The Query Letter

As promised, I read about query letters in several sources this week. Here’s what I learned. All in one place.

Note: you can send a query letter in an email -OR- standard letter. Put QUERY in the subject line, if using an email.

Use a professional font. Nothing quirky. No color. No cartoons or pictures. Your writing—and only your writing—should be used to make your query stand out amongst others. 

Include your personal contact information in a header (if using a standard letter) or at the end (if submitting by email).

Create a strong hook and place it in the first sentence of the first paragraph. Its purpose is to get the reader’s attention and inspire them to keep reading. 

This should be followed by a synopsis, or overview of the storyline or main points and key elements of your book. This may include setting, characters, style, and genre.

The synopsis should be followed by the addition of your credentials: List your published works, including publications, websites, short stories, and so on. If you have educational achievements, add those, also—especially if your book and your achievements are related. 

Close your letter with a statement of gratitude for the person taking the time to read your letter. 

A physical letter should have a place for your signature.

Suggestions: Address to a specific agent and use the agent’s name throughout (not: Dear Agent). Use block formatting. Double-space between paragraphs; single space within. Left-justify. 12 point.

Use your real name, even if you publish under a pen name.

Hope this is enough to get you started, but not so much as to be overwhelming! 

Olympians Do It, Too!

I hope you have been watching the Olympics. Besides seeing them compete, I enjoy hearing hundreds of stories about the awesome athletes and their families.

I especially liked a commentary about one of the snowboarders. The reporter said this young lady’s practice was to spend hours a day visualizing herself on the snow, as she executed whatever she would be performing the following day. A video accompanied the story in which I could see this girl, standing at the gate, eyes closed, going through the twists and turns of her upcoming runs in her mind.

Our writing needs to help our readers visualize our setting and our characters—what they look like, how they move, and so on.

And we can only achieve that if we visualize these for ourselves, as we write. A rich vocabulary (or a handy Thesaurus) is essential to make our writing come alive for our reading audience.

Additionally, we must be capable of visualizing our story as it unfolds. From beginning to end, we must continually step back and look at the big picture, asking ourselves if each scene leads us closer and closer to that satisfying end.

Finally, on days your writing is difficult and you wonder if you will ever finish your book, try visualizing it—amazing cover and all—in your hands or on a bookstore shelf. 

Closing my eyes, right now, I am visualizing a sea of writers standing shoulder to shoulder, newly published books held high and smiles on our faces.

Accomplishment feels good, doesn’t it? And, by the way, your covers look awesome!

Simple Changes To Give You That Spark

I write in my home office. But there are many places to write that are relaxing, inspirational, and energizing. Sometimes a simple change of scenery might be just what a writer needs to kick-start their writing day.

There are endless possibilities: on a lounge chair in the backyard under a leafy tree; in the comfy reading chair in the bedroom; at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee; floating on a raft in the swimming pool; on a park bench; in a gazebo; by a fish pond; in a coffee house; on a porch swing; in a flower garden; near a waterfall; in the corner of a bookstore.

Do you love to travel? Compile a writing bucket list: sitting near Niagara Falls; overlooking the ocean; in a warm cabin with snow falling outside; on a deserted island; on a sailboat; in the rainforest; at the top of Mount Everest; at the base of the Statue of Liberty; in an art museum; on an airplane; in a hot air balloon; on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Macinaw Island.

You can also change when to write: at sunset; at dawn; during a blizzard; in the middle of the night; after a good meal; on a spring morning.

When’s the best time for you to write, emotionally? Choose an intensely emotional time: when extremely happy; sad; feeling ‘blue’; lonely; angry; frustrated…. 

Changes in the where and when can be used to give authors that spark—that edge.

Use a Checklist

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You may want to consider utilizing a checklist to guide your comments to others in your critique group. Below is one we developed. I am sharing the first five this time and will post the rest next week. 

 

 

1) HOOKS:  

* Does the opening line or paragraph immediately hook the reader?

* Did you want to keep reading?

2)  STYLE:

* Is the writer’s voice distinct and unique?

* Does the author utilize showing and telling skillfully?

* Indicate passages needing more “show”.

3)  PROFESSIONAL IMPACT:

* Does the author have a grasp of the elements of grammar, spelling, and punctuation?

* Is the writing fresh and original, avoiding cliches?

* Is the writer overusing/overdoing actions? Themes? Words? Character traits?

* Is the manuscript appropriate for the general market?

4)  SETTING:

* Was the place, time of day, season, time period set?

* Does the setting support the story?

* Do sensory details (sight, sound, touch, smell) enhance each scene?

5)  CHARACTERS:

* Is the main character identifiable? Unique?

* Do you get a sense of the character’s journey and what the story is about?

* Do secondary characters contribute to the story? Are they defined and likable?

* Do characters’ emotions seem believable and/or provide understandable motives?