Sunday, January 9, 2011

When querying, focus on what is in your control

by Chersti Nieveen 

So for the last six months, I've been querying. There have been highs and there have been lows, but I have come to realize one thing.

Make sure you have the right focus.

So what does that mean? Well . . . you can make it your goal to (a) become a NY Times best-selling author on your FIRST novel (b) have 50 agents not only request to see fulls, but offer representation (c) get a FREAKING HUGE advance that blows not only your socks off, but your neighbor's socks off as well (d) all of the above

We all wish, right?

But think about those goals -- are any of those things in your control? Not really. So let's look at some more realistic goals.

[1] Write the best book you can possibly write. Then let it sit for a month, and go back and make that book even better.

[2] Attend writing conferences, read books about writing, and work with other writers to learn more about what you can do better.

[3] Make every sentence better. Make the prose in your book so masterful that people want to read it out loud.

[4] Think you have a great beginning? Experiment with something new -- something that might work better. [See more specifics on that challenge here]

Notice how all those goals had one thing: focusing on your craft. Let's repeat that. FOCUS on making your writing better today than it was yesterday. Make each sentence not only shine, but make each book a legacy of how you grew to become a better writer. And never end your personal quest to shine.

Becoming a better writer has become my goal for 2011. What's yours? 


  1. Awesome advice. As writers there is so much that we can't control. It's a good reminder to focus on those that we can! :)

  2. You are spot on, Chersti! My resolutions are to write more, write better, and keep running on the publishing hamster-wheel.

    Thanks to an awesome new writer friend, I may have found a writing intensive I want to attend this year, part of my program to write better. :)

  3. Chersti! Thank you so much for this invaluable post. I'll remember that and head on over to that link you shared with us! Thank you!

    ~Elizabeth :)

    PS--lookie at our parrot, he's all colored up! ;)

  4. This was the perfect post for me today. I received three rejections this week, two in the past two days. *sob* My goals are not as grand as your examples, but they do include at least one agent LIKING my query and my MS. It's nice to have perspective and this great advice. :-)

  5. I have to start querying this week. Or maybe I can find a way to procrastinate a little longer. :)

  6. So very true. And what a great pep talk for my writing today. Goal: make every word shine. Thanks, Chersti!

  7. Oh so good to hear you guys are right on track!

    Shannon: Three rejections is hard. Really, we just wants someone--anyone out there in the agenting world--to love our manuscript. But kudos to you for querying! It's such an adventure -- good luck!

    Stina, good luck on your querying, too!!

  8. Chersti, all excellent suggestions. I love the idea on number 4. Thanks and good luck with querying!

  9. Chersti! I love this post. That's just what I need to do right now instead of chewing my fingernails, waiting for news on my last book! I need to make my next book the very best it can be.

    Got a stack of books from the library, including McKee's "Story." Thanks for the recommendation, Sue!

    And look, we almost have 100 followers! Hip, hip, hooray! We should have a 100 followers party.

  10. I am CONSTANTLY amazed at how many reads a book can go through and STILL end up with flaws. Every time I see a typo in a book I cringe and think, please, please, when I'm published, make me not be that person...


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