Writing the Query – Before Editing.

Today, I sat down and wrote my query. Much to my immense relief, it was far, far easier to write than my query for Eureka – a much simpler structure and plot, really.

In editing this book I’m going to be writing for voice (she’s terser than I am) but mainly to even out plot and pacing. Oh, I have conflict by the shovelful, the internal and external playing nicely against one another, but I do tend to deal with the external but get very report-y during the most emotional bits. Plus, there’s always tensioning issues – as with knitting, the stitches can get too tight during the anxious bits and too loose otherwise. Plus, a few pieces of backstory became obviously important late in the book and I’ll have to pull references forward.

To do that all well, I have to have a concise definition of what I’m doing. And what is a query, besides a concise definition? The major conflict, internal and external, made clear.

Writing the query also helped me want to get at the editing. Not wanting to get to business was sitting like dread in the corner of the room, and I was ignoring it with all I had. Dread’s pretty good at making “oh, well, this book doesn’t need to be sold, no sense editing” seem appealing.

Doing a query made me realize that’s pretty silly. I can see, from slightly farther back, that there’s an elevator pitch here, one that might even engage me. (I tend to dislike book summaries. They don’t convey what’s truly wonderful to me about a story, since the summary is all about plot. Plot is necessary, but not sufficient. )


  1. That’s so smart! Is that a common Successful Writer Technique or did you think of it yourself?

  2. I knew that writing out what you think you’re doing (themes/sub-themes) is a good idea for editing, from the wisdom of many places. The usefulness of the query in getting that I thought of in situ, as it were. I was writing the query before I realized in what way it was a good idea.

  3. I’m missing something important: I don’t know what “query” means in this context. Was this explained in an earlier post? Is it something all Real Writers know?

    (Captcha = “mistress TEXAS”. Mmm.)

  4. ACW – The query letter is the book’s equivalent of a resume, which is put together for agents and editors. It usually states protagonist, setting, conflict, and antagonist, with a loving touch on the major theme. Think back of the book blurb, with spoilers.

    The process is usually thus:
    You send your query letter (sometimes with a few sample pages). Then, if they like the query, they ask for a partial (often 30-50 pages, with or without a longer book summary). It’s similar to getting a call-back. Then, if they like the partial, they ask for a full. Request for full means you’re a serious candidate.

    Nathan Bransford – listed in my links – is an agent who demystifies query letters: he’s put up a little “query formula” which covers the necessary bases. Evil Editor, who I don’t have listed but totally should have, also critiques queries.

  5. Here’s Nathan’s mad-lib query formula:

    Dear [Agent name],

    I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

    [protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist’s quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist’s goal].

    [title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author’s credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

    Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best wishes,
    [your name]

  6. Thank you, Arwen; that was extremely informative. I retain the hope in the back of my mind that one day I will need to know things like this.

    Captcha is actually illegible, though the first word is “armour”; let me mulligan it …

    Ah, this is better. “fondest matically”.

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