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Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Querier

I recently ventured, once again, into the world of hopeful-writer-querying-agents. What is it about the querying process that makes you crazy?

I mean, yeah, as writers, most of us are a little unusual to begin with. We spend random, long hours pounding away at the keyboard, pop up for air and coffee only when we realize we're out, obsess over the particular wording of a four-word sentence, have voices in our heads, lay awake at night thinking about whether our hero should wear boxers or briefs (as though the answer to this question might provide the solution to aging), and forget to start dinner until the kids are crying because they haven't eaten in two days.

But seriously, there is something about the querying process that takes us all just a little further over the edge.

Once a query has been sent out, we obsessively check our email, hitting refresh (on average) about every 2.38 seconds. We call in sick to work, because we could get a request while we were gone. Forget about going to the grocery store--they deliver, right?

At least this time, before I sent them out, I had a good idea of what would happen to me. I took precautions.

Before I sent out my queries, I made sure that I'd been to the store and had plenty of provisions stocked up (especially of the sort that only require a few minutes in the microwave to be ready). I waited until the evening to send them out--and I did it on a weekend, no less. Yes, some agents will read queries from home at night or on the weekend, but I knew that they at least shouldn't be at work. That made me slightly less anxious. I made up my list of what each of the agents I intended to query wanted (just the letter, query letter plus pages, maybe a synopsis) and then set to work.

Once I had them all sent, I breathed a sigh of relief that they were out in the world, calmly ate my dinner (only checking my email about 42 times over the course of my meal), and sat down to watch some TV. I can't tell you what I watched. Because I don't remember.

I was too busy refreshing my email.

After a couple of hours, with nothing to show for all of my email-refreshing, aside from a sore email-refreshing finger, I decided it would be best if I just went to bed.

Again, I had made plans ahead of time. I knew that I would not be able to shut my brain off enough to sleep. So I took a Tylenol PM. Yep, I drugged myself.

Then I waited for the Tylenol PM to kick in, so that I could fall asleep. Constantly refreshing my email, of course.

Once I started to feel that drowsy, drugged, hazy tiredness come over me, I hit refresh one more time.

And had a response.

It had to be a rejection. I knew it. So I braced myself and clicked on it, prepared for the worst.

It was a request. Hard copy. By way of snail.

I took a little heart-flip moment, read the email again, sang for joy, cried a little bit inside, and darted over to the printer. It printed two pages, and then it was out of black ink.

No problem. I had a spare ink cartridge waiting to be used. Somewhere.

It wasn't on the desk. It wasn't under the desk. It wasn't on the shelves near the desk. Frantically, I tore the house apart, looking for the single black ink cartridge that could restore me to sanity, to no avail. I couldn't find it.

And the Tylenol PM was in full effect, so my mind was running out of options. Maybe I could change the color of the font from black to purple. Surely she wouldn't notice. Surely she wouldn't mind.

I decided it was better to go to bed and deal with it in the morning. After all, I wasn't going to be able to get  it to the post office before the next day, anyway.

So I laid down in bed and tried to sleep. But my mind would not stop obsessing over the darn ink cartridge. I knew I had a spare. I knew I had seen it at some point in the recent past. Where was it? Had one of my cats absconded with it? Maybe someone else put it in without my knowing about it. (Not possible, since NO ONE else knows how to put the stupid thing in.)

Aha! I had it. My nephew had been running around with it one day, and I had to take it away from him and hide it. Where did I hide it again? Oh, yeah. My sock drawer.

At this point, it was about 2 am. I got up, retrieved the ink cartridge from my sock drawer, installed it in the printer, printed out my partial, checked my email again, and finally went to bed.

I managed to sleep from somewhere in the vicinity of 3 am until about 7. Not the best night's sleep ever, but I would take it. After all, I was going to spend the rest of the day hitting refresh on my email. And taking a submission to the post office, then rushing back to hit refresh on my email some more.

Are any of you querying right now? How do you handle the insanity?


  1. Catherine,

    This is hilarious! The beginning with stocking up on provisions reminded me completely of the movie Trainspotting - not that I'm comparing writers to heroine addicts. Then again, if the shoe fits. ;)

  2. Lydia, sadly--that shoe fits all too well. LOL.

  3. It is nerve wracking, but I try to stay busy with my other WIPs... Though I am prone to microanalyzing the whole process, like I did in my recent blog post.

    So glad you were able print out your partial, and congrats on the request!

  4. So funny, Catherine! And since I just sent out another batch yesterday, I know *exactly* what you are talking about. Out power went out at 7 o'clock last night, and when it finally came back on at 5:15 am, I bounded out of bed and frantically checked my email. You know - in case an agent decided to pull an all-nighter just for me ;)
    Good luck to both of us!

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Bluestocking. After that first day or so, I managed to dive into my new project. The first day was just too busy though, to concentrate on anything else. You microanalyze too, huh? Glad I'm not alone in that.

  6. What, you mean agents DON'T pull all nighters for going through queries in the slush pile, Erin? LOL. Glad you're slightly neurotic too. And yay for getting your queries out! That is such a huge relief--and a stressor--all rolled up into one painful package.

  7. Loved the blog. I just finished my manuscript and have started my own version of editing. I'll soon join the fray with Query letters and the dreaded synopsis......

    Did I mention that I'm not a fan of waiting or that I hit every branch of the impatient tree on the way down it?


  8. Thanks for stopping by, Marquita. If you're already a little on the impatient side of things, be forewarned that your impatience will reach new heights once you begin to query. Stock up on chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

  9. I think I must have queried the wrong places. My queries come back in three months, or six, or a year, but which time I've almost forgotten I ever sent them. Then I use forgetfulness as an excuse not to send them out again.

    Chocolate sounds good.

  10. Sheila, I get plenty of those types of responses (or non-responses, as the case may be) as well. I was actually shocked when I got five responses within 24 hours of sending. This is most definitely NOT the norm.

    Keep sending them. And keep a wide array of chocolate on hand.

  11. Hilarious, Catherine! I can so relate to sore email-refreshing finger. I'm the WORST! Even when I'm not querying. LOL!

    Great post! :)

  12. I've just been through the process too and it's exhausting. Seems like every agent wants something different. I think the hardest is creating a 1 page synopsis. I have a 2 pager, 3 pager and a 5 pager. I have the first 5 pages of my manuscript, the first 10 pages, the first 3 chapters and the first 50 pages. Once I had all those saved, the process went a little faster, but nothing speeds up the waiting.

    Like Sheila, I received a response after a year, and I was like, "Who IS this?" LOL. Hard to get too upset over a rejection when you don't even remember querying the agent. And one of my friends said she received a rejection from someone she never even queried. Thank goodness she has a great sense of humor.

  13. Jerrica, LOL, I take it you're just normally email obsessive. I can understand that.

    And Samantha, the ones that always get to me are the requests that show up months and months down the road, when you're no longer querying that project. I've gotten those...

  14. Chuckle. I don't handle it either and worse, I'm abouot to start subbing a new ms.
    Good luck with your requests.
    Tam :)

  15. Catherine, you had me in fits of giggles. My toddler was looking at me funny. I'm about 3 days away from pressing send . . . I'll let you know how anxious I get then. Already have the chocolate! :-)

  16. Tamara, thanks and same to you. Stock up on chocolate before you actually start sending them out. Maybe wine too, if you tend to need a drink.

    AJ, thanks for stopping by and I'm glad I could make you laugh. Good luck with your submissions!