Monday, April 19, 2010

Queriversary

One year ago I began my attempts at getting CONFLUENCE published. I sent out seven query letters, opened my facebook AUTHOR profile, and started to think seriously about publishing. I was SURE I would find an agent, then a publisher in a matter of months, and worried what I would do for insurance, because obviously I would want to quit my day job and writer full time after I was offered some $50K for my book.

Oh, MAN, was I in for a series of shocks.

My seven queries led to six rejections and an echoing silence. One of those rejections came within half an hour (a woman I would STILL love for an agent—we are soul mates; I KNOW IT. I just wish she did, too, but apparently I am not communicating adequately...

So after I excitedly peed myself, sending these early queries, I met a woman, though a neighbor of mine, who is a local writer. I asked her to look at my query and she quickly spotted the sticking point.

-----> 200,000 words.

Did you see it, or was it too subtle for you? Never mind that I happen to prefer my books upward of 500 page. Apparently debut authors have about the probability of a snowballs chance in HELL of publishing that long a book. I quietly stuffed the knowledge that one of the successful people at this, Elizabeth Kostova, shares my city limits. It doesn't happen to REAL PEOPLE. Because HONESTLY, The Historian hit that Vampire wave before it really even started, so someone with LITERARY fiction skills (and I say that in both the positive and the negative—The Historian was a GREAT book, and VERY dense, in my opinion—I have a hard time believing all the Americans who bought it were actually capable of reading it *cough* Sorry—snob moment there). So my cult of nuts isn't apparently the next vampire wave... No 200K book for me.


I spent the summer shortening the book, got it down to 150K and in August tried again. I sent fifteen, I think, ONE of which resulted in a request for 20 pages. Two got responses that were “no thanks we're not taking ANYBODY” (though websites had not said that)--I think I got 10 or 11 rejections and a few no response... hmph.


But near the end of August, when the queries were out, I went on my wild ride of writing LEGACY in just six weeks, then began ILLUSIONS, then took a brief break for NaNo and wrote DENIABILITY, then FINISHED ILLUSIONS in December... in 4 months I wrote 3 books. None of them is yet POLISHED to querying point, but it is NUTS how fast that all went.

In December and January, I then turned to a further polish of CONFLUENCE so I could enter the Amazon contest (had to be under 150K)--and got it down to 137K. In January I queried once again. THIS TIME, I had three interactions where agents wanted to see more, one of them 75 pages. It was a MUCH better ratio. But I have decided since that time, that while I love CONFLUENCE, I think it is really complex enough that it is a hard sell as a first book. It is the kind of book someone will say is their favorite one day, but it is too hard to describe to get a reader to pick up when they've never heard of me. I want to sell (maybe two) other books of mine before trying with CONFLUENCE again. I want an established success record.

So on this queriversary, I want YOUR opinion on which book I should polish first. The following descriptions are not polished pitches—that will come and will take time, but I would love to hear where you think I would be best off dedicating my next round of editing time.


LEGACY: Nine year old Peter hides and watches as his father is executed by invaders. Thirteen year old Athena narrowly escapes the drug dealer her mother has traded her to for a heroine high. Peter and his siblings hide in the attic of their family home as Athena takes to the streets of Portland. A chance meeting at Pioneer Square brings these children together, only to find that the Legacies they've inherited from their parents are intertwined and include spying, smuggling, and the politics of a country on the other side of the world. They decide unraveling this legacy is the only way to shake off the criminals who are now after them, and might lead the Popescu children to their missing mother. Sometimes though, you get more answers than you've bargained for. (this is the first of my trilogy)


DENIABILITY: Liza Dahlmer works for a super secret branch of the CIA charged with keeping operatives paranoid by exposing their vulnerabilities. She is a Watcher.. She tracks, photographs, steals from, and entraps the best and the brightest in American intelligence. Unfortunately, nobody knows—and she's not telling. When she is arrested for murder and taken before the intelligence committee to determine where she ought to be tried, she has nothing to say for herself, but psychiatrist, Philip Landauer believes there is more to the story. He begins an investigation, sometimes with Liza's cooperation, though usually without, as she is convinced her life will end if he unravels the wrong thread. The two play a game, he determined to save her, she determined to just go to prison and bide her time, until the powers that be decide she has shared anyway, and the two have to run for her life. This psychological thriller explores how nothing is ever really buried for good, and how sometimes the best way to get away, is to confront the thing you are running from.


For the former, I've been reading art theft tales. For the latter, I've been watching back episodes of Alias and La Femme Nikita. I think I am ready to dive into the next iteration of either one, but I'd LOVE to choose the one you think has the best shot of MAKING IT as a debut novel.

So THANK YOU for any help or insight you can give on where I ought to start! Happy Queriversary!

33 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

Deniability grabs me first. I tend to be put off if I see the book I want to read is part of a trilogy - because I don't know if I'll like that one yet. There's the vote, but I think you need to go with your heart - whichever one inspires you the most because revising is a LOT of work so you need to keep motivated.
Good luck with it :-)

Watery Tart said...

Thank you, Charmaine! I believe Legacy stands alone, but I do understand there is more of a risky feel (and the resolution is only of one strand of the story, leaving two more unresolved--so it's true... helpful to keep in mind some people see it that way! I appreciate the vote!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yeah, I'd heard most publishers don't want to see more than 100,000 words from a new author.
Considering today's trend, I'd say the first one.

Jan Morrison said...

Jeez, I don't know. I like what you're up to though. Why? Because I suffer from the same flooditude of manuscripts only mine aren't so long! I think I'd go for the second only because it brings me thoughts of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo - and the Millenium Trilogy. Steig Larsen found someone to print all three and they all ran over 600 pages plus no one had ever heard of him. My S.P. and I have read them and went to see the Girl with D.T. last night at the theatre - WOW! Anywho - tighten up your pitch - get the scary stuff in first and have back at 'er! You can do it Duffy Moon!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I think I'd go with Legacy, but just by a hair. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Cher Bear said...

DENIABILITY!! I love these kind of stories, I don't know if it's the suspense or if it's just that I love to see extremely smart women in their element.
Good luck with either. :)

Watery Tart said...

YAY! I love getting feedback! And I actually like that things are tied at the moment... it makes me feel like they are both compelling (or will be, once cleaned.)

Both of these will be somewhere around 80,000 words when done--Legacy needs CLEANING, where DENIABILITY has some gaps still to fill. (it's about 65K right now, but I have many spots that say 'this type of spying episode' because I knew generally what I wanted, but needed to do a bunch of research before I could write it right.)

ggray said...

These both sound very interesting, but my gut feeling is Legacy. It sounds like more of a quest story.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I'd definitely go with Legacy. Don't mention it's a part of a trilogy until someone shows some interest, if in fact, it can stand alone. Awesome concepts going on there, Hart! I'm so impressed! :)

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

I too go with Legacy, but to be honest I write poetry not ficton or novels, follow your heart then you can't go wrong,

Good luck for your writing future.
Yvonne,

Amy said...

Legacy. Once people read and love part one of a trilogy, then you are guaranteed the deal for the next 2. Besides, I prefer trilogies and series.

Watery Tart said...

And we've got one eeking (eaking?) out ahead! Thank you, everyone!!!

steelxmagnolia said...

Legacy. Just remove the first of a trilogy reference. Can be added post-publication of 2nd or 3rd story. Or can stand on its own merit. Write on!

Marjorie said...

Legacy. That one just grabs my interest. A lot. I do really wish Confluence had a better chance at being your first novel published. Either way when you DO get published I'll be at the book store pronto in order to support you.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Legacy hooked my attention right away. I like the idea of being lost and finding out you're a part of something bigger and maybe a bit sinister.

Helena Soister said...

Legacy sounds wonderfully original. Can't say what the publishers/agents want, but as a reader I'd go for that story.

Helen Ginger said...

I sort of like Deniability. Perhaps because I think I'd rather read about an adult than a child.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Watery Tart said...

Okay... and the lead keeps growing! It is the one much closer to ready, anyway--I've already had it in first reader hands. I will need to edit it some to fit better wtih the next two (which have only a single chapter to completion, I think) and I have some edits based on good feedback... looking like that is where to head!

Watery Tart said...

Ha! Helen, you snuck in there! They will all get done... it's funny, DENIABILITY is my first book that hasn't had teens centrally involved--I think because my kids are still at home and family stuff is pretty central to my reality. Deniability was a departure from the norm for me, but I do really like it (the psychodrama thing is fun to me)

Wanda said...

The both sound interesting. I think I leaning toward Legacy.

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

I vote Legacy. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you had an agent? Did I read that wrong?

B. Miller said...

They both sound awesome, but I think I'd rather read Legacy (first). Good luck with your queries... thanks for the tip on the word count, too. I think I'm going to be around the 130,000 mark... I hope, anyway. Phew.

Caledonia Lass said...

Okay, I skipped through all the comments because I didn't want to let them influence me.

I loved both descriptions. You had me from the get-go with each one.

While Legacy would be a great stand-alone first book, I think I would have to go with Deniability. Why?

Legacy is about teens/kids. It is the first of a series, correct? Unless you have the other books in the series close to being done, very few fans will want to wait while you get Deniability out before the second and third books. I am a super fan of trilogy/series books and it irritates me to no end when an author I love (I won't mention names) puts off an incredible series (only two books of five out) to hop on the vampire bandwagon after not hearing anything new in YEARS.

Start with Deniability, work on Legacy and the rest of the series so you can put them out at regular intervals and keep people happy. I do not read that author anymore simply because of the fact that the series was put on hold, nothing for years and then a vamp book. Gah! *disgusted* Anyway, I'm sure there were good reasons for it, but if there is no news, how can anyone know...

and I will stop ranting now. You have my suggestion/advice. :D

Caledonia Lass said...

Oh and strong female characters are sort of the trend at the moment as well. Wow, I lost track of what my point was. Sorry! Teens/kids is always a good trend, but unless it is geared towards YA, it might not be accepted right away either.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I like both -- but I'm especially fond of anything that looks like a standalone thriller (even if one or more characters show up again in later novels). I'd probably vote to try "Deniability" first (or query for "Legacy" as a standalone with the note that you have rough drafts of two follow-on novels).

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Deniability gets my vote - I'm ready to pick it up and read it right now! :-)

Watery Tart said...

Ha! You guys are FABULOUS! I love all this feedback.

Kierah-I have an agent for the cozy mystery audition I did, and i hope to convert her to a full-fledged "MY AGENT" thing, but our agreement was only on the one project for the moment. I sort of want to prove to her I can knock that out of the park, then she will be more inclined on the other stuff... or so I'm thinking.

B. I really LIKE books at around 130K, and I'm not sure that is prohibitive in getting them to LOOK, but I bet before you're done they want it closer to 100K--which is okay--tightening after it's done is good for the writing. At the END, you can better spot what wasn't really necessary.

Mel-I've actually waited to edit until the other two are pretty much written. It goes against agent advice, as they don't want you wasting your time if you can't sell the first, but I didn't want to write myself into a corner (having details in the first book that made the later ones impossible or something--and several details HAVE changed. (I like series too)

Ha! And a couple votes the other direction! Thank you so much everyone!

Gregg said...

Yes, I think I would go as the others said with the Legacy. Get them hooked on it and begging for the next two. That what happened to me with the bourne series.

Sugar said...

I say the first one..but that's just my anallity of having to read the very first book in a series first :)

jenny milchman said...

I'm leaning toward LEGACY, because those children sound like such unique characters, and their stories immediately pulled me in.

Anyway, congratulations on this Queriversary Sounds like in the year you have grown muchly as a writer, and come to some very deep conclusions about your work.

Terresa said...

I'm drawn to Legacy. Although I love La Femme Nikita and think Deniability sounds gripping, too.

Keep on submitting your queries and fine-tuning. At any rate, you are so much further ahead in the writing game than I. Marvel at how far you've come and how close you are getting to your goals. You can do it!!

Watery Tart said...

I think the Legacies have it! I had two responses on facebook, one for each, but it is definitely leaning about 2/3 toward Legacy... ACTUALLY, DENIABILITY has some WRITING to it, so maybe after I go through the hard copy of LEGACY and mark what needs fixing, and move THAT to the computer stack, then I can work on both.

Thank you everyone for voting! And Welcome Terresa! Love new faces!

Ellie said...

I agree, the both sound intriguing, but I pick
DENIABILITY! It doesn't have a history to worry about, as you said with the other one, LEGACY.

I think DENIABILITY, would be easier to write, since you don't have to tie in past references. I'm only a blog writer; I'v had 1 story published. I don't know how much work, that involves. I want a strong female character~