Querying Trenches and Community

It’s dirty down here, here in the trenches. Mostly, it’s dirty with coffee grounds and crumbs from that roll of Caramel Delights you ate while rewriting your query letter for the thirtieth time. I’ve been doing something lately that makes me feel the smallest ounce better, and maybe it will for you, too.

I’ve been reading a lot this summer. I’ve taken to heart the old Stephen King quote that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or tools to write.” Some has been pure pleasure reading of the binge-y kind that I used to as a kid (The Martian in less than 24 hours, A Darker Shade of Magic ) while others have been to study the craft or my genre more thoughtfully (Infinite Jest, The Girls, Sweetbitter). Regardless, I’ve been reading all the way to the end of the book, and by that, I mean reading the acknowledgements page.

Reading the Acknowledgements page of a first time (or even often published) writer often feels like picking up someone else’s thank you card off of the street. The intended audience isn’t really Joe Reader anymore. Most of the names you don’t recognize, most of the inside jokes glide over you like you’re made of saran wrap, and most of the initials are impenetrable. Sure, you can sometimes pick out the name of an agent or editor you recognize (or even one from your query list), but more often than not, it’s a list of relationships and memories that are intangible to you.

But those people helped make that book and that author. Whenever I read a particularly good book with a long acknowledgments page, I remember that once (even if very long ago), that author was querying. That author complained to their partner and their parents and their writing group. That author studied with a professor that gave them a C that meant they had to improve and they did improve. Each initial and inside joke is a jenga block that helped build that book into something that’s in my hands.

Querying can feel lonely. Querying can feel like gym class kickball drafting. Querying can feel like the best blind date you’ve ever had, or the worst. But in the query trenches I have to remind myself that while I’m the one responsible for revising and being the best representative of my manuscript, it’s a very good thing to find others going through the same thing and especially, others who can force you to talk about something else at the end of the day.

What’s made you feel better in the trenches?

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