I was going to be topical and post an anti-Valentines list of books that don’t centre around romance, for all the people like me who feel like an alien today for not being interested in relationships. However, I couldn’t actually think of enough books to make a post — I know they exist, but I didn’t have time to go hunting back through everything I’ve ever read, and I could only think of a handful off the top of my head. So that can wait for another day.
Instead, I’m going to talk about a promise I made to myself.
At the start of this year I said I was going to finally query Butterfly of Night. Anxiety and self-doubt have held me back long enough; it’s time, I said, to put it out there.
And yet I’ve held back. I keep making excuses. What if an agent asked me to do extensive revisions? I’m happy to do so, but I won’t have time before I graduate in June, because final year is hectic — would the delay hurt my prospects? What if the book isn’t ready and I blow my chances? Am I sure I know what genre this book is? What name do I want to use?
The name thing has been a major stumbling block, and isn’t going away. I think I’ll have to query as Miriam Joy and then, if I find an agent, ask them for guidance about choosing a more permanent professional name. It’s the name all my social media is in, so it makes the most sense at this stage, even if I don’t plan to stick with it.
The point is, I keep coming up with reasons not to query yet, and they’re not all bad reasons. However… over the last few weeks I’ve been deeply overwhelmed by existential dread. By terror about my own mortality. By the thought that I might die and miss my only chance to achieve my dreams.
It’s not something that’s easy to shake off, but I have to do what I can. First off, reduce the chances of dying. (Unscrew the restrictors on my windows so I can get out if there’s a fire. Take vitamins. Look both ways before crossing a road.)
And second, get on with making dreams a reality. People always say there’s no rush and you’ve got your whole life to get a book published, or whatever, but none of us really knows how long that life will be. I can’t bear the thought of dying young with my books unread and mouldering on a hard drive. I want to know I’ve created something that I can leave behind.
So yeah, the existential dread has been, uh, powerful. I’ve had several sleepless nights and panic attacks and I’m trying to take control in the only way I know how: getting on with life instead of constantly waiting around.
And in light of this, I’m going to start querying this week. I’ve promised myself that by Sunday, I’ll send out two queries. At least. Two isn’t a lot, but it’s a start, and it’s a whole lot better than none. I have a query all but written (but I confess I’ll probably choose to start with someone who doesn’t want a synopsis!), and a list of hopeful agents to try. I’ve done a lot of the prep work. I just have to follow through on it.
Even now, though, doubt is creeping in. So I’d like you to hold me accountable. Ask me on Sunday whether I’ve done it. Remind me that I just have to start, that it doesn’t matter if these first two go nowhere as long as I try. It’s time to take a deep breath and do the thing.
And if you’ve got any expert tips for querying, especially for a YA novel that is sort of but not 100% a psychological thriller and thus difficult to categorise, I’ll be very happy to hear them.