Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Operation Agent Ink: Query Tips

I will admit, very briefly, this post will be a lot of copying from some previous posts of last year. There. I said it. So, if it seems like you have read this before, you have. Check my archives and you'll see they are there.

Moving quickly along....

So, in preparation for the Pitch Opportunity next month, the next few lessons are going to concentrate on advice and the breakdown of a good query. I hope that next month your query will pass with flying colors. What about you? Do you need help and advice for making your query even better? Then, let's do it!

By the way. Monday the 14th, I'll be posting a query dissection and the agents have graciously agreed to take the query sample apart and talk about what works for them, and what doesn't work in the query. So make sure you visit then. The rest of the week will be dedicated to to YOUR query and the chance to get a get critique and great feedback to help improve your query.

Now, back to the tips.

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The query is often the first thing an agent reads about your manuscript. You WANT to make a great first impression! Will yours be colorful and vivid, plain or crumbling apart, or will it take flight out a window?

The first paragraph of the query needs to introduce the main character in an interesting way and finish the first paragraph with the inciting incident. Who is your main character and why are you writing a story about him or her? What makes this MC interesting, that I would want to read about him or her? Make it unique and attentin grabbing.

Oh. Tomorrow we'll go more in depth about making your hook super sweet.

Now, if you have your first paragraph written and have included your main MC, a splattering of backstory without being boring and ended with the inciting moment, you are ready for paragraph TWO! yay!

Here we go. In the 2nd paragraph, you need to add the conflict and mix it with a little of the setting details. Add in a bit of the stakes involved and AVOID cliches. Accomplish this, and you are 2/3 finished with your query. Woot, woot! You may only need a few words of backstory and setting, but if you can do that, your 2nd paragraph is finished.

Where do you go after you introduce the character and the conflict? Well, the next thing you need is to add the choice. What are the choices your MC has to make? Is there a multitude of choices? Does the choice he or she needs to make come with consequences?


End ths 3rd paragraph with the stakes involved. If you MC has consequences no matter what choice they make, find a clever way to leave the agent hanging.


Any questions about your query?
Do you have anything to add or comment or suggest? Please do!

20 comments:

  1. If I was sitting at a table instead of on the couch with my computer in my lap, I'd slam my forehead on whatever flat surface is near. My query has these things, and yet still rejection-city.

    Can we toss them my query and let them rid it to shreds? Or do you have one you're planning to use already?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That opportunity will come next week. Make sure you come back then and we'll see how much shredding we can accomplish:)
      And thanks for the suggestion about handling rejection. I'll squeeze that in on one of the free days:)

      Delete
  2. Oh, and if it's not already planned, please consider discussing how to handle rejections that get your spirits down and smash your confidence. Still trying to think "MINE" and remember how every beta so far has ended up loving even the rough drafts (including the guys, which surprised me, since teens and young women are my target audience), but it's getting harder. Except for the rare few who get picked up right away, most of us are likely to go through this crushing time.

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    Replies
    1. *Hugs* You can do this!!

      Delete
    2. (((hugs))) Yes, it will happen, Ms. MINE!! This is your year!! I hope you make it on a wishlist next month!!!

      Delete
    3. I don't know if there's demand for an untried sort of story. There's yet another spin-off about abuse as romance coming out. I just don't think the opposite is desired. Boo.

      Also do you want to read the first four chapters in their final version? Some super major revisions. The new opening (it doesn't start with Tristan) has really smacked my other betas.

      Delete
  3. I want to simply hire someone else to write the query. I have several bald patches. *banging head on desk*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How about if I send you a pillow for softer banging. I've always thought queries were harder to write than the actual manuscript.

      Delete
    2. IitB, my first manuscript was written in exactly one month, and no, it wasn't a NaNo. The query? I spent months on that sucks.

      Delete
  4. I have the basic formula you outlined, but my second paragraph is a setup for the major coflict, and my conflict is in the third paragraph along with the choice my MC must make. Since all the information's there, does it matter if I don't adhere to the exact structure?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You definitely want to add the stakes, or choices, you MC needs to make. Hanging the the query up with a gripping stake always leads to questions, often leaving the agent wanting to ask for more. So I'd really consider adding the stakes.

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    2. Okay, that's fine. As I said, all the information you laid out in your blog is in my query. My question had to do with structure. My conflict is in the third paragraph instead of the second.

      Delete
  5. I sometimes find writing a query can show me the short falls of my story. I had it happen when I go to write a query that I realize the stakes aren't high enough or the inciting moment isn't clear enough or the choice was passive instead of active. I've actually gone back and reworked some of the story/character arc when I've realized this is the case.

    Love this outline for a query, haven't seen one for a three paragraph one before and adore this!!

    Thanks for sharing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Ellie. And you know, I've had that happen to me, too. After working on the query, I sometimes see the same type mistakes and go directly to my manuscript for changes.

      Delete
  6. This is exactly the recipe I use for querying. Now, if only I can get more agents to bite. :)

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    Replies
    1. Me too. Where oh where are you, lovely agent who wants my manuscript???

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  7. Is it acceptable for the main conflict to be mentioned in the third paragraph rather than the second, assuming all the other query elements are there and in the order you outlined in your blog?

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    Replies
    1. I believe there is no hard and fast rules. As long as your query clearly expresses the character, the conflict and choice, you should be good to go.

      Tomorrows workshop will discuss a good hook and good hanger, in more detail, along with a bio.

      Monday, we'll have a query sample dissected by the agents, with more explanations and samples. We'll be open to query critiques all week, as well, from participants...Yay!!

      Delete
  8. I sometimes find writing a query can show me the short falls of my story. I had it happen when I go to write a query that I realize the stakes aren't high enough or the inciting moment isn't clear enough or the choice was passive instead of active. I've actually gone back and reworked some of the story/character arc when I've realized this is the case.
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    ReplyDelete