So, Your Local Aspiring Author™ Is Querying Their Novel… What Does That Mean Exactly?

So your local Aspiring Author ™ is ranting and raving all over their social medias about how they are “officially querying their manuscript.” Which is all well and good, except… What does that even mean? After all, you work a regular nine-to-five job like a normal person, and all of this writing hoopla that they’re always tossing about never actually makes sense to you. So, okay, they’re querying their novel. Does that mean it’s about to be published and you can finally get some peace and quiet on your Facebook news feed? Well, my good non-writerly friend, let me explain to you a thing.

First of all, no, this does not mean you’ll finally get some peace and quiet. If anything, prepare to have your local Aspiring Author ™ talk your ear off even more than normal for the extent of time that they are residing in what we writerly folk call the “query trenches.” And, yes, it is just as treacherous as it sounds. Not all writers make it out of the query trenches alive. If your local Aspiring Author ™ is someone you love, you should hold them close while you can.

The thing is, the query trenches aren’t for the faint of heart. Side effects of entering this dangerous war zone are: Anxiety, crippling self-doubt, excessive email-checking, and jumping twenty feet into the air whenever a cellphone rings. You’ll start to wonder if you’re friends with a human being, or one of those chihuahuas that never stops vibrating.

But I still haven’t explained what querying is, have I? Well, querying is the process of sending out a query letter–basically a letter pitching the concept of the novel–and a few pages of the manuscript to literary agents in order to get said agents to represent said manuscript. And this is a big deal because, if your local Aspiring Author ™ isn’t able to find a literary agent to represent their novel, then their big dreams of becoming a traditionally published author are over… At least for a little while. If things don’t work out, they can always write a new book and start the process all over again, but I’m sure that even you, my non-writerly friend, can understand why that’s a worst-case scenario.

I’ll bet your next question, then, is how long your local Aspiring Author ™ will be in these horrible, nightmare-inducing query trenches that I speak of. But, to be honest, I’m not sure if you’re ready for the answer that you seek. It may be too shocking, too horrifying for you to bear. Do you really want to know? Are you sure? Well, the answer is: Years. Or, at least, it can take years. Sure, there’s a special unicorn every once in a while who’s able to escape the query trenches after the first few months, but try not to put those expectations on your local Aspiring Author ™, lest you drive them into a panic attack (because there’s nothing more stressful to a writer than everyone around them expecting their book to be published RIGHT NOW). The unfortunate truth is that these things take time. A lot of time, in fact. And what your local Aspiring Author ™ needs from you is your continued support and understanding.

I hope this helped you understand the plight of your local Aspiring Author ™ and the woes of entering the query trenches. And I don’t want you to think it’s all bad. In fact, it’s really, really freaking exciting to query a novel. But it’s also not all sunshine and rainbows, and finding an agent definitely isn’t something that happens overnight. So the next time you see your local Aspiring Author ™, give them a hug and tell them that everything will be alright. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.

(Disclaimer: Use caution when approaching your local Aspiring Author ™ for a hug. Odds are, they’re running on three hours of sleep and a lot of caffeine, and if you tackle them from behind with a big bear hug, you’re liable to get an elbow to the face. You have been warned.)

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