It's coming, my friends. The next step: querying. That's right, I finished Devolutionaries last night! I sort of hate to say "finished," because I don't think it'll ever be really finished until it's in the hands of readers (fingers crossed). But at any rate, it's ready for that next step. And I'm two parts excited and one part nervous.
Writing the Query: Believe it or not, you already know how
Shallee ● Apr 20, 2011
I've been working on my query for literally months. I have three completely different versions, and each one has gone through at least a dozen revisions. And, call me crazy, but I actually kind of like writing queries. Of course, it's still hard. There's a reason a lot of us freak out about queries. I don't know how to do this! we cry. It's so different from writing a novel!
And it's true. In many ways, query writing is very different from novel writing. But in all the revisions I've done on my query, I realized something else.
Writing queries is not so different from writing novels after all.
You know what that means? You already know how to do this. So how exactly is a query the same as writing the actual book?
You're telling a story. A story has the 4 c's: A Character in a Conflict who makes a Choice with certain Consequences. A query is the exact same thing. As Sarah LaPolla says in her recent post on queries, the query doesn't have to be complicated. All you need to do is TELL THEM WHAT THE STORY IS ABOUT. Who's the character? What's the conflict? What choice do they have to make, and what are the consequences of that choice?
You already know how to do this-- you just did it for a whole novel! Writing it shorter is of course harder in some ways, but that's okay. Writing a novel is pretty gosh-darn hard too. Try starting as short as possible by writing your one-sentence pitch that contains the four C's. Then, add a few well-chosen details. It's a lot easier to expand from one sentence than it is to shrink down 70,000 words.
Choose specific details. You've got 250 words in a query. You can't show a clipping of the scene where your character discovers his mysterious power. I tried to do that initially, and it was just too long. However, if you just say, "One day, he discovered he could shoot laser beams out of his eyes," that's a little generic. So how do you find a balance? In a novel, you choose specific details to show a setting or a character. It's the same thing in a query. You can't show all the details, but you can pick a few specific ones to show the uniqueness of your novel.
Too many details: "Jeb crept through a dank forest on a hunt for the zombie squirrels who attacked his sister. When a squirrel lunged for his face, Jeb's instinctual reaction caused laser beams to shoot out of his eyes, frying the squirrel mid-lunge." Just enough details: "When Jeb is attacked by the same zombie squirrels that maimed his sister, he defeats them by discovering he can shoot laser beams out of his eyes."
Don't forget critiques and rewrites. You've done it on your novel for many months/years. People have torn it apart. You've rewritten it. They rip it apart again. You rewrite it again. A query letter is no different. You cutcutcut those unnecessary words, then go back and realize you can cutcutcut some more. You restructure. You write it again from scratch. People rip it apart again. And eventually, it's better. In fact, it's pretty freakin' awesome. A query doesn't have to be awesome from the start. It takes as many or more drafts as a novel to get it right. And you've got lots of experience in rewriting now!
So, my friends, don't freak out. You know how to do this! It's hard. But really, writing a novel is harder, and you've already done that. You've got the skills, so have confidence. And share with us-- do you have any tips and tricks that helped you write your query?
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