Alex Slater and Learning From Mistakes

One of my favorite parts of writing is constructing the plot. Starting with an idea, discovering characters, seeing what happens to who and realizing why that fits so perfectly into a story….

So much detail and back story and motivational factors go into my characters, and a lot of them don’t even come up in the context of my stories. There are entire books-worth of material deleted from my stories.

But at the end, the core remains. The main arcs of characters, the main plot points, the dramatic queues, the thematic undertones—all of that remains regardless of the vast amounts of “material” missing from the story. I enjoy whittling my plots down to the very essence of what they’re supposed to be, especially in light of aiming for the MG/YA market where things are best kept moving for shorter attention spans.

So why is it so hard to compose a synopsis and/or query where I have to whittle my plots down to their very essence? In theory, considering how I write, I’d think the process should be enjoyable… but I think I’ve been looking at it all wrong.

So, if my query is given more than a passive look by Alex Slater of Trident Media Group, I’d count that a plus.

Alex was the fifth agent (out of six) that I decided to send a query to. AlexSlater I wrote a different sort of query for him. Thanks to Literary Rambles, I discovered a few things about “Mister” Slater. He doesn’t like being addressed in queries as “Mr. Slater.”

This was a much-needed reminder.

If you go out and read interviews with published author’s discussing their agents, most of them say just how amazing their agents are. A lot of this appears to be in large part because the agents are normal people. I keep hearing stories about how agents are just you and me taking up a different role in the literary world.

And here I’d been writing my queries with a sort of trepidation. A sort of trembling awe at the people who’d be reading them—and that’s ridiculous. It’s understandable, but when you break it down and think about it, it’s a ludicrous way to behave. Regardless of a person’s role, they’re still as human as you and I.

So with Alex, I told myself to relax and pretend I’m selling the book to my friend. Be professional of course, but quit fretting so much.

Regarding queries, Alex also said, “I want to know about the story from the first sentence, and if I’m hooked, then I’ll scroll down and read your bio. With fiction, story is always most important”

So I started with my story.

But better yet, I started with a hook.

Reading up on Alex Slater sort of just knocked a few blocks from the wall I mentally perceived as standing between me and publishing.

Agents are people.

And like most people, they want to be blown away by something. Especially while sifting through so much crap. Finding something that’s even remotely impressive against a backdrop of filth must be nice for them. And I tried to think along those lines. I’d read it before—“sell your story.” Prior to submitting to Alex, I was trying to do just that, but I wasn’t actually selling the story. I wasn’t making my short synopsis interesting or emotional or exciting, I was merely speaking of my story, hoping that would be enough.

But now I decided to go a different route. Try something new. I started with my hook but I also wrote my synopsis as a letter from my main character right before he (possibly) kills himself with his headmaster’s help.

My query started dramatically, I tossed in a bit of humor to ease the tension, and then I covered the adventure, the mystery and the different arcs in my characters, all from the perspective of my main character.

Will this work?

I have no idea.

In all my eagerness to do the right thing, when I read how Alex didn’t like being called “Mr Slater,” I misread that quote more than once.

It’s “Ms Slater” he hates being called.

I dropped the “mister” because of my mistake and just went with Alex… only to realize my mistake shortly after. Back when I first started writing queries (barely one week ago), I would have crapped my pants at this mistake, thinking I should have addressed Alex as Mr. Slater, instead of “Alex”.

But I know Alex is just another guy out there. I want him to represent my book, but he’s just another guy out there.

Besides, I still think my query was at minimum, more exciting and different because of it. And even if I’m rejected for calling Mr. Slater by his first name, I still learned a valuable lesson about writing my queries and remembering that agents are just people.

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