MISTAKE NUMBER 1
The first mistake I made was crafting a query letter before I was really ready.
Sure, I managed to scrape something together, but writing the query letter illuminated something very important to me: my book wasn’t done yet. Sure, all the pages were written and the plot arc circled to a close. But I hadn’t written something worth publishing yet.
Struggling to write my query letter made me realize that my manuscript needed a lot of work.
My biggest problem with the query letter was that I couldn’t describe the character conflict in an interesting way. I was hitting all the tropes but none of the originality.
Beyond that, I couldn’t describe my book to people when they asked what it was about. I always felt cheesy saying things like, “It’s about a teenager who becomes a witch and gets separated from her mentor, and her companion is a thief, and she doesn’t know enough magic to stop the bad guy…” Um… what?
Since I wrote the first draft of the novel in high school (and revised it several times since then), there were some core issues that I didn’t really know how to fix. Such as:
- I don’t really like my main character.
- The writing isn’t really all that great. (This was a side-effect of writing draft one in High School.)
- There are MAJOR plot holes (think the Marianas Trench).
- There isn’t a compelling character arc/conflict—all I have here is plot.
- I have no idea what the physical attributes of my character are, and the hair color changes three times throughout the manuscript.
If I couldn’t articulate in a query letter what makes my book interesting, readable, and marketable, then I wouldn’t hold too much hope out for the book itself.
Sure, I finished a book. And while that’s an incredible accomplishment for anyone, that doesn’t mean publishing is the next step. Yes, publishing is the end goal, but there’s a lot of space between Point A (writing) and Point B (publishing).
Just a few steps between writing and publishing:
- Beta readers (or a critique group)
- Query Letter
- Yes = revise with the agent, revise with editor, etc.
- No = revise and beta again, then resend. Or sometimes you need to move on and start a new project.
- Keep writing.
All in all:
Just because I finished a book, doesn’t meant I’m ready to publish it. Every manuscript requires revision, fixing, mending, piecing together, rewriting, editing, and then—just as importantly—polishing.
And just because I wrote a book and mended it as best as possible, that doesn’t mean it will get published either. Sometimes we just need to start fresh!