Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Query

I've reduced Hafan Deg by another 1000 words. More would have been achieved yesterday, but it was a running-around day with grocery shopping, dentist, house-cleaning - all those things you can't quite picture when you think of the literary process. I mean, try to imagine Martin Amis or Joanna Trollope at the supermarket; it's difficult. I CAN, however, see Stephen King, standing in two feet of snow, packing the groceries into the back of his car, so there are exceptions.

When I first completed Hafan Deg some time ago, I received a request from publishers Allen & Unwin, in Sydney, for the full MS, as a result of my dynamite query letter. That letter is still my first choice, because the editor commented on how intrigued she was by it, and nothing has changed to warrant further refinements. I have a couple of new ones, ready to go, for agents I've since become familiar with, where I understand precisely what they need to see, over and above my first option.

So far I have around thirty agents to pursue, vetting each one as I go through my list, because I won't approach an agent I think will be a poor fit, regardless of what genre they claim as their preference. I want to know as much as possible about them, down to what kind of coffee they drink, if necessary. (We are going to have to work closely together, after all.) We could easily become too eager to be read, writing willy-nilly to all and sundry. Why waste time on that, especially as we're bound to get rejection slips from even the likeliest ones? Although my list presently reflects the U.S. market, I am actively seeking British agents, because I'm more Brit than anything else, and speak the vernacular. I know a good British agent will sell to the U.S. anyway, but I'm sentimental.

Which leads me to the word 'shilly-shally', a good word that Lapillus of Literary Rambles wanted to know more about in her blog yesterday. I explained it to her. Brits have no difficulty understanding Americanese, because we grew up on U.S. film and books. The U.S. notoriously have never quite understood the British, whether they just haven't been exposed to it as much or are more insular in their tastes. Anyway, if you want to know how to use the word 'shilly-shally', don't mess about, don't shilly-shally, go to Lapillus's blog.


I'm re-reading 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves', by Lynne Truss, a book about the pitfalls of poor punctuation. If you haven't already laughed over this one, you must get it. I am a punctuation nut, probably from years of professional editing, and I expect the written word to be in clear, unambiguous form (English or US usage), so for me it's a case of preaching to the choir with this book, but it is just so funny. For those of you who are less particular - or just plain insecure - about punctuation, you might want to take a little look, just to remind you of how important it all is. And you'll have a good giggle.

Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky