Paralysis

(Warning: If you’re not interested in reading about the writing process, skip to the end!)

“Art is never finished—only abandoned.”
Leonardo da Vinci

It’s a big deal to finish a novel. At least, if you listen to the collective wisdom of the writing world. And maybe they’re right. But despite the long lapse in years between starting (cursive on notebook paper, 2005) and finishing (five versions later, four major rewrites, 2010), I never doubted that I would finish the thing. It’s the next step that intimidates me.

 How do you go about obtaining representation—i.e., an agent?

Well. I’ve been reading on this subject for as long as I’ve been writing with an eye to publication, and let me tell you, it’s quite a process. According to other writers, it’s almost as difficult to get an agent as it is to land a book deal. The query letter and synopsis are going to KICK YOUR BUTT. And you MUST DO MARKET RESEARCH and READ THE BOOKS THAT THE AGENTS HAVE REPRESENTED, to make sure they’re REALLY A GOOD FIT FOR YOU and help you WOW THEM WITH A PERSONALIZED query letter.

So three weeks ago, when I finished my novel, I began the process, aiming for two weeks to put together a submission package and have the queries sent—but knowing how things go in the world of a SAHM-writing mom. And I began searching out agents.

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The first thing that happened was that I found the Guide to Literary Agents blog…which went on my Google Reader. Then I started reading articles on their site (which is terrific), and decided I had to learn how to write a synopsis. That led me to several dozen other articles, which pointed me to such sites as QueryTracker and AgentQuery, who recommend that you double check with Preditors and Editors to make sure that there aren’t complaints against the people you’re considering.

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And oh, yes, there’s this all-important question: Is it, or is it not, okay to send queries to several agents at the same time? That detour lasted another three hours. And very soon I reached…

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Paralysis.

 What exactly was I supposed to be doing? Oh, yes, searching for agents. Preparing a submission package.

 The trouble is that all those pieces of research are necessary. But not all of them are necessary at the same time. I looked at QueryTracker and had absolutely no idea what to do with it. But ten days later, after I had a list of agents and a rough synopsis, I happened back across it and said, “Oh, that’s what this is for!”

 And this leads me to my primary point, which despite the long intro will not be a long-winded one. Writers—many writers, anyway, myself included—are obsessive about feedback and advice. We have perfected the taking of criticism to an art, until sometimes we want others to do our thinking for us. My breakthrough moment came when I realized that sooner or later I had to stop culling other people’s wisdom and just start writing. That doesn’t mean I stopped researching—but my reading became more focused, and no longer involved a tangled http://www.eb of tangents. It’s vital to start writing before paralysis becomes permanent.

I triumph! Yesterday, I sent out my first three queries.

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 My poor readers. I’ve been jawing about writing all week. Cross my heart, I promise that tomorrow I will return to family matters. And I have a job for you. Beginning with tomorrow’s Thursday Motherhood Moment, I want to hear YOUR stories. Think back through the last week or two and come up with some little moment you can share!