The Truth Behind My Querying Mask...

I'm feeling a bit open and vulnerable right now, so I've decided to be bold and peel off a layer so you can see the dark truth.

I've a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in me.

To the world, I put on the happy query face. Because really, I've had an AMAZING run with my first novel. I've gotten request after request, and had multiple partials turn into fulls, I've even had an agent say, "Your first ten pages are some of the best I've ever received."

But nothing has clicked yet.

I respect every agent I've had contact with and especially the ones who have given me FEEDBACK. I swear, getting advice from an agent is so rare. I've been one of the lucky ones. So of course, I've seized any ounce of counsel I've been given and applied it to my MS so fast I'm sure my MC's head has spun.

But here's the problem: It doesn't feel wholly right anymore. I feel like I've messed up the pacing. Maybe there's too much action and not enough character development. Does it read too much like a fable? Is it too plot driven? It's when I started getting contradictory advice that I knew I'd made a mistake.

I wasn't trusting my gut.

I've always considered one of my strengths being my ability to adapt, to take advice and not be sold on the current state of my MS. I'm not one of those stubborn writers where it's either "my way or the highway" ... I'm in this to learn, to soak up every piece of knowledge in this art that I can. Because I know I have the talent to do this.


and it's a huge BUT...

I've also learned I need to trust that little something inside of me... that little spark that told me I was the one person to write this story.

Each manuscript starts out as a little seed: (and cue cheesy plant metaphor) an idea, a passing thought, a dream (heh, Steph Meyer wasn't the only one) ... but after your story has grown to adulthood, reflect on whether or not that "feeling" that burned inside your heart when that first idea took hold is still there. Am I making sense? Or is my mom the only one reading still? (Hi mom!)

I still hope there'll be an agent that will see the magic and potential with my story, but if not, heh, I know I won't make the same mistakes with my future novels. I'm going to trust my gut. Because I think each of us writers have that inner compass built within us.

What about you? Do you jump on advice too quickly? Do you take into full account everything that your beta readers or agents tell you? Or are you too stubborn? Unable to bend when you need to bend?

Red. Head. Out.



  1. I think the way you're doing it is the best--listening to the advice of others, but in the end, trusting yourself, because when it all comes down to it, it's your story.

    I can't really answer the question because I haven't got a beta reader and I haven't started querying yet, and while I've gotten feedback it's been more of the small changes/grammar variety. I don't hesitate to make small changes that I'm sure will better my story, because they really don't affect the overall plot all that much. But I'm kind of hesitant to start any really big edits without advice, a hint at which direction I should go. So I'm going to wait for my HC review, and then I'll probably take all the good advice and apply it to my story. :)

    Great post!

  2. I think it's wise to consider what CPs, betas, and agents tell you. But. And like yours, this is a gigantic BUT! YOU HAVE TO STAY TRUE TO YOUR STORY! Whoa, did I just cap all of that. It must mean I'm very passionate about the subject. I take some advice and throw the rest out the window. I appreciate what is told to me, but I don't have to change my story just because someone told me to. It is my story. I'm intimately engaged in it. No one can tell you what's best for your story because it's YOURS!

    I have a couple CP's (including you) who I trust completely with what they suggest. However (sorry Morgan) I haven't taken every piece of advice they've given me.

    I do have to say that the only way you can improve upon your book is to have other people look at it. Because you are so intimately involved with the book, you may not see things that can be tweaked to develop the story into something brilliant.

    I could go on and on forever on this one, but suffice it to say: Write your story and take what others say with a grain of salt but consider it highly.

  3. You know, I've been there and I continue to struggle with this. I received so much conflicting advice on some projects. I'm fairly certain I ruined one of my manuscripts because I tried to please everyone. I've tried to weigh advice differently... because an insider (agent/editor) would know... right? In the end, though, it's easy to destroy what's special in the search for the right words. I liked this blog post by Maggie Stiefvater for revision: You should be willing to fight for what's sacred and let go of that which isn't... because therein lies your story. It's a process that no writer avoids, I think... and you just have to learn through experience. Good luck... and good blog post.

  4. I did that with my first book and it ended up kinda Frankenstein-esque. I've gotten better about trusting my gut though and making sure that I'm only taking suggestions that mesh with my story and my vision of it. I think these things just come with time... (Hopefully).

  5. I'm loving your comments, everyone... thank you. I find this topic SO fascinating... and I think it's something you can't really KNOW unless you've experienced it first hand...

    As hard as it's been, I am grateful being on this side of the learning curve--the knowledge is priceless and I know that I'll be able to continue forward with new eyes. (Uh oh... getting close to the cheese line, I better back off before people start gagging :P )

  6. This post is so great :) Loved your "high mom!" part...hehe!

  7. I jump on every little piece of advice and devour it whole. *sigh* It's all about confidence. As a sprouting writer myself, my confidence is pretty down at heel, I always assume everyone knows better than me. I don't feel confident in giving advice to people yet. I'm just not experienced enough to give it. So why do I assume everyone else is more clued in? Jees, I don't know. I guess we have to trust our inner voice, and we have to know what to filter when we are taking advice. I'm just hoping as we grow as writers, and as our confidence blossoms, that our inner voice will learn to shout so it can be heard over the cacophany of other voices telling you us what to do.

    Everyone, after me, put your hands over your ears, close your eyes, and sign at the top of your voice 'regrets, I've had a few, but then again, to few to mention...'

    I <3 you Morg.


  8. I take at least 90% of the advice given and apply it in some form, even if it's just a tiny tweak. It's hard because the agents don't know you. At least with crit partners/betas, they DO know you, and they recognize what you're trying to do in the story. I find that the passion I feel for the story doesn't come across so well in the first draft. My betas point out the places where I need to show it, or where they're not feeling it, so I can flesh it out.
    But nobody's ever given me major plot-changing advice...maybe when you take some time away from the story while working on the WIP, you can read it again down the road and it will suddenly be so much clearer. Time away from it really helps.
    Good luck, love!

  9. Thanks Wen, and Leigh... talk about being connected with the best of the best. You girls are amazing and your words of encouragement are priceless!

    And I am stoked about my WIP, it's flowing very naturally and I will always have a special place in my heart for my first novel. We can't all be freaks of nature like you two getting your first novels published! *winks*

  10. I TOTALLY jump in WAY too fast. Or. I used to.

    I'm MUCH better now at saying, you know what? This is how I want to tell this story.

    It's hard, though. Really, really, really, hard.

  11. I haven't reached this point yet, but I can see how it would be so easy to say to yourself, "Well she's the expert! Changes are a-coming!" and dive in head first.

    But you're right. Everybody- EVERYBODY has a different idea about how to write a story and what a story should look like. Even JK Rowling, the most popular author in the world, was turned down and criticized. That's not to say that any of us will reach her level of success, but my point is that not everybody agreed that her story would be successful.

    If you take everybody's advice, 100% of the time, you'd have a very schizophrenic novel on your hands :)

  12. Thanks for your comments, Jolene and Gina...

    I love the writer community--it's so great how open and friendly we all are--the level of support is amazing. And so great to learn from each other.

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  14. TRUST YOUR GUT! I've been told/taught that very recently and it usually always works out. You will never be content or happy with what you've created unless your gut tells you it's how it should be. I'm no expert, but I know how I feel when I DO and DON'T follow my instincts, and when I don't, what I write looks like do-do but when I just let it flow, it's like magic.

    Follow your mind and you'll always question yourself, but follow your heart and you'll never doubt yourself. Sometimes all it takes is seeing and hearing it from somebody to solidify that's what you should really be doing.

    You can never go wrong following your heart because even if things don't turn out the way you had wished, at least you know you did it YOUR way and not somebody else's.

    And as far as this comment you made, "but after your story has grown to adulthood, reflect on whether or not that "feeling" that burned inside your heart when that first idea took hold is still there. Am I making sense? Or is my mom the only one reading still? (Hi mom!)" well, this is why I've spent almost every waking moment of my life the past 3 months pursuing what I've been working on, because that feeling will not allow me to give up, and it won't allow you to either, regardless of you feeling like you may want to one day. DON'T!