Query Letters, Writing

Learning the query

Revision update: I’ve done entering all my corrections for the crucial first eight chapters. Next is the big test: Read it all and see if the edits I’ve made work. Fingers crossed.

If you read my post a few weeks about about Andrea Brown literary agent Mary Kole‘s query contest, you’ve probably been following her analysis of her winning letters. If not, check them out, starting with her honorable mentions here, and moving forward to the grand prize winner.

Writing a query is a very different skill from writing a novel, but good writing is still good writing, and learning about query writing is not only important when you’re writing those dreaded letters, it can help with your long-form work too.

In a query letter, you have one page to make a brilliant first impression as a writer, a person and for your story. You have to entice the reader with your story and impress with the freshness of your voice, all while you’re telling the main crux of your story in just a few sentences, showing your experience and why you’re submitting to this particular agent — and, again, all in one page.

Doing that, fitting it all in and making it interesting and exciting, is a lesson in editing that will help with your book.

When you’re writing a query letter, you have to make sure every word counts. You have to use just the right words to tell the story in the briefest most interesting way, with the right flow, action, etc., and all in your voice. Sound familiar?

When writing a novel, it’s easy to overlook some sentences, paragraphs, even chunks of text and think, ahh, they’re good enough. They’re halfway down page 124 in a 214-page book. Who’s going to notice?

But really, when we’re editing our novel, we should give every word just as much attention. The story should flow, be believable, be understandable, entertaining, etc., all showing your fresh, original voice. And this applies to every word, every sentence and paragraph on every page. Phew!

Mary Kole gave some really great analysis in the query letters she showcased in the contest results. Have a read. I learned a lot, and I’m sure you’ll take something away too.

How’s your writing going?

Write On!

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