A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Query…

We all know about query letters and why they’re dreadful and, therefore, why not put it off until I absolutely HAVE to write it?

Well, turns out there’s an upside to writing it before you’ve completed your WIP.

When working on my first WIP ever (I don’t think I have to mention how much of a stinker that manuscript was and where it ended up*), I was of course the typical newbie, telling my family I was working on a book yadda yadda. And the thing about telling people you’re writing a book is—people ASK you what it’s about. I should have expected this, yet somehow was completely unprepared to answer the question. No matter how many times someone asked, I could never really put together a succinct or remotely coherent response. I would mention themes and aspects that were involved in it, but somehow could never come up with the actual PLOT.

Of course I ignored this problem.

When I wrote the final words on my first draft and decided it was time to subject the world, ie, agents, to it (Rewrites? What rewrites?), I went about the business of trying to get a query letter together.

I guess I don’t have to tell you I failed miserably. I faced the same problem I had when asked by my friends and family what my book was about. I couldn’t identify a HOOK.

Now that I’m better informed and (hopefully) a better writer, this time around** I attempted a rough draft query letter on my current WIP when I was probably about 2/3 done with the first draft. I asked my husband to give it a look as an impartial reader, since I never let him read any of my work. He admitted it had him hooked until the end, where I tried to squeeze in one aspect of the plot that I couldn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the query naturally. After two paragraphs of talking about my kick-ass MC, I tried to tack on a sentence about the romantic storyline.

Well lo and behold, when I got my critique comments back on the first draft, the aspect of the book my reviewer took largest issue with was that my kick-ass MC became slightly less so once her romantic interest stepped on the scene. This came as a shock to me, although it shouldn’t have if I’d really thought about my hubby’s feedback and applied it to my manuscript. It was one of those “duh!” moments you experience when you get a really great editorial suggestion (followed by excitement about how much more awesome the change will make the book, followed even more quickly by the despair that comes when you realize how much work it’ll take to change an entire story arc).

So a round of edits later, I have a stronger MC. And now I actually am looking forward to (gasp!) revisiting my query and making that stronger, too.

Moral of this story? Queries are more than a torture device designed by editors and agents. They are a tool. LOVE IT!

*I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the good people at Levine Greenberg, who took a chance on a partial and got 50 pages of utter crap sent to them.
**Current WIP is Book 3. Or if you want to get technical, Book 2.5 since I put Book 2 on the shelf about 20K words short of finished. Perhaps to be revisited at a later time, with a wiser eye.

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