Lose the Ponytail and Put on a Little Lipstick
So, you've poured your heart out. On paper that is, or in a secret file on your computer. It's the perfect story with amazing characters, incredible dialogue, and a plot full of twists. Oh, and your ending? Well, it wraps up your story in a nice red bow. Your query hook is top-notch too, capable of enticing even the most jaded eyes in the publishing industry and pulling them in like they're being swirled down a black hole.
Finally, you're ready to share your manuscript with the world. Your debut novel is going to be a smash hit. Hooray!
As my dear departed Momma used to say, “Hold the phone.” Before you hit send on that email make sure you’ve followed the guidelines set by the agent or publisher you’re querying. Are they the best fit for your genre? Are they open to unsolicited queries? Are your query letter, synopsis, and first pages perfected? Remember the story of the three bears? Get in the Goldilocks Zone. Is your query too long? Is your query too short? Or is your query just, right? Time will tell.
Okay, you hit send and cross your fingers and toes. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones and hear back right away, or be still my heart, the agent wants to read more. Unfortunately, for a vast majority of writers, especially debut authors, the odds are not favorable. So, what do you do? You brace yourself mentally for what may come. You may receive no response at all, or one filled with constructive criticism. Gasp! Read the advice. Walk away, drink a glass of wine, or devour an ice-cream sundae, then read it again. Absorb the information.
Agents, editors, and publishers may love your story and characters. If that’s the case, congrats. Give yourself a pat on the back. However, the powers that be, may not agree. The perfect characters who live in your head may not be so perfect after all.
How dare they!
Your protagonist may need to lose her ponytail and put on a little lipstick.
Your alpha male may need a good ass-kicking to soften him up.
What fresh hell is this?
Your plot may need some of the kinks knocked out of it.
Your earth-shattering hook may need an attitude adjustment.
Say it isn’t so!
They want me to kill my darlings?
NO! Now they’ve gone too far.
Waving my hand over here to get your attention. Breathe. It’s all good because the next wave of queries you send will be improved and stronger. Your story will grow and get better. You’ll grow as a writer. You've come too far to be complacent or unwilling to make changes. You’ve come too far to give up. Embrace constructive criticism. Be prepared to delete a few thousand words or add more where your story needs spicing or sprucing. Keep your mind open. If you get suggestions that are sound, listen to the advice. Perhaps a professional query edit is in order. And for heaven's sake, if you don't receive any suggestions, just a cold rejection; grieve, let it roll off your back, & begin again.