After nearly 20 queries and only one request for a full (which ended in a polite rejection), I've decided I need to do some serious re-working to the manuscript. I looked into hiring an editor to help me, but for the developmental-level feedback I need (not just a proofreader), it gets pretty pricey. I have some ideas about things to re-work - certainly the opening, give the main baddie more depth, clarify the heroine's motivations and eliminate an awkward prop for something more meaningful. So I'll forge ahead on my own.
It's hard to gauge on your own how good/bad your writing is. And judging only from the polite form rejections, you know something is awry, but it's impossible to put your finger on exactly what that might be. Certainly some portion of the rejects could relate to some arbitrary factor completely unrelated to the quality of the manuscript - I used the word "review" instead of "consider" when thanking an agent for having a look at my sample dutifully pasted into the query as instructed, for example. Not all agents are knee-jerk like that, but some admit to such habits. Which apparently must be working for them, so that's fine. I've had plenty of friend readers, but they are reluctant to criticize, which is understandable although I'd certainly appreciate the feedback.
I've got three months until the deadline for the Writers League of Texas' manuscript contest. Surely I can get a lot of work done by then, considering it only took 9 weeks to write the original work. I'm daunted by the possibility of failure with this book, and by the amount of work still ahead of me. But I love the characters and their story. I have to keep trying.