Let it be known: I like writing query letters.
That's right. I won't deny it any longer. And...well, the contest thingy I have coming up right here on this blog channel? Yup, you guessed it. Related to queries. So let's get started on honing yours.
Some of you are new around here. I'm a bit of a freak in the regard that I enjoy writing query letters. Like, a lot. I usually start writing my query when I start writing the book.
Query Letter Writing Sekrit #1: You don't need every single plot point in the query. We just need the skeleton. And writing the query BEFORE the book -- I mean, how much more skeletal can you get?
I'm pretty good at getting the bones down by now (yes, even agented authors must write blurbs or query pitches). But here's a glimpse into how I developed this lunacy, er, query letter writing talent.
1. Write by hand. There's just something different about writing with a pencil. Number one, it forces my brain to sloooww dooowwn, something I really struggle with.
2. Print out successful queries. Mine is here. I wrote a whole eBook that has an entire section devoted to "queries that worked." (But wait till Friday to buy - there's going to be a sale!) Or click here, where most authors who do an interview for Pat provide their winning query letter.
With the printed queries in hand, I highlighted all the first sentences. I read them. Over and over. I came up with a formula for why they worked. Basically, I found this: a one-sentence hook line for the entire novel.
Mine: "In a world where Thinkers control the population and Rules aren't meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces."
Then I read the last sentence of the blurb, skipping everything in between. I think this should give the reader a very good idea of what the book is about, just in two short sentences.
Mine: "When secrets about her "dead" sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled."
Together, they read: "In a world where Thinkers control the population and Rules aren't meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces. When secrets about her "dead" sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled."
Everything in the middle came later. Much later. (So much later, that I'm going to blog about them next week. And then I'm going to talk about the "other" paragraphs in a query -- the ones besides the blurb.)
So if you're writing a query, just start with nailing that first sentence and then the last. It should encapsulate the novel, from a starting point to an ending point, with nothing in between. It seems like a small step, but it's really not. And we all need to start writing query letters in small steps anyway, right? Right.
What do you think? Can you take out the middle of your query and still have an explanation of your book from beginning to end? Try it! Post it in the comments, let us see and help. Even agented authors can do this -- and it might really help someone to see something like this from another query that worked.
So let's see what you've got!