Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where Does The Food Coma End, And Your Query Start!?

It’s Thanksgiving week! I wish you all quick access to that state where you're so full you can feel the food at the top of your throat. Don’t be alarmed by the extreme distress that ensues. It’s normal.

With a looooooong weekend staring you down, you might consider other things you could do besides eat yourself into misery. No? Well, me either. But hypothetically if you were going to do other things, you might devote some time to your query. And I’ve got an idea on where to start.

Start your query where the action starts. Where your character faces their first big choice. Tell us what the choice is, then tell us what will happen if they choose path A vs. path B. The query can’t start with your character’s backstory. How they came to be a lawyer or a detective or a sorceress. Or what the “themes” are or the “universal truths” the book “grapples” with. These may be the heart of your book, and it’s hard to accept that they have absolutely no place in your query. But it’s true.

The query should tell the agent what happens in the book. The plot. The action. The stakes. The themes and universal-truth-grappling, if done right, will just emerge as the agent reads. But she’s only going to read if you tell her what goes on. The plot will tell an agent whether what you’ve written is a good fit for her list and current needs.

My suggestion, if you can wade out of the food coma, is to write down your plot. Make it four sentences or fewer, as bare bones as you can, and focus only on your main character’s trajectory. You’ll need to do some finessing, probably, but this could very well be the first paragraph of your query. Also, read Janet Reid’s blog, Query Shark. Not only will you learn, but you’ll laugh. And I’m told that burns calories.

5 comments:

Remilda Graystone said...

Great post. Very helpful. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving [week]!

Mike Koch said...

As always you have a terrific recomendation for us. Thanks.

Nathanael Green said...

I'm just starting to think about a query for my novel (read: fretting about what in the world to do), and your advice has at least given me a starting point.

Now I have something specific to ponder in my semi-consciousness tomorrow. Thank you!

Roberta Walker said...

Query letter take 15, and still not satisfied with it! Truly, this is harder than writing the book!!

Jeanmarie Anaya said...

Ugh. Drafting the query letter sucks. Period. Thanks for providing a few new useful tips and strategies, and a fresh way of approaching it. On to draft # 432. :)

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?