If You've Never Written a Query...
Some Dos and Don’ts, courtesy of the Write Brained Network conference, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency, and Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary.
General Things to Include:
1) Word Count
3) Personalization (DO THIS!!! TRUST ME!!!)—Personalizing your query says you’ve done your homework (researched the agency, know what kinds of books the queried agent represents,…) and just might be the extra edge in getting a request. Plus, it’s just nice. Agents get a kazillion queries a week—make yours stand out.
4) Short Bio—any previous publications, writing credits, professional writing organizations,…
5) Pitch (Hook)
6) Mini-synopsis (2 to 3 paragraphs) to include the Four Cs
8) And all of this should happen in 250 words
It’s possible. And it’s a great exercise in answering the question What’s my book really about?
Here’s what the lovely wonderful agents said you should NOT include:
1) “This is what my cover should look like!”
3) Age (yours)
4) How long you wanted to be a writer
5) Crazy fonts
6) Your picture
7) Not more than one project at a time
All super sound advice coming from two fabulous agents. And as I sat down to rough out my own query, I also turned to some truly spectacular advice I received last year through Writeoncon from Author Jodi Meadows.
Jodi enjoys queries, and her post gets you focused on your own query writing with four essential questions
1. Who is the protagonist and what is their goal? (Motivation.)
2. What is keeping the protag from achieving that goal? (Conflict.)
3. How will the protagonist overcome this problem? (Plot.)
4. What happens if the protagonist fails/what choice does the protagonist have to make? (Stakes, and why the reader should care.)
Then (love this), she pretty much sums up what should be in each sentence in each paragraph of your query. Seriously. SO HELPFUL.
And then she gives even more pointers, like Focus. Your story may be filled with lots of subplots and secondary characters with their own agendas, and that’s cool, but focus. Main character, main plot, and tells you what your query should reveal about your story.
Whatever level of experience you have with query writing, you’ll gain A LOT from Jodi’s advice.
So Why Am I Writing A Query?
Yeah. Why AM I writing a query? I am months away from sending one off. Franken-novel is FAR from being done. Actually, it’s in super early revision stage.
Writing my query helps me to focus on my story. I have a lot of subplots weaving throughout my novel, but the query helps me to focus on that main plot thread. And I NEED that. What is the main goal of my protagonist, what is standing in his way, and what the heck will happen if he doesn’t achieve his goals?
I tend to get caught up in all my little storylines, and sometimes I lose focus of what my story’s really about. The query helps me put that in perspective. And then all the teensy little subplots work to align themselves with my protagonists goals.
Offensive Player or an Offensive Player
As seen above, there are certain dos and don’ts with querying. Rules to play by. And you want to play it safe.
But sometimes you want to take some risks too.
That’s where I’m at right now with mine. If you’ve been around my blog long enough, you know my protagonist is an eighteen year old recovering manwhore with a er,…special super awesome supernatural power. He’s a quarterback with a long-standing bromance with his left tackle (football speak for blindside) and has an offensive-laden circle of friends. And when they hit the field, they pretty much have to have an offensive mindset: attack, play aggressively, take some risks to get the job done.
Some of his friends transfer said offensive mode to life, girls, drinking, um...other guy stuff.
And sometimes the offense gets a little offensive—ya know what I mean?
And I felt the exact same way when I planted my butt in a chair, opened a new doc, and started typing THE QUERY.
Here’s the mini-synopsis of the first hour:
Typed first line.
Wrote the same thing again.
Deleted and rewrote it a few more times.
Why? Because my first line** of my query, my hook, my lead in to my pitch…
It just might be a little offensive. It might piss some people off.
Bu-ut that first line SCREAMS my character, the story, voice,…EVERYTHING. It’s so freaking perfect and I love it and I really don't want to cut it, but I don't know if I should keep it in my query because someone's going to tell me You do not want to go there and...
However - and maybe this is wishful thinking - my first line might just turn some people on too.
My point (and yes, I do have one) is that you’re never going to please everyone. Not everyone is going to like your story and some people might even be “turned off” by it. Gosh, I used to live my life by the try to please EVERYBODY motto. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing. And it does. Not. Work.
Bottom line, peeps—you have to do what’s right for your story. You have to stand by your man (or woman). Play by the rules, but take some chances too. It’s okay to take RISKS. To stand out. As long as you’re true to your story. To your characters. And to yourself.
Be an offensive player.
And sometimes be an offensive player.
As my boys find out in my story, some people like that. And some people don’t.
But the payoffs could be monumental.
* Franken-novel is not the title of my book. If you're curious, click here.
**I kept that first line. And no, I’m not revealing what it is here (I’M SUCH A TEASE). If you absopositively cannot make it through your day without knowing, inbox or email me (alisonmiller20(at)gmail(dot)com). I’ll share.
Are YOU querying? What risks have YOU taken lately?