mood: this week sucks
pandora/ipod: “superstar tradesman” by the view
*cue angelic choirs*
Yep, the Holy Grail. The Query Letter.
I cannot tell you how much angst I have oozed over these bastards. Just typing the word “Query” sends my heart racing in a full-blown angst attack.
Which is why I’m offering up a free query critique to the winner of a very simple contest. Info is at the bottom, people. 😀
CHAPTER SIX: THE QUERY LETTER
There are three crucial parts to a query letter – and no, I do no mean intro, synopsis and bio. The three crucial parts: VOICE, PITCH and PLOT. All wrapped up in a nice professional package. Let’s look at each in turn.
There are a lot of unique things about your book: scintillating plot, characters that jump off the page, breathtaking setting. You know what? All of those can be changed. And pretty easily at that. Harder to change is the voice of your novel and that, truly, is the calling card of your novel.
Voice resonates in a unique way. An agent may be lukewarm on your characters, questioning of your plot, but if your voice grabs, said agent might be willing to take a chance on you.
So here’s the thing – you need to get that voice, that calling card, reflected in your query. Notice I said “reflected,” not smothered like gravy on the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. But you want to get a touch of your main character’s charm, or angst, or sense of humor, or sarcasm injected into your query. Yes, it’s that important.
From the queries I’ve read and critiqued over the past few years, I find that this is the hardest concept for many writers. I know, I know, the middle section of your query is the synopsis part. I say, NO NO NO NO NO! It’s the PITCH section.
You are pitching your novel to an agent, you are trying to convince them that you have an interesting story that they want to read more of. You are NOT giving them a full synopsis complete with backstory, subplots and fully explained character motivations. Pitch your novel. Which leads me to…
How much plot do you need in your “synopsis” section? About this much (*holds thumb and forefinger an inch apart*) Specifically: here’s my main character, here’s what’s happening to him or her, here’s what the stakes are. Take it right up to the point where your main character has to overcome the obstacles, then tease the end and get the hell out.
Don’t try to introduce all of your characters. Don’t explain the intricacies of your world-building. Don’t drop a bunch of names and places that don’t directly effect the arc of your main character.
Doesn’t that sound simple? Ha. Ha, ha.
Here’s my query for THE WITCH’S EYE, the one that landed me a Rockstar agent. One character. One main story arc. It establishes voice (*I* think) and setting. It teases the story but of course it really on grazes the surface of what the novel is about. But that’s the point. It’s a pitch!
Even before her father’s suicide, Bronx teen Shay O’Muir was pretty sure her life sucked. She always knew her blind, deformed eye was a ticket to an ass-kicking, but it wasn’t until she fled her abusive foster family for her father’s hometown in Ireland that she discovered just how much trouble her eye could be.
When she arrives on the Emerald Isle, her eye’s double irises come to life, allowing her to navigate the Sidhe Otherworld, the realm of the (not so) mythological tribes of Ireland. For Shay, it’s one more layer of freakishness but to the Sidhe, her eye is their ticket to freedom. Only Shay can locate an ancient scroll detailing how the Sidhe can recapture the Upper Realm and wipe it clean of humanity.
But increasingly bizarre attempts on Shay’s life—a rainstorm of rocks and a blood-thirsty hellcat, to say nothing of the twelve-eyed sea monster—indicate there might be another like her who can locate the scroll, and whoever or whatever it is wants Shay dead. From the megalithic tombs of Connacht to the perilous cliffs of the Aran Islands, it’s a race against time as Shay follows clues to the scroll’s location hoping to find and destroy it before its secrets fall into the wrong hands.
In conjunction with the YARebels query contest, I’m offering up a free query critique of my own. To enter, you must be a subscriber to my blog and comment on this post with something like “Yes, Gretchen, you goddess! Please critique my query!”
Each comment gets one entry. Each Twitter retweet or blog shoutout of this contest gets another entry, just make sure you comment with your blog link!
Winner(s) will be announced next Wednesday, March 24th! Get crackin’!