“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”
- Vincent van Gogh
Why are queries so difficult to write?
How do I capture the essence of my story? The plot? The voice? Succinctly?
How do design my query to encourage an agent to read my manuscript?
When do I know it’s the query or the manuscript that isn’t working?
As you can infer, my query has not yet garnered requests for partials or fulls. I have a handful of rejections, and don’t want to receive anymore before I fix the problem.
The problem is my query.
I prefer to write the whole darned manuscript than the query to go with it.
In the past when I’ve received requests for fulls, I’ve always wondered if it was because of or in spite of my query.
This time, I received advice from writing friends. It got better.
I suspected it was still missing something.
Did it rely too much on the teen part? Did it reveal too little about the disappearances plot? Did the voice fail to come through? Was I too vague? Too wordy?
I’ve read the advice blogs:
But they’re examples of other people’s queries. They aren’t telling me exactly how to make my story sing in around 250 words.
At least I have the end part about myself right. It’s all the stuff about the manuscript that’s eluding me.
I sent it out, hoping it was enough.
Then I read this post at Jane Friedman's blog:
There are No Rules (Read the comments section too.)
A couple of weeks ago, a well-respected person in the business asked me about my “writing journey”. He asked if I had any questions.
Did I have the courage to ask him for help? Was I overstepping boundaries? Or would I be wasting a perfect opportunity to fix the blasted thing?
I took a deep breath and hit Send:
“So far, my query has received a handful of rejections. I'm trying to decide if the query is flawed or it's something else. I have the query up on a 2nd blog, if you have to time look at it. If not, it's no problem.”
Rather quickly. (Hooray!)
I heard back with comments. What was working. What wasn’t. Suggestions.
Sigh of relief.
I hurriedly incorporated his comments. Better.
Afterwards, I sent it to my two writer friends who read the manuscript: Winded Words and Edith's Page. Both have been extraordinarily successful with their queries. I improved it based on their feedback.
If you haven’t seen it, now it looks like this:
Thanks for those of you who gave me feedback on my new and improved query, so I was able to tweak it. Your encouragement kept me from quitting writing and burning all manuscripts. (As if.)
I’ve send out another handful of queries.
Now I wait.
On the bright side, I just won a Snarky Rejection Contest on Getting Past the Gatekeeper , earning me a one-page manuscript or query critique. Perfect timing!
Here’s my entry:
Dear Wannabe Author,
I see you spent many hours crafting your manuscript, as evidenced by your query, so kudos to you. There are people who are illiterate, so you’re ahead of the game. Pat yourself on the back, Sport.
Unfortunately, your query is suffering from ___ vagueness ___ too much detail. In addition, it’s obvious your manuscript is ___ plotless ___ full of plot holes ___ cliché ___ pointless ___ meandering ___ nonsensical. Regarding word count, your story is ___ too short ___ too long for the genre. Your manuscript has potential, but ___ I hate your protagonist ____ I loathe your writing style ____ the damn thing is voiceless ___ you don’t have a handle on grammar.
Thanks for considering my agency but unfortunately we ___ have standards ___ don’t represent that genre, which would’ve taken you about five seconds to know if you had bothered to read our website for more than our address.
Of course, another agent may feel differently.
Good luck finding ___ a home ___ a fireplace ___ a recycling bin for your manuscript.
Snarky (Note proper spelling.)
Snarky enough for ya?