Yesterday, I went to the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers' meeting. It ran from 1-3, and involved a published novelist and college instructor giving a presentation about editing your own novel. I learned a couple of things - for me, most notably, 'find your favorite phrase, then SEARCH AND DESTROY!' In other words, find out the one phrase you like too much and have a tendency to throw in several times, then go through and get rid of all but one occurence in the entire novel. Ouch! That's going to be hard. But I know I play favorites to a couple of phrases, so it's advice I'll heed.
We ended right at three, and then the REAL meeting began: going out to tea with the members of the group, and later dinner with whomever was left. In this informal setting, I got a chance to talk with several published authors, as well as quite a few unpublished authors in the same writing boat as me (finished manuscript, no publication as of yet.) I have to say, I learned more from the four hours following the meeting than from the lecture, and it was a very good lecture.
Amongst the conversation, I discovered one invaluable piece of information: I need to rewrite my query letter. You see, I've made one, small, fundamental mistake: I forgot my audience. In my original letter, I've sold an interesting world and a pair of interesting characters. There's nothing wrong with that; if I were publishing a science fiction or a fantasy book, I'd be set. But I'm writing a romance novel. I need to sell, first and foremost, the romance.
You know the cliche. I'm starting over; I'm beginning again; I'm throwing it out and doing a Lady McBeth in my mind: "Out, out, damn letter!" It's time to rewrite based on what my potential agents are looking for, and never mind how much I love my world. If an agent doesn't see a worthwhile romance in the query, she'll never get lost in my setting or blown away by my steamy love scenes, because she'll never read the book!
This may take a while, because the query is, understandably, the hardest part of the novel to write. But I'll get back to you when I've figured it out. Meanwhile, if you're a writer trying to find a agent, I suggest you take a good look at your query, too. What genre is your novel? Does your letter address, first and foremost, the selling point your genre revolves around? "No agent is going to sign something that won't make them money," a quote from Katharine Ashe, and an agent with a pile of letters is going to skip anything that doesn't address the selling point of the target genre. Time for me, at least, to rewrite!