Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Query

An obvious one but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to discuss query letters for fiction novels, especially since yesterday I crazily took part in a query blogfest.

The query letter is a single page that introduces the author (you) and the novel to whoever it is being sent to, most often agents and publishers. The common elements are the hook, small synopsis and short/relevant bio. Some will also have a small section that shows personalization about why the letter is being sent to that particular person but not everyone will want/have that. Check out for more information on the query letter.

Tips from Kristin Nelson from notes I took at a conference last year:
query tips blog post

Now for My Thoughts:

Oh my goodness, can this topic be very confusing. Researching can come up with more questions than answers and while I am certain I get the basics, translating it to an eye catching query letter about my own novels is a trying endeavor. Thankfully, I'm not at the point to seriously be worried about my query letters but my goal is to be panicking over them by 2012. But I still worry and in part cause I've entered two query blogfests in the past 6 months. Yes, even though I don't have novels ready, I tried to write the query letter. And it felt insane each time.

My first attempt was back in December for query blogfest.

My second attempt was posted yesterday for query letter blogfest.

Yeah. Neither are very good and I know what I really need to work on. And cause you're reading this, I'm going to share those points with you because I am sure I'm not the only one.

1. Voice: This is a hard novel for voice and that is a hard aspect in general because it's not easy to do a professional letter while having the character/novel(s) voice in it too. Part of what makes it difficult for this novel in particular is I'm still finding the voice in the novel because I changed it from first person to third person. That and I do know he's not a snarky teen boy. He's a quiet, slightly nerdy, keeps to himself whenever possible type. To me, it seems harder than say an outspoken, fun attitude type of character because subdued is harder to see through the words. I might try to chat and post more in the Character Cafe from his point of view because I bet Noah's novel will be easier due to how much time I've spend in his pov already.

2. Plot points: More of a what all to show in the query as the real problem. I think I understand now the whole, hook is the first conflict in the story and not the big one, bit but what about the rest of the query. What do I show from the whole novel? I guess certain side plots are left off the page but I'm having a hard time with what I should showcase. Do I mention the new boy he befriends? Do I mention his mutation was detected at birth, which is what makes the MC different in particular and the main reason he has had to work for the government, he is one of the youngest ever discovered? What do I add in the query? I don't know yet.

3. Genre: This one may just be me but there are some novels I have a hard time putting into a genre. Genetic mutation does seem like science fiction except that when the powers come out, some of them are definitely not realistic and make it seem a bit like fantasy. Do I call it Sci-Fi? I might but not completely sure yet.

Those are a couple of points but that's enough about me. What about you?

Have you written a query letter?
Are query letters hard?
What parts are the most difficult of a query letter?


mooderino said...

I think the key elements to mention are that he is forced by the govt to rat out his school friends. Show this happening.

Demonstrate what mutants are and what they can do. Give an idea of what happens to them if caught. Reveal that he is one too.

Then bring in the thing that changes the status quo, forces him to make a dificult choice or whatever. It has to be something that forces him to act, he can't just do it on a whim.

Each of those things needs to be shown (not told) and in an original, interesting way.

Moody Writing

p.s. Thanks for the question on my blog by the way. i hope the answer was of use.

Cheree said...

Fantastic post. I find queries hard to get just right (but not as hard as the synopsis). I think finding the right hook or the right opening is the hardest parts. I'm still trying to get mine perfect.

Dawn Embers said...

mooderino - Thanks for the comment. With what you posted and the critique over at my other blog, I should have plenty to consider when I am seriously writing that query letter. Show, not tell, and be interesting? such a tall order. hehehe

Cheree - :-D Thanks. Just right is tough and never know what will work. I've seen ones posted that worked and wonder "why?". Good luck with your query.

L'Aussie said...

Hi Dawn. You've got some great advice here. Why are queries so hard to write? And the synopsis? This is not the first query post I've read today.


L'Aussie Travel A-Z Challenge

Dawn Embers said...

Denise - That is a very good question. I think it's in a way the pressure of them that make it so hard. I have only had to do a synopsis for a novel writing class. The query has to be so great and stand up for the entire novel, that is what is hard. Or that is my thought anyways.

NetherWerks said...

Queries are tough. Thanks for posting this stuff. You've pointed out some excellent resources.