Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A momentary lull in the bloodletting

More than two thousand writers have offered up their queries to the Shark.

As you can see from the post numbers, we're really behind (don't worry, Q is for query, not quit: we're not stopping!)

I want to pause for just a moment between eviscerations to say how much I respect your participation here. Some of you send queries, some of you write comments, some of you just read the blog. I consider all of you to be part of The Chum.

I know this exercise in brutality (is there really any other accurate description?) works. We've all watched some of the queries go from raw to polished. It does work. But, that does NOT mean it's easy.

It is, in fact, very very hard. You have to gather up your courage just to send a letter, then have it posted, endure the critique, then take it to heart but not take it personally, and then try again.

Each person who gets a query posted on this blog has a chance to have it taken down.
Of the 143 posts I've done, only 6 have elected to do so.

Recently, in reply to the email I send to authors with posted queries reminding them they can have their post taken down, one writer replied:

In no way, shape, or form, do I want my query removed. How could I offer a more, improved, version if the original wasn't still posted?



That sentence right there is the best evocation of rock solid iron clad determination I've seen in some time.

Writing can be learned.
Syntax can be taught.
Determination is yours and yours alone.

I can't teach it, foster it, or help you find it. All I can do is recognize it and respect it. You've earned your scars here.



Now, enough lallygagging by the compliments buffet. Back to work. And yes, I mean YOU.

48 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

The Shark is loved...
Liked...
Thought well of...
Respected from a safe distance...

Whichever answer doesn't end in teeth marks (unless those marks are on my query).

Garrett said...

"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger".

Cliched and often repeated, it's still appropriate ... particularly to the Shark.

Rick Daley said...

Query Shark was a primary motivator in my starting The Public Query Slushpile, which has built up a nice community of writers to offer query critiques.

While most of the feedback one the Slushpile lacks the professional weight of The Shark, we are attentive students and I think we are pretty good a recapitulating the advice gleaned from our professional advisers. Pretty good turn around time, too, which is a factor of me just posting queries and 216 followers to weigh in with feedback, usually within hours.

Personally, I can't thank you and all of the other blogging agents enough for your willingness to sacrifice your time to help the masses. You do good things.

Dreamstate said...

I have a partial with a colleague of yours at FPL. I am hoping for success there, in no small part because I would love to be able to stop by your office, shake your hand, and thank you in person for everything that you have taught me. This posting is proof positive of the excellent professional and mentor you are.

David said...

I had no idea that so many people submitted queries to this site.

And I think it's disturbingly awesome (or awesomely disturbing) that people have the same chance of getting a request for a partial from your average agent as they do getting their query torn to shreds by the Shark.

I'm Erin said...

Dear QS,

Thank you. I'm a spineless, wanna-be published writer. It terrifies me to send out my shiz. But when I read your blog, I feel hopeful. Like maybe my shiz isn't as bad as other people's shiz. And then I'm that much closer to actually sending out a query.

Luv,

me

Lehcarjt said...

The query shark victims I have the most respect for are the ones who post, get slammed, revise and post again, get slammed again, and still revise and post a third time.

Someone who faces repeated failures and public humiliation for a small chance of success is courage-incarnate. I'm not sure I'm that tough or that humble.

Lumpy Dog said...

As part of The Chum, I prefer to be referred to as a Chum Monkey, thank you very much.

Dan H. said...

So does this mean that recent submissions will probably be months or even a year until they are analyzed by the Shark?

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with that (who in their right mind complains about free advice?), just hoping for some clarity of expectations.

Thanks!

Deb Salisbury said...

Three cheers for the Shark!

Thank you so much for the direction you give us. I refer everyone who asks me about query-writing to this blog.

And thank you to everyone who leaves their remains - I mean, query - here for us to examine.

Debbie (Nerd Goddess) said...

This blog is one of the most helpful publishing blogs I've ever come across. And while my writing isn't yet to the point where I should be submitting to agents, I do my first stop before I write a word of my query.

So thank you.

Alli said...

No guts, no glory...

Never has that rung more true. The people who willingly put themselves in the firing line to realise their dreams are amazing. The dedication, from the Shark and the participants, is mind-boggling. Thank you, Shark, for all the time and effort. Who said big fish are scary?

Lanette said...

I don't know about anyone else, but I would love to be chewed up, spit out, and dive back into the shark tank.

The Daring Novelist said...

I want to thank not only you for this blog, but also all the authors.

The best way to ease the pain of a blunt critique is to read a lot of blunt critiques. And for people who are too timid to actually send a query for critique, this blog still provides a wonderful course in how to make your queries better.

I hope you get to my query soon, but if you don't, I have already learned a tremendous amount.

Pearlmarie said...

I am ready and willing and waiting to be gnawed on by your sharp shark teeth. Thank you for your bloody service.

Sincerely,

One of those 2000 queries swimming around your email box

(pearlmarie@gmail.com hint hint)

Lynne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne said...

Love the shark, respect the shark.
Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Run...just messed up the comment section!

Sheila Deeth said...

I love that reply. Perfect.

Jenn McKay said...

Janet, there is no doubt in my mind that you kick ass. And I'll feel that way even if I get the guts to one day submit a query to you and you ignore it. Keep up the hard work and the long hours.

@Lehcarjt: I agree.

Ethereal_buddha said...

At first I was intimidated, but I've learned a lot on here. It's just about getting to the bare bones and not fru-fru language. A lot of us make that mistake. It's good to see how a query can evolve and be made better because writing is learned, not 'gifted'.

I can dig it.

Yamile said...

I'm one who usually just reads the blog, and I'm learning. Always learning. Thank you Shark!

Suze said...

I'm fairly new to this blog, so I have been going through all the posts since it started, and I have been so impressed with those people who sent in a query that was savaged by the shark (quite rightly because it was awful) and have resubmitted again and again until it becomes something wonderful and enticing enough to elicit requests for pages.

The shark is a true gift to writers.

diggadoo said...

I understand what the person meant when they e-mailed you... Getting the critique, for me, is the easy part, as well as the foundation for setting yourself up to build something better, bigger, beautiful...

I check this site everyday, HOPING mine makes it on... It hasn't so far, but the anticipation brings me back...

(Plus, I have gathered so much on what not to do, that it's kind of scary, in a good way, to see if I have made any of those mistakes in my query)

KEEP SLICING!!!!

Aimless Writer said...

Query Shark is the best! I tell everyone working on a query to come here and read it all.
I'm hoping my Q gets picked someday but I'm also a bit scared...
:)

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

I think your process is teaching and fostering us very well. When I read the survivor queries after the feeding frenzy I'm amazed at how that horrible query turned into such a polished work. It makes me brave enough to think that I can do it too. It's true that the process seems cruel but it really does work.

Bane of Anubis said...

I think you just lost your standing as the Simon Cowell of lit-agents.

lotusgirl said...

Kudos to brave souls who let themselves be shredded and keep plugging away.

tarleisio said...

I'm personally of the persuasion that if there is blood to be spilt, we might as well toughen our hides and brace ourselves for the Shark's teethmarks, when there maybe is less at stake and a greater eagerness to learn, than later while we await the Letter of Doomsday by our mailboxes.

To the Shark, I say - keep biting and as hard as you can! Because one day, one of those queries will be mine, and one day, if I'm willing to learn and pay attention, one of those queries will be a big, fat - YES!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

A huge thank you back at ya! When I was in 5th grade, I used to sneak "Jaws" from my parents bookshelf, read it during school, and put it back after. I distinctly remember reading the word "chum" and trying to figure it out what it meant. Now, I know the proper definition.

Beth said...

Of the queries that I've read, they seem to be for adult works. Do any queries come from children's writers?

Paul West said...

The biggest problem I see with your site is that by the time you get around to critiquing a query, it's months later and the author has probably already changed it a hundred times and has had it critiqued several times on other sites.

If a writer is anxious to get his work in the hands of agents and editors, he doesn't have time to wait for your input.

Sorry to be so blunt.

Kristi said...

I LOVE the shark!

Rebecca Knight said...

I totally agree that watching folks have their query posted, torn apart in the frenzy, repost, more frenzy, and post a 3rd time is about as inspiring as it gets.

Bless you, shark victims! You've taught us a ton through your perseverance and determination :).

Kristy said...

The fact that you take time out from your busy schedule to help us understand the query process is incredible (and much appreciated).

Botanist said...

Paul West, if an author is sitting waiting for their query to be critiqued, then they are missing the value to be had from this site.

I sent my first (pathetic) attempt in nearly two years ago. Yes, I revised it many times over the following months (and sent new versions in, hoping for a bite) but my revisions were inspired by the critiques of others I've seen here.

If the Shark never shredded another victim, this site would still be a rich source of learning for those who take the trouble to read.

el said...

Thank you for expending the time, effort and patience to show us what's wrong and herd us toward clarity. You don't have to do this; you don't get paid to do this; it is a gift of your time and expertise I greatly appreciate.

kregger said...

Hey,
When Ms. Shark thanked me for being her Chum, I thought she meant her friend!

Gawd, I was so naive. (Makes whimpering sound.) But I was only shark bait! (Sob!)

I'm still thickening up my skin, almost Shark Proof.

"Have... to... hit... submit... button," he says with a shakey voice and hand.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Janet, can you maybe start posting the date you received each respective query? I sent mine a while back, and I'm always curious if you've reached that point or not.

Cheers.

Julie said...

I've sent my query and hope it will be here for everyone to read. (No matter how many teeth marks rip away at it!)

Determination is my mantra. Right in front of my keyboard I have a sign on my desk that reads, DETERMINATION:At times it takes sheer will to overcome adversity.

Paul West said...

Botanist,

I agree with you. I certainly have not been sitting around waiting for the "shark" to tear my query apart. I've read many of the queries posted here, gotten some good ideas, then posted my query for review on other sites. The response there has been much quicker and personal.

By the way, are you a botanist? That's my profession as well.

Botanist said...

Paul West: Yes, I've had my query reviewed in a couple of other forums too. With positive reactions which I can firmly attribute that to the revisions I made after studying this blog.

No, I am not really a botanist. Sorry. I do love plants and gardens, but to look at and sit in. They also pop up quite often in the background in my writing. Maybe I was a vegetable in a former life?

Basil Zyllion said...

Damn. Here I was thinking I was saving mankind by offering my query up as tribute to the garish pool and here I have to contend with NOT one but TWO thousand other masochists/ psychotics.
Anyone else hear the Little Shop of Horrors theme music going off in my head?
So then I find out today that you're showing up in Bath, PA! Well, time for a road trip!

David Gaughran said...

Query Shark: If we have a query in the queue and it has been revised substantially since, should we re-send (I don't want to add to your backlog)? Alternatively, should we let nature take its course and hope that our earlier versions are filled with "teachable" errors?

Guinevere said...

I loved today's post! It's always nice to be reminded that we can learn to write - and always, to write better - and that our determination is the thing that can carry us through.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I submitted my query, pulled it, then resubmitted. In the meantime I'm querying for real, making slight changes as I go.

I'll leave mine in the queue in case my novel is still making the rounds. Perhaps by then I'll know what I've been doing wrong!

laurabdiamond said...

You know what? When I was a wee little freshly hatched fishy, submitting my query to the chum bucket was waaaaay too scary.

Well, I've grown up a bit, thickened my skin, learned to take the blows. In fact, I'm eager bear the scars of the shark. Without the challenges, how do we improve ourselves? Through adversity comes growth.

I'm ready to become a bigger fish. :)

Many thanks to you for hosting this blog and giving your time.

Jeff said...

Dear exalted Shark:

I'm almost through all the posts, and am amazed at the tremendous benefit you've provided! One day I would love to pay you back by making you oodles and oodles of money from my book.

I will assume that you're okay with devalued rubles.

Your humble Chum,
Jeff

Sarah Hipple said...

I now have query letter writing chills.

I love dedicated people

Thanks, Shark.