So, I promised myself earlier this week that I would send out at least two queries by the end of the week. It’s now Saturday evening, and I’ve not only kept that promise, but exceeded it — I’ve sent out six.
(I’ve also found several more jobs to apply for and started filling in various application forms, so I am adulting hard right now. Are you in awe yet? Because you should be in awe.)
This is despite the fact that, although I promised I wouldn’t, I reread the book midway through last week and immediately decided that I had to edit some parts of it again. I knew this would happen — I’m never satisfied — and I didn’t want to jeopardise my query chances by sending off a book that I wasn’t happy with, so I decided to make some changes. Some were tiny — a few word choices that I felt might be harmful or rude and, having learned more about certain issues, I thought should be changed. Some were slightly more major.
You see, the problem is that this is not a happy book. Nobody gets to be happy. Everybody’s life is terrible. That’s just how it is. This doesn’t exactly lend itself to having happy endings for LGBTQ+ characters, either, because the more sympathetic and well-developed a character is, the more they’re going to suffer, and since I tend to make my sympathetic characters queer, this leads to some obvious problems.
However, although numerous characters die and it was by no means a straightforward ‘bury your queers’ scenario, I was uncomfortable that a significant death in the novel was the only canonically trans character. I’ve been agonising over this one for weeks, and eventually decided the only solution was to remove the one piece of dialogue where she reveals that she’s trans. There was no way I could change the plot without majorly screwing things up, but her identity was only mentioned in one place, and had the potential to be more harmful than helpful.
In my head, nothing’s changed; I still headcanon her (and several other characters) as trans. But that feels less harmful than having a brief moment of representation that’s then snatched away, which could be hurtful to vulnerable readers, especially as I don’t think that scene particularly added anything to the story. Bad representation is worse than no representation, and there’ll be plenty of time in the future to write well-developed trans characters who get happy endings.
Also, in rewriting that scene, I managed to come up with a minor point about another character that actually fixed several other scenes by proxy, because it explained their motivations for a dozen other actions. So I managed to make it better on multiple levels, both with regard to plot and with regard to removing harmful tropes.
Anyway, after those edits, I mostly just focused on polishing the opening chapters. I really like chapters one and three, but two was weak, and since a lot of agents ask for three chapters, I needed to rewrite it. Others ask for thirty pages, which brings chapter four into the mix too, so I rewrote that as well. While I wait, I’m gradually going through and tightening up a few other descriptions,though I’m restraining myself from doing anything more major.
Like I said, I’d initially only planned to send out two queries this week. There were a few initial barriers to get past: first, I had to decide I was ready to do it, and second, I had to write a synopsis, because several of the agents I was most keen to submit to required a synopsis. However, since many of them asked for 500 words / a page / a ‘brief’ synopsis, once I’d written one, I was automatically ready to submit to a bunch of other places, and so once I’d got over those initial hurdles, it seemed easier to just carry on.
I use a different email address for writing stuff than I do for job applications, though, so now I have two inboxes to obsessively refresh. I’m going to need somebody to come and take my computer away from me at this rate.
But: I’m putting myself and my work out there, and hopefully with enough time left before I graduate that I’ll still have the chance to decorate my room in Cambridge with rejection letters (well… maybe not too many of them). I’m scared, of course I am. I’m paranoid about blowing my chances by accidentally misreading an agent’s submission guidelines, or by sending out a book before it’s ready. But to be honest, I don’t think it’s going to get more ready than this.
Also, I woke up at 7am, on a Saturday, and went to a ballet rehearsal, before baking cookies, cycling into town to Specsavers, cycling home, choreographing and practising a slip jig, making pizza, looking at job applications, going to a tea party, changing my sheets, and doing laundry. I am adulting SO HARD right now.
And it’s exhausting, I don’t know how you guys do it.
So, I kept my promise. What about you? Done anything scary or brave this week?