Sparked by Words

A Snow Globe Season

imagesA glass dome rests atop a wood base; it encircles a tiny steam train. Water and glycerin submerge the train on its track. Shake the dome and sparkles float down on the scene, lending a sense of childhood wonder as the toy train becomes a living world captured in your palm – for a few seconds.

When I was a kid, snow globes imparted a magical experience, a snowing miniature world glittering with whatever fantasy I imagined. Shake, it snows then settles until shaken again. Glitter snow so thick it covers the little train, all details obliterated. Stilled, a slightly different arrangement of the glitter, and I notice the black smokestack is ringed with a gold band. Shake, settle again, and the caboose dangles a pea-size lantern. Didn’t see that before. Enchantment in my palm.

I’ve been shaking up my writing recently, revising my three novels, (and working on a fourth) making sure I’ve written the story I intended. Checking to see that I’ve addressed each character consistently, maintained logical internal chronology, excised every “that” and “very.” Toby jogs around the second novel even though he only lives in the first  – ack. Emily was born in 1989 in one chapter, 1976 in another. Embarrassed me until I realized nearly everyone does it. I assure the story is complete, all loose ends tied up or snipped away, displacing the reign of confusion. Theme carried through, consistent voice, suspenseful surprises in every chapter, plot chasms and traps to make the characters stumble, right themselves, stumble again. An ending no one will expect until they get to the end and exclaim, “Didn’t see that coming!”

Reviewing a work in progress completed a year earlier affords an opportunity to repair and reconsider. A chance to see the lantern on the caboose – nice touch – also the teapot on the smokestack – oops! Delete. Correct – a lantern. Three complete novels banked on my computer, checked, revised, ready to send out to agents.

Now I face the task I most dread: querying. I don’t like writing queries, yet I know ain’t nuttin’ getting traditionally published (my preference) without the hard work of compressing my story into a paragraph of scintillating seduction and mesmerizing mystery. I’ve assessed my resistance to query writing and come up with a list.

  1. My story is 120,000 essential words. How to compress it into one page and still convey its conundrum, theme, clever development? Two hundred fifty words – a phenomenon of literary grandeur. Or a castle whittled to a splinter.
  2. What will capture an agent’s attention? Queries that worked tickle the imagination of a particular agent because of a personal comment (so I’ve heard): “I see you like vodka poured over your dry cereal. That’s exactly how my main character eats hers.” What box of cereal, Dear Agent, will grab you and never let go? Let me send you a case and a bottle of vodka.
  3. How can I be sure the agent is still accepting unsolicited manuscripts? The process is long and arduous. Send query, wait an acceptable amount of time, move on to the next potential agent. How much wait time is acceptable? My clock is ticking – I only have this lifetime.
  4. How much should I include of the story? I know not to give away the final resolution, but how much plot do I inkle? Too little, not enough intrigue foments to excite a stranger. Too much, I’ll give everything away. My toe scribes on the sand a line of perfect distinction – till the sea washes it out to the sharks.
  5. Will my story get beyond the slush pile, the midden of manuscripts tossed over the ledge by interns and first readers? Literature to me, trash to a stranger, my baby thrown out with their crushed soda cans.

The list lengthens, more ridiculous as it adds excuses. Finally I admit I’m stalling. I don’t like writing queries, it’s like tromping over a fence of Medieval pikes. I have to stop putzing around to have a chance of anyone but Mom reading my books. The glitter in the snow globe drifts to the bottom. The train is still, the tiny locomotive and miniature cars curled on the Lilliputian track. A world locked in a glass sphere. The most important task I face is to sit myself in front of the computer and start writing. Not the story but the description of the story to entice the person who may assist at getting it published. I am not a writer if I don’t address this essential part of getting my book into print. Query, baby, query like the glitter won’t stop.



Snow globe image courtesy Google public domain images: snow globe,


Comments on: "A Snow Globe Season" (37)

  1. Good luck with the query. Sounds like the most daunting task of all. Had to chuckle at Toby living into a second book and Emily being born in different decades.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your description of the snow globe was nearly as soothing as Christmas Eve after the kids have gone to bed, and duties done. Ahh, magical. Those globes really are, you know. The best of luck and wishes on your requirements ahead, Shari. The dedication to your dreams will get you where you want to be. Quite proud of you. Chug chug chug along…!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Go for it, Sharon! 👍👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “I am not a writer if I don’t address this essential part of getting my book into print”
    Yes, you are still a writer. Having a manuscript published does put the icing on the cake but the cake is still there whether you apply the icing or not.

    I dread putting my work out there to be rejected. Is this your hesitation?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Glynis, that’s a really sweet comment.
      I’m not afraid of being rejected – my critique group has made me comfortable with the process, in a constructive way. I’m not afraid of controversy either.

      I dislike wasting my time, and have heard some truly awful stories about the reasons for agent rejections, and some ridiculous ones for acceptances. The cereal and vodka tale is made up but it’s based on something I read from an author about how his first book got read and contracted by an agent. Most likely, the awful stories get lots of audience time, and the truly sincere work done by most agents gets slimed by the bad guys.


      • I just can’t imagine so many agents having such poor judgement when picking what works are worth publishing. Such, some are into being trendy but I still think they’re in the minority.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have to be a bit more honest here. First, I’ve elected to query some of the most renowned and respected agents in the country – I should have looked at younger agents, newer to the field. Second, the wacko, weirdo agent stories get all the attention though they are not common. I believe agents do a professional job of trying to select writers whose work fits their profile for effective representation. It’s my job to research agents thoroughly, choose carefully, and write each query to showcase my story adequately. Less whining on my part, more effort will certainly see better results.
        Thanks for the reminder that I’m blaming the wrong people.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Shari,
    I very much admire your tenacity, commiserate with your stalling to do something that is not pleasurable and revel in your writing.

    P.S. Keep shaking the globe – it counts as PT for your right arm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy, you are always funny – and wise. My New Year’s resolutions includes one about writing the danged queries.
      The arm is getting its exercise, thank you. I’m up to weights in hands to build strength – pink weights because pink works better. 😀


  6. The feeling of wasting hours and hours on the query! Ugh.Yes, it is pretty awful. I think of the time my husband was applying for a job he really wanted. He wrote his cover letter and sent it off before noticing that he wrote: I look forward to hearing from you. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Even though it was a stressful time we couldn’t stop laughing at the mistake. He did get a call back though but took a different job.

    Good luck, Sharon!

    Liked by 2 people

    • This made me laugh out loud – thanks for sending.

      I’ve made some really big bloopers; we all do. The stress of trying to be perfect is bound to cause errors. Sometimes they’re as funny as can be.


  7. Well, you could join Absolute Write. They have an entire forum devoted to queries–Query Letter Hell–which should give you some expectations of what to expect there.

    Alternatively, if you want only a single critiquer, you could send me query revisions and I’ll crit them for you. But I have yet to land an agent, so my input may be of limited worth. Still, I’ve critiqued in QLH for years now, so at least some of the industry standard stuff has rubbed off on me.

    Even if you don’t want to post, it might be worth joining just to read other threads and get an idea of the process. Your confusion in trying to distill a novel into a few paragraphs is far from unique.

    As a bonus, I’ll send you the link to one of mine if you join. One critter ripped it to shreds, but it was so funny I laughed until I nearly cried. All I can say is never mention a bathroom in the query. I’m telling you this as a friend.

    But only members can access the Share Your Work forums (QLH is one of these). That’s to protect people’s work. It’s a fig leaf so we can say it wasn’t previously published.

    But no matter what path you choose to take with this, kudos for deciding to just do it.

    Also, I feel you on the revision. I revised books from a year ago that I really thought were done, and I found that I could significantly improve them. It felt great at first, but now it’s kind of a down-the-rabbit-hole feeling. What would they be like if I wait another year? That way may lie insanity. *shrugs*

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cathleen, you’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you for the support and especially for the tips about Absolute Write. I’ve heard about them but now I will look into joining the group. And thanks for the offer to read your query, glad that it nearly moved you to tears of laughter and not of distress. QLH – I guess if you can climb out of that hole, you can do anything. I may take you up on the query crit – that would be wonderful, thank you for the kind offer.

      Final revision, BTW, final and I really mean it this time. So she says.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You c.a.n. do it. You wrote three books, didn’t you? Took a step at a time. Write the query in small bites. If you do three and you’re overwhelmed, walk away for another attempt another time. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. hate it too – worse, tho, is getting no replies back & rejections

    that said – wishing you the best, Sharon

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Good luck with the query writing! From everything I’ve read from other writers, it’s a necessary but far from thrilling stage in getting traditionally published and involves hearing the word no a lot before ever hearing the word yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Best of luck! Never easy and I think they say the ratio is 20 queries to 1 response. So persevere and do not give up. Keep expectations low ( reality) and hope for the best. Given how you write your blog posts I am betting your books are terrific reading! (So “holding thumbs for you!” as the saying goes…)

    Good luck.


    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hope the query letter is going well…you have some wonderful encouraging comments and advice on here! I sent out a few and it is disheartening not hearing anything, the kind no back was quite a welcome surprise and oddly uplifting! Best of luck. ❤️😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, that query letter – I’ve still not devoted as much attention to it as I should. Thanks for the gentle kick in the rear, Annika. And thank you for your support. Even if I go the self-pub route as I suspect I will, it’s good to learn to write solid queries for the experience of defining one’s book in a few compelling, articulate sentences. That word dishearten seems to go hand in hand with queries, doesn’t it? Sigh…


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