Thursday, January 3, 2013

Query Writing

For those who don't know, a query is something writer's write (duh) to try to get an agent or a publisher interested in reading their books and taking them on as clients.

Basically,  it's supposed to be this tantalizing hook into what your book is about and make the agent/publisher say, "Gimme More!" Then, hopefully, they'll request pages and you'll be on your way to being rich and famous (or something like that).

Right now, I'm trying to write my first query.

My last entry? Not a lie. Queries are hard.

You're supposed to take your book and be able to entice someone to read more of it in about 250 words.

Doesn't sound so hard, does it? 250 words, we can write that in 10 minutes. So you try. And then you realize it's really hard to take your 50,000 word novel and pull out the really exciting, really intriguing parts and put them into 250 words.

And you decide screw it. I'm not doing this.

Except you have to. If you want to go the commercial publishing route (which I do).

So I've spent the last few days puzzling over my query. It shouldn't be this hard. To be honest, I started to wonder if there might be a big problem with my novel because I was having trouble with writing a query. (Sometimes a bad query points to a novel problem)

But I don't think it is, so let me take you through what I'm doing.

So to start. There's three questions that you're supposed to answer in your novel. (These are blatantly taken from the folks over at AbsoluteWrite)

In a query I should write about:

1) What my character wants
2) What's stopping my character/the obstacles
3) What happens if my character fails

This makes it even easier to write a 250 word query right? I just need to plug in my answers.

Except not.

But why is this hard? It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally did. Sometimes the questions just don't work for your book.

So, for example, lets take Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone (HP1). I'm not saying my book is the next Harry Potter (I wish!), but the format of the book is similar.  Think about it. In Harry Potter 1 the major plot is about what Voldemort is up to and how to stop him.

But there is so much more that happens. They explore Diagon Alley. They have the sorting hat, the troll, telling Harry he's a wizard, etc, etc, etc.

There is so much that happens in that book, early on, before we get to the major plot.

Which is kind of what happens in mine.

So I'm stuck here, thinking, well how would you write a query for Harry Potter (I even tried googling the question...and didn't get a lot of answers).

But I think if you start to think about writing a query for Harry Potter, you can see why I'm struggling with this a little bit (or more than a little bit). A lot happens in my book that leads us up to the main conflict, so what my character really wants, doesn't show up until half way through.

I've basically decided that I'll need to modify the questions a bit to apply more to me, and I know I'll be able to figure it out. But queries are hard. And I thought I should share why.

For my writers out there: did you struggle a lot with your first query? Does it get easier? Any tricks or tips? (Am I sounding desperate enough yet?)


  1. You are so right. Queries are hard. Hard like alchemy or negotiating world peace. For me, they don't get easier.

    As you can tell, I'm querying a novel right now. I think, after many drafts, my query is okay, but I won't really know until I start hearing back from the agents who receive it.

    Here's a tip from one of my publishers, who once told me that she accepted my novel DESPITE what she thought was an awful query:

    Represent the tone of your book, not just its contents. In other words, write the opening couple of paragraphs in the style of the novel to give a hint of what it's like to read it; don't just report what it's about.

    Best of luck, Kelly!

    1. This is exactly what I'm struggling with, the whole tone. My query letters sound like I'm trying to be a salesman, instead of being more authentic to my writing.

      I'll have to try getting into the novel voice and get that to work :)

  2. I've been working on mine on and off for ages (over a year, lol!), Kelly. I'm hoping it's improved over time. When are you going to pull on your big girl pants and post in SYW?? :o) Netz.

    1. Haha. As soon as what I write doesn't make me cringe ;). Because I know, if it makes me cringe, I'm going to get torn apart.

      In other words... maybe February ;)