Epiphanies of the Last-Minute Kind
If you follow my blog, then you already know that I’ve been working on my first rewrite of my novel God-Chosen. While doing that, I’ve also been working on a query letter with the hope of submitting it to Penguin Group next month (October is the last month Penguin will accept unsolicited mail). I hadn’t started on the synopsis yet, but I felt fairly confident I could handle it in the time I have.
Well as it turns out, I’m not even going to try.
I am not submitting to Penguin Group.
Before you get on my case about “You should at least try!” let me explain why I’ve made this decision:
As of now, God-Chosen is still only a draft. In the past few months, I’ve done an incredible amount of research and learning about the entire writing process. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I knew to begin with.
When I tried to fit my novel into the 3-disaster structure, and later into a one-paragraph synopsis and query letter, I struggled with the first disaster. What I considered the end of the beginning (and thus, the first disaster) was Lucian’s awakening, when Lucas no longer exists. What is the disaster here? That Lucas no longer exists? That’s supposed to be a good thing. No more annoying human, yay! How is this disastrous?
How, then, can I put that into a query letter without it sounding like setup? “Amara had to awaken her husband’s soul from a human body. She does this, then they get their orders for the final assault on Dras-Lokh.” No. No no no no no. This is background. It’s setup. It doesn’t matter!
But if I don’t mention this and the agents reads my synopsis or MS, they’re going to read all about some dumb human named “Lucas” and wonder who the hell he is and why I never mentioned him before.
The entire beginning is, in fact, pointless.
Why would I spend the first 23,000 words building a character that wouldn’t even be mentioned in the remaining 72,000 words of the novel? It’s silly! The real hero is Lucian. I should be developing his character in the beginning, not Lucas’! That’s how I decided to make God-Chosen a 70k-word novel (down from 95k). 80k is my first goal.
I already have all three disasters worked out. The second disaster will be the first, the third will stay as-is, and the second disaster will be a more dramatized version of an event that already happens.
The benefits of this are innumerable. I’ll have a more concise novel with better-developed main characters and a more character-driven plot. Lucian and Amara will have to make difficult choices with high stakes. They’ll have goals that they will fail at, resulting in disasters that make things worse for them. It will be interesting, exciting, and I can’t wait to write it.
But if this is so lovely and wonderful, why am I not submitting to Penguin?
My query letter is passable. I could spend the rest of the week making it better, and the subsequent weeks working on a synopsis. I could submit that to Penguin and hope for the best. But if my ms is in such disarray, what is the best? The worst-case scenario is no longer “they don’t like it and don’t email me back.” Instead, it’s “they loved my ql/synopsis and want to see my ms, which is in draft form, nowhere near publishable quality, and is quite different from what I said in my ql/synopsis.”
If they like what I have to say, I’ll ruin my chances with a draft-version ms. If you don’t believe me that this happens, read this query letter and the comment from “Lumpy Dog” toward the bottom.
In addition to that, I also wanted to spend October planning for the novel I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo. While the planning isn’t entirely necessary, I wanted to go through the Snowflake Method with my next novel to help me decide if Snowflake Pro is cost-justifiable for me. Planning will also help guarantee I don’t end up in the same situation I’m in now with God-chosen.
I am a little disappointed that I’m passing up on a great opportunity with Penguin Group, but I think this is the best decision for me. This has been a terrific learning process. Once I am ready to query agents, I’ll be that much more prepared with all the research I have done.
To those of you who are submitting a query to Penguin, I wish you the best of luck! If you need any help with your query letter, I suggest you check out my post How to Write: Cover Letters to Publishers. Write a general draft of your query letter, then visit the Query Shark. Follow the direction there and you’ll be on your way to a fantastic query letter.