Sunday, January 9, 2011

Common Questions Answered

Can I steal and use your edited/re-written version of my query? Like, send it to agents and stuff?
Yeah, totally; I don't give a flaming doggiebar.

Should I?

Look, you need to learn to write strong query letters yourself, plus you want your own writing style to shine through them. That said, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think the process might help a person learn these skills. Concrete examples are useful.

To paraphrase the words of one of Terry Pratchett's characters, the difference between doing something the hard way and doing it the easy way is that doing it the hard way works. If you view this site as another way to acid-test your query before you send it out, then you're growing your skill set as a writer.

If you view it as a way to avoid query-writing altogether, then you're shooting yourself in the foot, and that's why I don't care if you do it. It's your foot. You should know by now that laziness won't help you succeed.

Can I submit a revised query for you to edit/re-write again?
Er--yes, but I'm less likely to do it. Part of the reason I'm tackling query letters is they're short and this facilitates my nanometre-length attention span.

If you come up with a great new way to describe your story, that's awesome, but I don't necessarily want to see it, because hey--I've done this one before.

Or, to put it in the elegantly succinct words of Evil Willow, "Bored now."

What the hell criteria do you use to write a query letter, anyway?
I roughly follow literary agent Kristin Nelson's good advice, which is to focus on the story's inciting incident and then add a few of the complications that increase the stakes/deepen the mystery/blow our wee minds.

I also really like literary agent Janet Reid's advice to outline who the protagonist is, what they want, what stops them from getting that, and what's going to happen if they don't succeed.

Don't you think this is all pretty arrogant? Who says you know how to entice agents/editors?
1) It's arrogant for me to re-write someone else's words, period. Their instincts for what's important in a story are always going to be better than mine, and it should be their writing style, not mine, that shines through the query letter.

All I'm attempting to do is present an outsider's view of what is or isn't working in a particular query. We all get too close to our work sometimes, and this might be helpful to some writers.

2) It's also arrogant to act like I know better than the next Grade A Nobody what will entice literary agents or editors. Good thing I never claimed I did.

All that the query writers who submit here get is some free editing and a random person's opinion. What they take away from the experience is up to them. Just like other forms of online critique, n'est pas?

Who are you, you masochistic jackhole?
The evil id of this person.

Why are you doing this, you masochistic jackhole?
001) I find it fun.
010) I enjoy writers blogs that are active, and I'm hoping the comment section of this blog will grow active.
011) I will learn a lot about writing query letters.
100) Maybe it will help someone.

Can I ask you a question that isn't answered here?
Yes. I'd prefer you did it on this post, which is an open question/suggestion thread.