Monday, March 28, 2011

Crazy Eights - The Query Game!

by Janet Fogg

Remember the card game Crazy Eights, where the object of the game is to be the first to get rid of all of your cards?

So how many queries do you have out? Right now! Today! At least eight, I hope. Why? No, it’s not because I think sending out query after query implies any hint of mental instability. Well, maybe a little, but I’m just as crazy. The real reason is because the number eight is a most auspicious number, and as writers we can use all the luck we can find.

A few years ago my good friend and Sister of the Quill, Karen Albright Lin, began a new manuscript in which several of her characters regularly seek out the number eight in their everyday lives. Travel on the eighth day of the eighth month is particularly lucky; they own eight copies of a book, eight nail-clippers, and so on. Karen explained to our critique group that Asian cultures go out of their way for the number eight. Phone numbers and addresses that include the number eight are sought after and often purchased. Eight is the lucky number and means you will prosper.

The Sisters of the Quill then casually adopted the number eight. We nudged one another to send out queries in batches of eight, which ultimately evolved into keeping eight queries out at all times, until a manuscript is accepted. Receive a rejection? Get another query out! No excuses, though ten minutes of angst is allowed. Keep it at eight queries because that’s luckier than six or seven. Last summer I even found myself pulling weeds to the count of eight, though in retrospect it occurs to me that the weeds weren’t particularly lucky. Alas, poor weeds, I knew them well.

Am I really that superstitious? Are my Sisters of the Quill? I don’t think so. But I do believe that writers need a modicum of luck, a great deal of perseverance, and a granite-like streak of stubbornness. Yes, our writing has to sing with our own unique voices, but if we don’t query we’ll never get published, and rejection can beat you down. So you have to be stubborn. You have to persevere. Plus you have to find the right agent or editor at the right moment. That’s where the luck comes in. But if you’re not stubborn enough to keep at it, you’ll never get lucky! They’re truly symbiotic. Crazy, isn’t it?

In the card game Crazy Eights, each player receives eight cards. Players discard their cards by matching either the rank or suit of the top card on the remaining stack of cards. If you can’t match a card you draw another. First player to discard all of her cards wins. Sound familiar? Our manuscripts have to match what an agent or editor seeks. That means we have to keep playing the game by researching exactly what they want, and then throw down our card by getting that query out the door. Why not seek out luck as well? Why not keep eight queries in circulation until you win? Yes, it’s a bit of a game, but if you don’t throw down, well, you know what happens then.

Who wants to shuffle?

(This time next week? Join me for: Snow Write and the Seven Thwarts!)


Chiseled in Rock said...

I know this is good. I know I need to do this. Eight is manageable. (Writing note to self...just do it!).

Kristi Helvig said...

I love this advice--there's nothing like a little luck to help in the querying process (and make it fun). :)

Anonymous said...


sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Eightbis a maneagable number. Makes sense.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Great advice. I always kept 10 queries out, but eight is enough!

Shannon said...

when we moved to Flagstaff, our house number was 88. Very auspicious. And I felt lucky. Recently, the post office decided to change it so we'd have 4 numbers. While I still feel lucky, I am miffed about losing that great number! Thanks for the advice, Janet.