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Turning Query Trenches into Tree Houses

At long last, you’ve written those two glorious words at the end of your manuscript *cue Glee-inspired jazz hands*. You then went back through your already gorgeous prose and rewrote the majority of it, except for that one heavenly-inspired chapter. No sentence has been left unscathed by your Find and Replace tool and your ellipses are finally under control. Phew! You have read your story aloud, had alpha, beta and momma readers, and crafted the perfect query letter. #MSWL, Query shark, and Twitter have become your new best friends as you subtly cyber-stalked every possible agent and editor within your genre. And now, after years of productive movement forward, you enter into the so-called trenches. To lie stagnant. And wait?

Welcome to what could feel like the longest wait of your life. But not for you my writerly friends.

Whether this is the first novel you’ve bravely set out to share with the world or your fourteenth, there is no magical formula that can explain the how’s and why’s of the publishing waiting game. This industry just moves slowly. Like molasses-in-Canada slow. So, rather than falling into a slump (or trench) while you wait, I’ve got some better ways to avoid email-refresh-itis and wallowing over possible form letters of passing (I refuse to use the “R” word).

Here are five ways you can turn your query trench into a more positively situated query tree house:

1) Fill your creative well: This is a great time to read, read and read some more, because the best writers are voracious readers, right? It’s part of your job! So, indulge in stories both from within your genre, particularly for books that may make great comparative titles (those with similar themes written within the last five years) and for books that inspire your own writing craft. I like to also include books that have been best-sellers in the past year and those that have won literary awards.

2) Look to the future: If your query letter is successful, agents and editors will request, in short order I might add, for a full proposal. What is that you might ask? Think of it as your summary and sales presentation for your book. You will need things like that dreaded synopsis, back cover copy, a marketing plan, comparative titles, and a tagline. Check out Jane Friedman’s or Steve Laube Agency’s blogs for some excellent advice on how to write a proposal that will win over publication boards.

3) Find your Tribe: Scan the other tree houses in your genre for authors and readers with whom you would love to build relationships. Writing is not a solitary pursuit, and if you haven’t realized this, now is the time to open your eyes to the massive community that can’t wait to rally around you! Try looking under hashtags like #writingcommunity #yawriters #mgfantasy #bookstagram. Once you find your new bookish friends, support them with all your heart. Share their posts, participate in their cover reveals, launch parties and read/review their books!

4) Climb even higher in that tree: While you’re waiting on this story to find its perfect home, practice and improve on your craft by attending writing conferences, picking up a craft book or two, and then yes, writing that next story! If diving right into another novel-length project is too daunting, try crafting short stories that could act as a lead magnet on that website you’ll need to create once you get a contract. The award-winning short story you receive when signing up for my mini-notes is exactly that!

5) Be okay with tumbles: Part of putting yourself out there is knowing that this brave step will only lead to improvement. Take on a growth mindset. If you receive a no from an agent or publisher, take any feedback they give you and use it to make your query and writing stronger. If the no’s pile up, find other areas in your life that are yes’s. Make a practice of seeing your daily blessings. Get a pretty journal and write down one thing that you are grateful for each and every day.

Hope Prosers, I am currently putting these exact things into practice within my own tree house. The wait is long and sometimes difficult, but no matter the outcome, I will be ready and revived. I’d love to connect across treehouses through virtual tin-can telephones @tara.k.ross on Instagram and @tara_k_ross on Twitter. I also post a weekly gratitude challenge on Instagram using writing prompts, and I’d love for you to join me. We can wait with a fabulous view of today, tomorrow, and the really not-so-distant future together.

* This post was originally shared during the Inklings on-line conference this past winter.


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