Since I was a kid I’ve written New Year’s resolutions, and for the last, oh, ten years there has been at least one resolution regarding writing. Sometimes it pertains to setting aside more time to write, a couple times my publishing aspirations surfaced with the resolution to “get novel published!” when it should have read “make novel publishable.” This year I was much more specific.

1. Distribute Reader Copies of Novel By the Second Week of January.

As the holidays approached, I was also nearing the completion of my novel — for REAL this time. The outline had taken me a year, the first draft another year, and for the next five years the story alternated between the shelf and the editing block, moving to the back burner as my focus shifted to The Wizard Rockumentary. But after several consequent drafts and a complete rewrite of the first six chapters, I felt that the story was finally ready to set out into the world. But querying agents is a big deal and I didn’t want to mess it up. So I set deadlines for myself. I resolved to read through the novel twice more and make any necessary changes and then distribute reader copies for outside critique.

Everyone knows how difficult it is to wait… waiting to hear from my friends and family what they thought of my novel (some had read a previous version years ago, others had never read it at all) was, I think, even harder than the waiting I’m doing now: waiting to hear back from agents. But I’ll never forget how much easier my friend Kate made things for me. She sent me an email after reading each chapter to tell me what parts she liked and if there were areas that needed more attention. For about a week, I got a handful of emails a day (and the occasional phone call). It was delightful to get to share in her excitement and hear her theories of what was going to happen next, while chuckling to myself over how surprised she would be.

2. Compile List of Agents and Start Sending Out Query Letters the First Week of February.

I’ve been a longtime fan of several agents’ blogs and they are, obviously, great resources for finding out what agents are looking for in a query. At least as far as what information to include, their prefered format and submission guides, etc. But even if you were to do everything right with your query letter, it still gets down to whether they connect with your story. Scary! No one likes rejection, but luckily I’m a Gryffindor and I don’t scare that easily.

My query letter went through a few rounds of peer review and editing, and I am so glad that I didn’t skip this step. It was incredible the varied feedback I received, and since I had never met any of these folks I would be querying it seemed like I should take all strong reactions into account. When I had thought the letter was polished, I sent it to another member of my writing group for a last look-over, and she asked me out to coffee so she could gently tell me that the letter hadn’t excited her in the slightest. I was so grateful! (Thanks, Sue!) I went back and rewrote it again and was amazed by how much more I liked it too. The greatest challenge in writing the query was that, for me, each detail I included about the story represented a much bigger picture, and it was difficult to remember that all the agent would see was that one detail.

So now I get to wait and see what happens, and as a bonus I’ve actually kept my New Year’s resolutions this year, if you don’t count the resolution to get up early each morning and stretch out before work. That one only lasted about a week.