Katherine Ladny Mitchell
Trying Again ...
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Have you ever finished a project only to learn soon afterward that you did it incorrectly? Maybe the paint you thought was perfect in the store turned out to be all wrong once you got it on the walls. Or maybe you realized you forgot to add sugar to the scones only after you’d placed them on the baking sheet. Or -- my personal favorite -- you find out you’re thirty square feet of hardware cloth short because you didn’t take into account a tiny detail which skewed all your measurements. Speaking hypothetically, of course ...
We’ve all been there, and it’s not a fun place to be. I begrudgingly revisited when I realized the query letter I’d been sending to potential literary agents for my new sci-fi novel not only had a minor typo, but also failed to include much of the pertinent information many agents look for when considering a client. After listening to an instructive presentation: 7 Insider Secrets to Get a Top Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal by former literary agent-turned-writer-consultant, Mark Malatesta, I learned that a proper query letter should have four paragraphs which:
Hook your potential agent by pitching the gist of your book in an attention-grabbing way and giving its title, genre, and word count
Identify your target market (Who are your readers? Why will they read your book?)
Explain how your work is different from similar titles on the market (this takes actual research)
List your writing credentials (or your motivation for writing your book in the first place)
My query only had three paragraphs and focused more on story details rather than the business-y details (like how we all get paid). But it is supposedly the latter info which will grab an agent’s attention. The publishing business is still a business, after all. If an agent likes your story idea but cannot sell it to a publisher, then what’s the point? How I wish I’d heard this advice sooner as the rejections come rolling in.
So how do I respond? I could get angry, but that won’t get me an agent.
Left unchecked, anger quickly morphs into bitterness, and bitterness can warp a soul.
I could kick myself, but that also won’t get me an agent -- just an ulcer. I could blame the system. “It’s not fair that the publishing powers that be don’t appreciate my work!” That would give me a chip on my shoulder, but again -- not an agent. I could quit .. but if I’m really called to writing, this won’t be a very satisfying option.
I could be teachable.
It’s a brave thing to admit you’re wrong and undo what you’ve done so you can redo it better.
There’s a joke that goes, “Writing is the art of rewriting what you’ve already written.” While I hope this is not the motto for my doctor or contractor, there’s a lot of truth to it both in writing and in relationships. I do not think we should minimize or gloss over our disappointments in life, but neither should we let our past failures define our future. We can choose to rebuild that bridge, rewrite that query, turn from our mistakes, and begin again.
This takes incredible power which frankly, I don't naturally generate. But I have found an unfailing power source in my relationship with Christ -- power and promise. Since Jesus paid for my past, I can have true hope in a future with Him regardless of my performance or how successful my writing ever becomes.
So here’s to trying again and again and again and again ... because at this point, I honestly can’t stop hearing the stories begging to be told.