Monday, May 2, 2011

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Lori H. Walker inspired me to write this post because we were having a great e-mail discussion about querying. I certainly don't consider myself an expert on the subject but sharing my querying experience could be beneficial to those out there ready to jump in.

For those of you who have done serious research and are about to query, I know that you have polished your manuscript until it is the best it can be. I know that you have cut and re-written and re-arranged and spell-checked. I know you've had beta readers and crit partners pick it apart and destroy it and help you put it back together again. I know that you've put in serious editing time and worked weeks, months, and, perhaps, years getting your manuscript to be perfect.

I'm not being facetious. I read your blogs. I e-mail and chat and tweet with you. You're doing everything you're supposed to do and agents are not going to know what hit them when they get your query in their inboxes.

I did all of this. I went through six (I said SIX) major edits of my novel. I had friends, lovers, and countrymen read and critique it. I took most, if not all, of their advice (if it worked for my novel) and then when I thought I was finished, I edited it again. I did everything I was supposed to do.

Except one teeny little thing:

I lied to myself.

I lied to myself about one very important aspect of my novel. The beginning was too slow. I knew this. I made lots of superficial fixes to get around this because I did not know how to fix it. I need everything in those pages, I told myself. There is nothing I can cut. And that was partly true. But it doesn't help that it was slow.

And so...I began querying...

Because I had done everything I was supposed to do. I went through the checklist and marked everything off. Workshops, endless critiques, beta readers, Edit 1, Edit 2, and so on and so on and so on.

So I sent out my queries and received several requests in those first few weeks, to which I sent out my lovely little manuscript knowing I'd done everything I could. Well, almost everything. No, no, no, I mean...EVERYTHING. And then I received some very interesting news...

"I didn't connect with the material as much as I had hoped. The beginning was much too slow..."

But I knew that.

And you know it too.

So I'm here to make sure you add one more thing to your list of 'Before I Query' and that is:

Be honest with yourself.

If there's something gnawing at you about your novel. Something you've buried really deep inside of you and you're about to hit 'send' on that query. Just stop.


I know you're antsy and impatient to get out there. I know you're ready. Because you've done everything. Everything you're supposed to do. But just give yourself that last honesty check. It will save you time later.


  1. Excellent post. I've stepped into query land and I have been trying to be honest with myself. I've been double checking too.

  2. This is so important, Melissa. And not just with our writing. With everything in our lives. And it's also important to know that you can do all of the above, including being honest with yourself, and still not connect with an agent. Sigh!

  3. Great post! I now deep down there are some changes I should make but...

  4. This is great advice for any point in the process. I think it helps so much to read a variety of books, reminding myself what I like and don't like in books, and applying that to my own work. This is an excellent check, to bring forward any nagging thoughts. Not easy, but necessary. Thanks!

  5. You are write on, girlfriend. I'm proud to say I know ya. Love that last paragraph. :-)

  6. How did you know!? There is a something...grarg. But it will be fixed before I go on, you have inspired me to not shrug it off! Whoo hoo! Hope you have found your beginning fix?

  7. Super post, Melissa! You're right, you have to listen to your inner voice. :)

  8. I went through that. I knew something was wrong, but queried anyway.

    I'm taking my time with my current wip. My betas have helped me tremendously. I'm going to rewrite huge chunks in the upcoming months.