Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

So You Want to Write a Query, Eh?

Cartoon by  W. Pollard

Well you're not alone.

Utter frustration can be avoided by learning the fine art of query writing!
Thousands of writers wishing to obtain literary representation are trying to do the very same thing, but would you like to have an edge?  Want to quit bashing your head against the desk and stop getting crappy form rejections?

Want to see what I think works, and also find some links that can help you peer into the fantastical minds of lit agents, who read thousands of these (mostly doomed) queries every year, and find a writer's site that is amazing and totally craft-oriented?  You do?  Awesomesauce.

Now if it makes you feel better, understand that I am in this struggle right along with you, as I am seeking representation for my thriller, THE DEATH BROKERS, and soon will be offering up a second thriller (paranormal thriller) TWO TALISMANS as well.

Here's how to get started.  First of all realize a query isn't a mini-novel.  Nah, it's a brief teaser to make someone want to read your manuscript and love it.  What I am going to offer you today are some ideas followed up by actions you can take in order to write a great query.

Roll up your sleeves, it's time to get to work.

First, let's define what a successful query is.  And there's one sure-fire way to do that.  Go take a shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed, because we're going to take a field trip.  Grab your car keys, and let's go!

Action 1:  Drive to your local bookstore and find books written in your genre.  Go get a latte or expresso before entering, because you're gonna be here a while and have some serious work to do.

A bookstore I've got to visit!  Bound To Be Read Books,  in East Atlanta Village!
Now go scour the shelves and pick up some of the best sellers and read the back cover blurb.  Read it, absorb it, and feel the words.  This short blurb should make you want to read that book, right?  Well this is your first hint as to how to go about writing your own query.  Make it just like the back cover of the best seller in your hand, see how the action and the word-usage and notice the struggle of the main character(s).

Step two, take a hard look at your manuscript and identify the main character and his/her goals and the conflict that is the meat of your story.  Get out a notebook or open up a Word doc.  Hammer those ideas down into a few sentences, and then create in 350 words or less (I know, I know, one of the agent sites I will send you to in a few will say 250 words or less, but I have heard otherwise on this rule) your query.  Pack in as much action and stumbling blocks that show the struggle of your character and how your plot is unique.  Draw in the reader!

Close your query with a kind thank-you to the agent for reading, and also a sentence or two about yourself, your writing experience or relevant life experience that adds to your credibility as a writer, and maybe a few words about similar works that have broken all kinds of book sales records.  But above all, never, ever ever forget to thank the agent for reading your query because they are bombarded by thousands of them and deserve some of genuine, heart-felt thanks.  Show appreciation and a little literary love to them for taking the time out of their busy day to read your query.

Action 2:  Want some feedback and great wisdom on the art of query writing?  Want to take my few ideas to the next level?  Then join the site I adore (and am a member of), AgentQueryConnect!  It's a helpful place, all about craft and will truly inspire you.  I can attest that today I am a better writer because of the inspiration I've gleaned and the friendships I've made there.

Go now! Check out AgentQueryConnect!

Step three:  Still don't believe these two ideas are great?  Then see what the agents are saying about the elements of a good query.  Check out these two sites and read for yourself.  Get into the mind of some top agents and see what makes them sit up and take notice of a manuscript!

Action 3:  Visit these sites to see what works and what doesn't:

Without proper preparation, your query may be eaten alive!

Don't get chewed up & spit out because you don't do your query homework.  Go check this amazing agent's sites out!
Jump in the Water With the Query Shark!

Janet Reid, Awesome Literary Agent & Home of the Chum Bucket!

Step Four:  Still want query writing inspiration? Then watch this short video that my son showed me this morning for a video game to be released next week.  If you could take the actions in this short video and put them into words, along with a few key sentences that are spoken/heard in the video, you'd have an incredible, action-packed query.  So imagine your manuscript in film-format.  See it in your minds' eye on the silver screen and ponder how you'd convey it to the masses in 350 words or less.

Action 4:  Not everyone's a thriller writer, and although I am one, I do not write military thrillers.  Well at least not yet.  But you'll get the idea of how to condense action and pique interest by watching this video for the upcoming release next week of Call of Duty, Black Ops II.

Now get to it soldier!  You've got a query to create.  The life of your manuscript is on the line.

And do not forget today is Veteran's Day.  If you love your freedom, and cherish our American flag, go find and thank a Vet. Never, ever forget how much they sacrificed, and remember what it is you take for granted.

Today I'm missing one especially, my father.  Miss you dad.  And thank you.

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