To Query or Not to Query

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What is a Query Letter and why should you send one to an agent?

We’ve all done queries when we type a request for information into the search bar at the top of our computer screen.

A Query Letter is a little bit different, however. Put simply, a query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book.

It is NOT A RESUME.

It is three concise paragraphs, which include the hook, the mini synopsis, and the writer’s biography.

The Hook, or paragraph one:  A concise, one-sentence tagline for your book meant to snag your reader’s interest and reel them in.

The Mini-synopsis, or paragraph two: This is your novel, reduced to one paragraph. (Yikes! Are you kidding me?)

Writer’s biography, or paragraph three: Keep it short and related only to your writing.

Close your letter by thanking the agent for his/her time and consideration. If your book is nonfiction, include the outline and table of contents.

If your book is fiction, ask the agent to request the full contents, if interested.

The internet has many examples of query letters—both bad and good—available. It will be well worth your time to read some so that you get a good feel for what agents expect.

As my father always said, “It never hurts to ask…”

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The Power of the Pen

 

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Jenny raised her head when I entered the room. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. “I didn’t know I was such a bad mother until I started reading this book,” she sobbed.

Even if what you write is considered “fiction,” words on paper can change the thinking, the hopes and dreams of your readers.

That pen in your hand, that keyboard your fingers rest on this very moment, are instruments that can be used to build up or tear down.

Your stories can bring laughter, they can encourage, and they can spark someone’s creativity.

Conversely, words can destroy, tear down, belittle, and instill fear.

We have an awesome responsibility when we write. We need to keep a fresh vision of our readers in front of us.

So, lately, instead of just continuing my story where I left of the day before, I’ve been conscious to say, “Reader, this one’s for you. Today, I am going to build you up. I am going to speak to your heart through my words.”

Just as an actor faces his audience when on stage, taking a moment before writing to acknowledge those who will read our words can give us an added measure of purpose, keep our writing more focused and serve to remind us just how important—just how very powerful—our words can be.

Can Fiction Deliver A Powerful Message?

 

32838577662_02d6f6f35dLet’s talk about writing goals.

I’m not referring to how many words you’ll write in a day or how many months you’ll allow yourself for writing that next great literary masterpiece.

Let’s consider the question: “Why do you write?” in the first place.

Some say it frees inner anxieties and helps work out problems, in much the same way as journaling.

Others may see it as a future money maker. Hum…

Still others view writing as a way of sharing information or the story of their journey through difficult times in an effort to help others facing similar circumstances.

Let’s go with the idea of helping others.

The next decision would be whether that would be best accomplished through fiction or non-fiction.

If one can share from real life experience, that would be the most powerful.

If not, can the same message be conveyed via fiction?

I believe it can—and I believe, if well-written, it can be just as powerful.

That means doing a little research on the subject at hand, and perhaps reading a couple of non-fiction books on the subject. You can then use the facts to weave a meaningful story with realistic characters.

I am currently writing a fiction book about bullying. As a former counselor, I know some of the facts. I can even recall situations that were shared with me. But, I still found it necessary to do some further research on the internet and interview a few people so that I could create characters and circumstances that would be believable—and that readers will connect with.

Finally, each time I write, I need to get in what I call the “emotional zone” so that I can write from the perspective of the person being bullied.

My writing goal?

To use my character’s emotional journey to help others vicariously experience the pain bullying causes and then join the effort to erase it from our culture.

What Is Speculative Fiction?

 

29544681983_f530265e0aChristian Writers of the West recently held our Rattler Writing Contest. One of the categories was Speculative Fiction. In that it is a less-understood genre, I explored a little. Here is what I found:

Pure fiction, tells stories in hypothetical situations, whereas speculative fiction tells stories that take place in hypothetical story-worlds different from our own.

Speculative fiction is a fiction genre speculating about worlds that are unlike the real world. It generally overlaps one or more of these: science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.

Speculative fiction encompasses works that don’t fit neatly into the separate genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy.

Stories such as Stranger in a Strange Land. The Twilight Zone. 

When you come across a story that both is and isn’t science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror, that’s speculative fiction.

David Bowlin of ShadowKeep Magazine states, “Speculative fiction is a world that writers create, where anything can happen. It is a place beyond reality, a place that could have been, or might have been, if only the rules of the universe were altered just a bit. Speculative fiction goes beyond the horror of everyday life and takes the reader (and writer) into a world of magic, fantasy, science.”

Stir Their Hearts. Make Their Skin Crawl.

 

Fiction entertains. It mystifies. It sometimes makes us cringe. It oftentimes invites readers to experience different worlds…odd creatures…unusual circumstances. It makes us laugh. It makes us cry. It stirs our hearts…

Non-fiction informs. It often tells of heroes, the downtrodden. It recounts historical events and the people who lived through them. It takes us to different countries, cultures, and peoples. It entices us to travel and experience all that our world has to offer…

As writers, we hold within our pens the power to spark many different emotions in the hearts of our readers: fear, surprise, empathy, anger, love—the list is endless. We take them on a wild ride, of sorts. And, they love it.

Their hearts pound. Their skin crawls. Their tears flow.

They crave it. We deliver it.

But, by the end of the book we need to wrap it all up. Sometimes neatly…sometimes not so much.

For myself, I choose endings that encourage, uplift, offer hope.

In this fast-paced world full of hurting people, in this climate of unrest and uncertainty, my goal is to give readers something to hold onto.

When they read that last page and turn out the light, I want them to rest a little easier, feel a little safer. I want them to have experienced relatable characters that have triumphed over insurmountable odds…who have claimed victory over negativity or self-doubt…who have learned a life lesson and emerged the better for it.

I want my books to change them in some way.

Maybe they’ll experience release from a false belief about their own self-worth. Perhaps they’ll be energized by an idea they find within its pages. Perhaps they’ll be inspired to reunite with a family member or old friend.

I want to give them the same thing I want from a good book: to emerge from the reading experience a little wiser, more sensitive to the needs of others, more open to change, happier—just different somehow.

 

 

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