Step One: The Enquiry Letter


So I’ve actually bitten the bullet and decided to start drafting my letter to approach agents. Its really strange, but the more I think about how much further I can push this, the more frightened I get. I suppose that’s natural right? But over the last couple of days I’ve found myself making excuses. ‘I can’t write, I need to respond to these emails.’ or ‘I can’t write, the kitchen is a wreck and smells like mackerel.’ On Sunday, when I had the entire day to myself, I managed to write a flash-fiction piece (500 words) and start on a short story. I really did just start it; I think I made it to 1,000 words of my 2,000 limit. Now… that’s crazed because that’s usually an hours work for me; ordinarily, I can just sit down and the words flow right out of me.

I feel that because those pieces were only short, the second I started I was already much closer to finishing than any other novel I’ve completed so far. That, after all, is really intimidating, because what comes after completion? Editing, assessment and critiques from others of course! I don’t think I’ve had enough experience of that yet. Obviously its never going to stop being scary, but I think I really need to push for more feedback and constructive criticism because I have to get used to it. That’s what the publishing world is like and that is how the crap gets separated from the gold. Obviously there are some things which slip through the net, but I don’t want to be classed as one of those. I want to be one of those ones who is eagerly snapped up because of the quality of writing and good story telling.

So… with all that in mind, last night I sat down and starting writing. Well… I was supposed to. What I actually did was go back upstairs, pick up the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2011 and reread some of the chapters about approaching agents, why I do or don’t want an agent and how to get one. Then I opened up Excel and began a little spreadsheet to record all of the agents I’ve approached. Then I went back through my computer archive and found all the agents I approached before I left for university. There were three clusters of them; some I approached when I was sixteen, another set at nineteen and then a further set at twenty-one.

It was fascinating reading through those with the power of hindsight on my side. Looking at the naive and child-like words its a wonder that anybody took me seriously. They did though; I have a whole folder of rejection letters upstairs. Some of them are very obviously standard template letters with my name scrawled in at the top, others were handwritten notes with a pp signature at the bottom and some were even typed letters which obviously had some work put into them and discussed points about the idea of To Be A Teenage Vampire that might be marketable and others that might not.

So… I’ve done this before. I’ve had positive responses before; not positive enough to get representation, but enough for people have looked at the work (or their secretaries have).

Anyway, after I’d done all of then, then, at last, I managed to open up a new .doc file and start writing. I started at the top of course, made sure my letter head was absolutely perfectly, that my address was changed from my last flat and that it was up to date with all my contact numbers and new email address. And the website of course. Then I had no excuse left. I had a drink in front of me, nothing else to do and a partner quietly working away on his own computer, mixing a track he intends to make a video for later on (it was lovely hearing him singing while I was working).

At this point however, there is no excuse left. I have to get on with it, so, at last I started to tap out the words. Slowly, slowly, hesitantly, with regular stops to bite my nails, retie my hair, check my watch, change the music on my media player, refer to the yearbook and so on.

I did everything in my power to avoid writing for as long as possible until there was no choice left. Now I really do understand what Graham Joyce was talking about! Procrastination is everybody’s enemy.

I have managed to write the letter, or at least a template that needs some work before I’d feel happy sending it to any sort of professional. It includes what Silk Over Razor Blades is about in brief as well as an idea of the other things I do (I like to talk about other things that make me more marketable, like the radio). And perhaps just as importantly I explained the audiences I’m writing for. Because that’s important too; one has to know the target is, otherwise every shot will just fly wide.

I’ll edit the letter today and let you know how I go. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you I’m sending it out really soon!

About Ileandra Young

I'm a thirty-*mumbles* year old (purple loving, cheese worshipping) author of fantasy, juggling a pair of beautiful twin boys with my burning desire to make up stories and write them all down. When I get the chance, I play games, listen to music, and in days long past I even ran a radio show. Though I occasionally write non-fiction, my heart lives in fantasy and my debut novel, Silk Over Razor Blades is now available through Amazon along with part two of the trilogy, Walking The Razor's Edge.
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