Universal truth: writers are AWESOME, whether they have agents, book deals, contest wins coming out their ears, or are in the query trenches. Yes, trenches. You know, the period of time when a writer leaves behind anonymity and braves the rejection-heavy world in their attempt to obtain representation by a literary agency.
It’s a mouthful, ain’t it? Yeah, so is doing it. But when I was querying and entering every contest available, I found myself surrounded by amazing people who were querying right alongside me. Not only did my other “Trenchers” keep me going, but these were also the people who taught me the most about how to do this crazy thing we’re trying to do, and what kind of cheese goes best with red wine. (It’s Tillamook cheese, btw.)
It’s for that reason I reached out to writers who are either actively participating in contests or are querying agents, and I asked them about who they are, what they’ve learned and would like to share, and how we can support them in their journey.
I hope you join me in welcoming
K: Hi Edith, and thanks so much for talking to me! First, what genre and age category do you write?
E: I write adult romantic suspense – it’s my crack!
K: So how long have you been writing? What inspired you?
E: I’ve been writing in my head for as long as I can remember. From a young age I made up stories, most of them involving a suspense element that included a strong heroine who rescued herself. I finally put pen to paper about eight years ago after I read the entire Twilight series in one weekend. I finished my first novel in 2009. It was a YA coming of age story that should never have been queried – live and learn!
K: I love that – heroines who recuse themselves! And I completely understand the “querying too soon” syndrome. So what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about querying while in “The Trenches” that you’d like to share with other authors?
E: RESEARCH! The fastest way to a form no is querying an agent who doesn’t represent your genre. Agents share their wish lists for a reason; you’ll have much greater success querying agents if you send them what they’re looking for.
RESEARCH! Know what a good (short) query letter looks like – keep it simple – CHARACTER must overcome OBSTACLES or STAKES. If you nail your MC’s voice while sticking to the formula, you have a winning query.
RESEARCH! Get feedback on your draft query from multiple sources. Twitter is a great place to connect with other querying writers, find the people who can help you. Yes, they’re out there! Never query with the first draft you pound out at midnight after eating a leftover bean burrito and drinking mojitos because you can’t sleep. Write it, share it, revise it, share it, let it sit, revise it again.
When you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to query! I recommend sending out a smaller test batch to start; you may just get agent feedback you can use to revise subsequent queries. If you get a few rejections, take another look at the query and opening pages to make sure both are as strong as possible. If you get a couple of requests for partials or fulls, do a happy dance and then send out more!
K: Yes! No mojito and bean burrito queries! Great advice! And you nailed it – research is so incredibly important to being successful. Do you have any resources that you can’t live without?
E: Agent Janet Reid’s Query Shark is a go-to resource for me. Excellent for first-time query drafters. Read the blog, the whole blog, and learn from one of the best in the industry.
Agent Jessica Sinsheimer’s Manuscript Wish List. Tailoring my query submissions to agent’s wish lists on MSWL resulted in several requests for my full manuscript. RESEARCH it works!
Stephen King’s On Writing a Memoir of the Craft – saved me from giving up on my writing. I highly recommend it as bedtime reading. It won’t scare the pants off you!
Twitter. Yep. Twitter. There is a wonderful community of supportive writers who tweet advice daily. Some of my favorites include:
Michelle Hazen ( @michellehazen) http://michellehazenbooks.com/
Michelle Hauck ( @Michelle4Laughs) http://www.michelle4laughs.com/
Brenda Drake ( @brendadrake) http://www.brenda-drake.com/
And of course, you Katie!
K: Aww, thanks, Edith! So with (what sounds like) some ample query experience behind you, can you tell us how do you stay inspired and keep going in the face of a rejection-heavy industry?
E: Not gonna lie. It’s tough. It was especially hard for me after receiving a couple of really positive rejections on the novel I was querying at the time. But I tell myself – if you’re getting positive rejections on a full, it means you’re close. It means you keep writing, and you keep querying. So that’s what I do. I continue to write and improve, and I stay involved with the writing community. My time will come and if you’re reading this and you’re a querying writer, yours will, too.
K: Yes ma’am! Never, ever give up! So where can we learn more about you and support you as a writer? Maybe links to twitter, fanfic, your own blog or website, or any contests you’re actively participating in where we can root for you?
E: Thanks for the shout out and offer of support, Katie! I often share the ramblings of my diabolical mind at the links below.
Twitter : @lalondee10
Mentoring: In 2016 I had the opportunity to pay it forward by mentoring another writer in Tiffany Hoffman’s FicFest contest. It was a great experience and a real honor to work with such an amazing group of mentors and mentees. The 2017 contest is coming up – you should check it out! You can find FicFest information on Tiffany’s blog here and her home page is here.
K: So many congratulations on being a FicFest mentor – that contest is amazing! And I know I always feel like participating in contests is not only a great opportunity to help, but also to meet other writers! Speaking of which, are you seeking a Critique Partner or Beta Reader? If so, what are you looking for in a partner, and what are your strengths are as a CP? If you have a CP, where did you find them?
E: I’m currently looking for one or two CPs who are actively writing and querying. I’m good at identifying pacing and character issues. If there are inconsistencies in a manuscript, I’ll find them. As a former editor, I also spot the majority of grammar and spelling issues. I’m honest and constructive. I don’t hold back on areas for improvement, but I also highlight strengths.
K: You heard it guys: Former editor on the lookout for a swap, and with the skills to make your MS shine! (If you’d like to reach out to Edith about a beta/CP test swap, feel free to comment below or contact her on any of her provided social media links.)
Okay, Edith: here’s the last, hardest, toughest question EVER, so I hope you had your Wheaties: What book do you wish you had written because it’s just.that.awesome. ?
E: Hands down the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series – J.R. Ward created a diverse world of alpha males and strong bust your balls females who make me laugh, cry, and swoon. I’ve read the entire series (14 books and counting) multiple times.
K: That sounds like a hell of a series! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Edith!
Edith Lalone was also kind enough to leave us a sample of her work!
Bad Things Come in Threes
A Joint Task Team Novel
You can’t find comfort in a bottle of vodka. Courage absolutely. Comfort – not so much. At least, not in Gray Emerson’s experience and she’d had lots of it. Experience that is…vodka, too.
Stashed in her bra her phone vibrated for the fourth time as the door of her three-by-five toilet stall shook again.
“Let’s go, bitch!”
Gray ignored the woman’s plea for access to the porcelain throne she was monopolizing and downed the first of two doubles. Grey Goose with a splash of Red Bull made her heart trip wildly and her head spin.
Thank God she was sitting down. Not that she was doing any business, besides drinking that is. Basically, she was hiding out and drowning her sorrows. It was an evasive technique she used often to avoid the desperate closing time offers of strangers hoping to rock her world for a minute or two.
So not interested in that crap. Easier just to avoid it altogether, especially tonight. For whatever reason, her hole-in-the-wall neighborhood pub was packed with America’s fighting finest, and she did not do that breed of man.
Not now…not ever.
“Making a freaking career out of it,” the door banger mumbled as the stall next to her came available.
The constant vibration of the phone against her breast forced Gray to answer. “What the fuck, Jackson?”
“I need you on a plane, cranky pants.”
“I just got off a plane, dickhead.”
“Great, so your bag’s still packed. Tomorrow, eleven-thirty, and Gray…”
“Bring your climbing gear.”
(End of sample)
Edith Lalonde is a vodka drinking, F-Bomb dropping, romance writer. A Walking Dead fanatic who loves watching chick flicks, she’s a firm believer that Jamie Fraser (the book version) is the man against which all other men must be measured. She’s also a self-confessed exclamation mark abuser, but only on social media!. Oh, and she’s powered by Tootsie-Roll Pops and Diet Coke.
A Federal Government Employee, she started her career as an Operational Security Analyst. She next managed her department’s Writing and Editing Bureau. These days she’s still working for the Government, can’t tell you more, or the Men in Black might come after you. Just kidding – mostly.
When she’s not chasing aliens, Edith likes to write romantic suspense that cuts both ways. Alpha females, alpha males, diverse characters with common goals, and she loves her bad guys.
If you have a friend or acquaintance who is actively seeking representation through the "Query Trenches" and you'd like to see them featured on Writers on the Rise, feel free to nominate them in the comments below, or you can reach out to me on twitter @KatieGolding_TX
Until next time, Happy Reading!