Monday, September 14, 2009

Practice Writing Query Letters

Hi everyone,

I'm wallowing around in bliss because football season has started up again. Yay! But I didn't want to talk about football, because honestly, football doesn't do anything for us except showcase new advertising campaigns.

So I thought I'd share something helpful with you all.

Someone asked me how to write a query letter, so I came up with a quick example. I'll break it down for you here.


SHE HAD ONE MISSION, TO MAKE IT TO GRANDMA'S WITH A BASKET OF GOODIES. SHE DIDN'T COUNT ON RUNNING INTO A HUNGRY WOLF WITH DEVIOUS PLANS OF HIS OWN...

In query writing, you often hear about the hook. A hook should look something like this. When you write one, try to channel that movie voice-over guy that does all the blockbuster movie previews. The point of the hook is to showcase the driving force of the novel, which is usually the conflict in a romance.

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD IS A GRIPPING 500 WORD FAIRY TALE ADVENTURE ABOUT ONE GIRL'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE DEEP DARK WOODS AND THE EVIL SHE FINDS THERE.

The second paragraph of all of my query letters was what I called the stats paragraph. I always included the word count, genre, title, and the half sentence description of what the book is about.

FIERY AND INDEPENDENT, LITTLE RED SETS OFF ON THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME DETERMINED TO MAKE IT TO HER AILING GRANDMOTHER'S BEFORE NIGHTFALL. UNFORTUNATELY, EVIL DOES NOT JUST LURK IN THE DARKNESS. ALONG THE PATH, SHE MEETS THE DEVIOUS AND CHARMING BIG BAD WOLF WHO CONVINCES HER TO STRAY.

WHY SETTLE FOR ONE JUICY MORSEL WHEN YOU CAN HAVE TWO? THE BIG BAD WOLF HAS HIS OWN PLANS AS HE SENDS LITTLE RED OFF TO PICK SOME FLOWERS. SO WHAT IF IT INVOLVES HOPPING IN BED WITH AN OLD LADY AND CROSS-DRESSING? THE PAY OFF IS WORTH IT. BUT WILL GREED LEAD TO THE BAD OLD WOLF'S FINAL UNDOING?

The next two paragraphs I called the character paragraphs. Sometimes I'd have three, but usually I had one paragraph about the heroine describing her situation and what her big problem is, then a second describing the hero and what his problem is, and if I needed it, I'd do a third about the conflict they have once they come together, if the conflict isn't obvious from the first two, or if a major part of the plot is external to the hero and heroine's problems. In the queries I've read, I've seen a lot of trouble with these two paragraphs. Remember, you can't write your book in the span of a single page. You're not supposed to. Forget the plot, all the brilliant little twists and turns, because they belong in the synopsis, not the query. The query should stick to who are the people this story is about? Why should I care about them? And what sort of trouble are they going to find themselves in?

AS PART OF A WRITING TEAM, MY BROTHER AND I HAVE SEVERAL FAIRY TALE CREDITS TO OUR NAME, INCLUDING BESTSELLING CINDERELLA, AND AWARD WINNING RAPUNZEL. WE ARE ACTIVE MEMBERS IN FAIRY TALE WRITERS ASSOCIATION, AND PRESIDENT AND SECRETARY OF OUR LOCAL CHAPTER. THE FULL MANUSCRIPT FOR LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST. WE HAVE INCLUDED A SELF ADDRESSED LAMBSKIN FOR YOUR RESPONSE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND CONSIDERATION,

SINCERELY,

THE BROTHERS GRIMM


And finally you have your bio paragraph at the end. In my queries at one point, my only writing credit was I was a member of RWA, but I listed that and didn't look back. Don't worry about padding this section. Include only important information that connects to the story, and sign without looking back.

Any questions? I'd be glad to help take a look at trouble spots for people's queries this week.

Happy reading everyone.

Jess

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