two weeks, and so on.

Wine isn't created overnight. The grapes have to grow, ripen, be plucked, etc., etc. Our writing is the same way: the rough draft is merely the growing of the grapes. There are so many more steps to the process before we can query.


Brandi Guthrie said...

Love it! Great advice, really, thank you!

Unknown said...

My relationship with my manuscript is more of a love hate thing lately. If I have to stop myself from declaring it finished and perfect on some days I have to stop myself from throwing it away too. All part of finding a balanced relationship I guess.

Good advice though. It can be so hard not to start querying the moment you have something beginning to end.

Eric W. Trant said...

PQ and RS leads to CB (Carpet Bombing).

I love this quote: High on expectations, low on reality!

This is most true for your first piece, be it long or short.

I believe you should query your 10th or 20th short story, and your 5th or 10th novel. Earlier than that is PQ, if you ask me, which nobody does...

- Eric

Anonymous said...

Very good advice. I passed that honeymoon period long ago, I'm struggling right now, so I suppose I'm at the commitment stage...let's hope we get to live happily ever after :-)

Anne R. Allen said...

Brilliant post.

I've blogged about this recently, too. This is the biggest complaint agents have--novelists who query too early. Here Cynthia does a great job of talking about the emotional reasons we have for jumping the gun--a powerful urge we must resist.

Erin Kane Spock said...

Excellent advice. I did this with my first manuscript. It backfired. I got interest, was sure I was the exception to the multiple rejection rule, and then was rejected. Now I can't resubmit that same (yet completely different) ms to that publisher because they already rejected it -- but at that point it was 10k words longer, and way more historical fiction than the historical romance it is now.

Of course, now I'm finishing up book 2 and itching to query. Don't worry, I'll hold myself back. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I've always been quick to query. This time, I'm trying to hold off until my manuscript is Perfect. Easier said than done, though:)

Unknown said...

Thank you all for your kind comments about my guest post. It's a relief to know I'm not alone in jumping the gun!

That's one of the great things about QueryTracker - in the comments section under each agent profile, I'm always amazed at the comaraderie, and the frankness of the comments - writers helping other writers.

Thank you again for your candid remarks & may we all find THE ONE (that fabulous agent) soon!

Elana Johnson said...

Thank you, Cynthia!!

Suzette Saxton said...

LOVED this article! What a fun way to look at it. And you make a good point!

Silke said...

Great post. :)
I (luckily) don't suffer from premature querying. With me it goes the other way.
You practically have to beat me with a stick to submit what I've written.
I overanalyze everything and at the last possible moment, when I hover over the send button... I often... don't.
Maybe a good thing, maybe not. But I've been known to edit a story to death. (I went back to the original draft and started over, but dayum...)
Good advice though!

Tere Kirkland said...

Querying too soon has always been my biggest problem. It's hard to know to know where your manuscript needs work without first sending it off to betas or your crit partners, and the more revisions a manuscript goes through before an agent requests it is usually for the best.

My query writing used to be better than my actual writing, sadly. I was getting requests all the time, but no one wanted to see more until I'd done some major work on the manuscript with specific feedback from betas in mind.

Great guest post!