Monday, January 25, 2010

Query Recipe

I was over at the TPQSP last night trying to give some advice. There is nothing more frustrating than a query and trying to help someone else through it. I'm trying to pay it forward you know. I mean, I worked on my query over there through 3 revisions and when I started to cry I said no, I can't do this anymore, it's just too much information, I got 2, count them, one & two, friends who I trusted to help me with the process. Two, and only two friends, who understood what my story was about, what I wanted to say, and who knew what the query process was all about.

With their help I think I drew up a damn good query. I had most of the words, I just had to shuffle them around a bit. And that's really all it took. I had read it SO. MANY. TIMES. I couldn't read it anymore without going blind.

Which is where these poor people at TPQSP are. I can hear the frustration, the anger, the panic in their voices now. I tried to give them the same advice my friends gave me. But they didn't seem to want to hear it.

So now I will give it to you. All you need for good query are four things:
Hook, Conflict for the MC, Motivation to get MC to end, Goal for MC. That's it. Oh, and two trusted friends who know how to write. You write up what you think is a good query following the guidelines I just gave you. You ask yourself if you have answered the four questions. You give it to friend #1 to read. If she says yes, you give it to friend #2, if she says yes, then you've got your query. If either of them says no, then you must go back and find where you've messed up. And also Less is more. You don't need twelve sentences to say one thing. One good sentence with the right verbiage (I love that word, it reminds me of a fancy salad) will kill an agent stone dead. Or make them ask for a partial.

I will also tell you I have 15 queries in Word. And 32 in pen in the "Lady's" file. Along with scratches, scribbles and every other thing imaginable. It's very hard to get your novel condensed into 250 words or less. I mean, if you go over to 265, no one is going to call Janet Reid and get the shark after you but, they better not mess up the business letter format. Unless of course, you have already been published, then you can do whatever you want.

So, that's my query recipe and I'm sticking to it. If anyone has other tidbits, helpful hints they'd like to share feel free. If anyone needs help with their query, feel free to ask. We're all in this boat together and if we can't help each other then it's going to be a long nasty voyage.


Lady Glamis said...

What a great post, Anne! I certainly think that getting help from a few trusted people is the only way to go. Sometimes we just get too close to what we're doing.

And you're right - you can give advice to people until you're blue in the face, but unless they are ready to hear it, and willing, it's all going to land on deaf ears.

Trust me, I'll be coming to you when I'm ready to query. That will be a scary day for me. Those trenches...

Nicole Ducleroir said...

The task of query writing is daunting to me. When I get closer to that point, I'll be sure to keep your advice in mind. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! My fingers are crossed for you :))

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks you guys but you know, after reading all the agent blogs, writing 36 queries on my own, going to Rick's sight for help, and then asking my two best bud's for help, it seems like I did all that panicking for nothing. Now that it's over, it seems so easy. Like once you do it and do it well, it's a cinch. Kind of like changing the oil in the car, the first time you get greasy and dirty and spill the oil all over you, and forget to wipe the nut, and forget to grease the bolt, but the next time you do it, it's easier, and finally, you're an old pro at it. Well, that's what I say now, hahahhahahahah, wait until I have to do MISMATCHED. I'll probably be nuts again.

And you can always come to me for help. It's the least I can do. Pay it forward.

Kristi said...

Great post! The query battle is always horrible and I can use all the help I can get! Nice blog!

"We're all in this boat together and if we can't help each other then it's going to be a long nasty voyage."
~ I couldn't agree more...well stated!

Piedmont Writer said...

Hey Kristi -- thanks for stopping by.

Life rafts are behind the fo'c'sle.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Great post and I think you're right about the formula. Once those elements as they relate to your own story click into place, it is so EASY to write that query!

Piedmont Writer said...

Hey Sierra, thanks for stopping by, I really think that once you get one under your belt and you know what you need to do, it IS easy. But like I said, let's wait until I have to do MISMATCHED, then we'll see what kind of a nut I really am.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. You make this sound doable. :)

I wrote one query a long time ago when Ms. Snark was offering to critique them, and if I remember she might have thought mine didn't suck. I'll have to pull it out of my files and let you look at it. :)