You know the one I mean. Time to take off my tortured writer hat (the pointy one with bells on it) and start looking at this like a business.
The WIP is no longer "in progress." After the seventh revision of the third draft, it is a manuscript in the hands of a half-dozen beta readers. Now, it could snap back to the in-progress stage in a heartbeat if the consensus comes back with "What were you thinking?" However, I truly believe that I'm in the final proofread-and-nitpick laps with only one or two more pit stops left to go. I'm reaching the "This Book Sucks and I Hate it," stage, so I know I'm closing in on it.
While I wait for notes, it's time to start looking at what it will take to get on the query-go-round. I'm still in the proto-stages, but the steps I take now will help grease the process in a month or so when I start cringing and hitting the "send" button.
1. First, foremost, and on-going, I got my carcass over to Query Shark. Irreverent and insightful, it is an on-going look at what works and what doesn't in a query letter. If you don't hang out here, well, I'm not sure we can be friends. I've kept up on my homework in the archive the last couple of years, so I wasn't too far behind in my reading. Now, I am looking at the "wins," particularly the ones in my genre, with a critical eye as to why they were effective.
By the way, I did my own parody query in the format of the legendary break-all-the-rules-for-the-freaking-win query for Josin McQuein's superb Premeditated. I recommend the exercise highly.
2. Next up is a quick stop by Slushpile Hell just to remind myself of what can happen if I don't do my homework now.
3. And then, I couldn't put it off any longer, I had to start making query words. Facebook messages to my best friend, "does this work?" and the answer, "I hate the first sentence of the second paragraph." Which wasn't a bad thing, I hated the first sentence as well. But, along with the critique, came suggestions and that evil word string was fixed. It's also now completely changed and reborn as the third sentence of the second paragraph. After several hours of wrangling, the tenth iteration of the second draft is now sitting and marinating to see how much I hate it when I reopen the file tomorrow.
4. While the query simmers, I slacked off at work today and surfed agent websites, seeing what's what out there. It had been a while and I wanted to compare my running list with who is closed, who has moved, and what the latest and greatest in sub requirements are. It also helps me classify the genre of the book. It has the ticking clock of a thriller, the suspense and legal machinations of a crime drama, and the bow-chicka-wow-wow of a romantic suspense. I'm still up in the air on what to call it, but I'm getting closer.
One of my big technical take-aways was that I need to create a ten-page format free double-spaced sample and one-page synopsis that will translate through email. That way I can just pick one from Column A and two from Column B when I am building the e-query. Again, do the work now when I'm in the mindless robot stage and I'll be less likely to accidentally send out fifteen pages of single-spaced brick-o-text because I'm too impatient to stop and do it right.
In construction, this is known as "punch-listing." The project isn't done until those chores are done. I like that name, it suits my mood when I discover I've just done fifty pages of copy-edits on an older version of the manuscript.