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Monday, November 29, 2010

Doing the Can-Can for Query Letters

Oh, the query letter. The sweaty palms, the rumbling belly, the emotional pysche out. All of these plague writers on a regular basis, but the query process puts it into overdrive. Comprehensive enthusiasm in one page coupled with logical progression can feel like the most daunting of tasks. As writers, it is important to bring the emotional pallette to the forefront; hit 'em fast & strong. And don't let up.

Here are some tips to help push it to the crown of the beautiful baby contest for writers.

One Reader at a Time - Every query letter is agent specific. It is important to understand who that agent is, what he/she is looking for or represents & how to tailor your letter to fit their specific requirements. An agent specializing in MG/YA is not interested in a sweeping Civil War epic/romance/paranormal thriller. Get to know the agents that best suit the work. GLA, blogs, conferences, networking with other writers - all of these will help determine the right agent for the project.

Readers are Relatable - And they want to be related to. When an agent reads that query, they want to be sucked in, spun around & left begging for that partial. The five senses are integral to the process. And sometimes, so is the sixth. It is important to layer the query with a texture relayed through the senses. This is where the introduction to your work becomes memorable; because it tickles the sensory receptors.

Bread Baskets are NOT Optional - Make 'em laugh, cry, connect to the MCs & the story. Inspire a level of emotion that makes them ask what next, why this person/event, how will they get out or in. Center stage - that's where the emotion needs to be. And, it is one more way to get that agent interested.

Shiny Apples - YOU are the best author of YOUR story. As a result, personality has to be on the page. Voice has to be distinguishable. Style is not transferable; it is all yours. When you shine through the page, the agent has yet another reason to send that request for more.

Eliminate Confusion - If the writer is confused, so too will the reader be. Anything that comes off muddled, poorly executed or hard to wade through turns the brain to mush. And agents stop reading. Suck that query letter through a Slim Fast straw to streamline the ideas & important points in order to entice an agent.

Query letters are one of the most stressful part of the process for writers. I go through about fifteen rewrites, edits, cold & warm reads before my hands are shaking so bad I can't push the sen button without a firm grip on my wrist. Then the urge to vomit overtakes. That starts the reread process, the constant questioning & a double dose of self doubt.

Take some Pepto. Whip out a few classical music cd's. Cross those appendages for some yoga. Whatever works, do that. And, make sure that query glitters on the red carpet of an agent's desk.

Happy Writing,