Saturday, June 13, 2009

Querying Hell, or, We can't stop here, this is Rejection country

Querying demons.

The worst of the horde.

Nothing sucks the confidence right out of you like a flight of these little devils on your back, circling and swooping on your self-esteem as soon as you hit send. A manuscript I thought was perfect (again) now seems trite and my characters shallow. That amazingly fresh premise I thought I had feels old and stale from contemptuous familiarity. I want to work on a new story, but the demons keep me too distracted; when I'm not constantly refreshing my inbox, my palms are too sweaty to hold a pen (I brainstorm longhand).

Rejections aren't so bad one at a time, just like these guys with the bat-wings flying overhead. But once they swarm, my cool attitude has reached its limit. Seemingly innocuous words like subjective, unfortunately, and connection rasp away my faith in my writing. It's a dark place, being in querying hell, one among a mass of writhing, faceless writers. (Which may be why we have developed such a large blogging culture, to give ourselves faces and individualism, but more on that at another time.)

Despite the fact that we writers may seem on the surface to be our own competition, it is this sense of community, of mutual experience and sympathy that helps me ignore the querying doubts. My development as a writer and as a professional would never have been possible without writing communities online, helpful writing blogs and and critique groups. Being a little stubborn helps, too.

What best soothes the wounds the querying demons inflict? Hearing about the experiences of other writers, sympathizing with their own self-inflicted purgatory, and being able to wish other writers well on their writing journey, and mean it. I want to give out to the world what I want in return. But at the same time, I'm a bit of a pessimist, expecting every query reply to be a big R. So I'm delightfully surprised if I get a partial request, or sometimes even a kindly worded rejection. It reminds me that there are people on the other end of this business, too, people who are as passionate about books as we writers.

Querying hell suddenly seems a lot more like a very crowded bus than an endless inferno. My stop will come eventually. Maybe I'll ride it all the way to publication. Maybe I'll get off early and start writing something else, and wait to get back on the bus when the next work is finished. But if I get off the bus in Rejection Country, I may never want to get back on. That's why this post is dedicated to everyone who shares their querying woes with the rest of us across cyberspace.
We'll stay on the bus together as long as it takes.

Anyone know any good driving songs? Anything but 100 bottles of beer on the wall...


Suzanne said...

I think you are my new best friend.
I feel... I feeeeeeel... Ummmm you hit all the nails.
I hope for them now, the rejections. I hope for them so that I can move on. I wait by the mail box (and in box) and scream in my mind for the rejections to come because a "no" is so much better than a nothing. Some say that I should be optimistic. I should simply tell myself I will get the "call."
Bunk. I say I am damn lucky to get a first MS as far as I have, and now I want the query and submission process to STOP, so that I can finish my second and third books that are better. And perhaps writing in rejection country will be more fruitful than basking in the hazy sunlight of an agent's tanning bed.

Sarah said...

I agree with the above post... and I feel your pain.

Oh, how I feel it.

I will keep my fingers crossed for you, and hope that you will be passed this horrific stage as soon as possible.

Danyelle said...


At least one is never alone in the Querying Inferno. ;-)

Tess said...

I still have scars from those blasted demons! Keep writing....keep Suzanne, what I wrote while querying my mansucript turned out to be the book that got me to the next step. Who knew at the time? Certainly not me, but I am glad I used that query-waiting time to write :)

Abby said...

I haven't even climbed aboard the query bus and I already feel like those query demons are hounding me. When I finally get the nerve to step on, I think I might become completely useless.

I know if you stick with it, you'll get there. Your writing and your story are definitely good enough. Hang in there!

TereLiz said...

Abby, when you get on the bus, don't forget more chocolate and tissues for the rest of us!