So that’s my third manuscript request in four days. Clearly, all it took was a query letter revamp, a hook, and instead of going months between full requests, I have a 50% success rate with full or partial requests for my novel.
I added a hook:
A Cold War fairytale. A family of Russian monsters. A bastard prince. A witch Kaschei the Deathless covets like a golden firebird.
My story is multilayered: a story set during Ivan Kupalo, a retelling of the myth behind the Ivan da Marya flower where a sister of night falls in love with a son of fire, a reimagining of Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet in which the firebird – this time a witch – saves herself and her beloved prince – and her entire kingdom – from Kashchei the Deathless.
My comp titles are UPROOTED meets DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. My query letter used to be ten paragraphs of rambling trash.
You’ve seen me struggle with this, when I started posting the very first chapters of my novel at 21 on this blog in 2014 to the great novel overhaul of 2016 where I added 30,000 words to my manuscript and major edits and plot points to the framework of the story.
None of that mattered if I couldn’t sell it. If I didn’t have a hook.
Now the novel is with seven agents, and only a year ago I couldn’t get a single one to look at it. I’m beyond proud of myself, but I’ve racked up my fair amount (a lot) of rejections from being young, naive, and a shittier writer than I am now.
A writer that didn’t know how to make something sound marketable. Someone that didn’t know the very genre she was writing in, just writing something from her heart that she loved, because she believed in the story of her favorite characters, and because it was, beyond all else, fun.
I think good things are coming. I really do. I’ve spent enough time with shitty periods in my life – suicide, depression, panic attacks, constant drowning anxiety that doesn’t let you breathe, PTSD, night terrors, the rollercoaster of mania and crash that comes afterward, getting laid off, not once, but twice within two years due to company downsizing, losing 50 pounds, dealing with toxic people that were driving me mad.
I am a walking pill that never stopped writing. I slept on that fairy hill and went mad. I ate the fruit of the underworld and now my soul is unearthly. I have been through the harrows of hell that is mental illness, been hospitalized with no hopes of recovering, clawed my way up through thorazine drips and antidepressants and antipsychotics and intrusive thoughts of cutting off my toes, biting off my tongue, driving into that tree, and despite all expectations – nay, promise to myself – that I would die when I was 25 – I’m 24 and now I actually want to live. Now I actually believe in myself.
I think I can be a real writer. I’ve given up over a decade of my life to this craft, spent days mourning rejections on full manuscripts, written the same damn story over and over again until I got it right.
I put the madness of a crazy, violent brain under wraps and only let the demons inside me come out in dreams, in sick visions and violent delights as my mind rapes itself.
I did all the shadow work, ran for 5 years from him, learned to grow a spine and not be a doormat, and never did I stop writing.
I didn’t stop when I tried to drown myself.
I didn’t stop when I was in the mental ward, grip on reality nonexistent, devils and angels seeking me out and driving me insane.
When I was manic, I wrote. When I was depressed, I poured all that pain into my writing. When I was barely alive, catatonic and bloated with drugs I wouldn’t give a horse, I put pen to page and raged.
My writing is an act of resistance.
An act or rebellion.
The pulse of my blood.
My declaration that I am alive, not a slave to my diseases, but master of them.
There’s a reason my query letter is killing:
Because I have already died a million times.