I love doing query letter critiques, but lately I’ve noticed that I often give out the same bit of advice, which leads me to believe that maybe a whole blog post dedicated to this bit of advice is in order. (And also that it would be a good idea for query-requesters to read the archives. Just sayin’.)
First, the usual caveats: I’m not an agent, all opinions are my own, all opinions are subject to change without notice, yada yada yada.
Alright, we’re back.
The common theme in the query letters seems to be a lack of direction. Either there’s too much unnecessary backstory, or we meander into subplots, or the query letter is too vague, but the end result is that the reader doesn’t get a clear sense of the plot. I don’t think I have to say this, but the plot is the most important part of a query. Voice is really important too, and so is a good command of the English language, but without plot, none of that matters (ish).
When I was writing my query letter for HEXED I stumbled upon some amazing advice from the Query Shark—the pioneer in query critiques and my hero—and I’ve been doling out an amended version of her advice ever since. So, what’s the advice already, you ask? I always tell authors to make sure they answer these four questions in their query:
- What does the main character want?
- What does she have to do to get it?
- Who or what stands in her way?
- What does she stand to lose if she fails?
If your query answers these questions, I can almost guarantee it will be whole heads and shoulders above the rest. (And if it’s voicey and you show a good command of the English language, well then, even better).
The shark’s original post is most definitely worth a look. She’s even got a nifty template over there for writing query letters. I’ve dug it up here, for your convenience. (You’re welcome.)
Hope this helps, happy querying, and thanks once again to everyone in the insanely-long queue for critiques for your endless patience. And, you know, for thinking of me