Summarizing — Writing Queries and Beginnings

Literature Blogs
Last week, our critique group continued our story beginnings workshop, based on Les Edgerton’s book HOOKED.

The best thing about doing this workshop was to take the time to think about summarizing into a sentence or three. What is the (whole) story about? How is that story introduced in the first scene or book beginning? We identified the inciting incident, the surface problem, and the story-worthy problem in several published books as well as our own novels. We also picked one novel and identified these elements of a good beginning separately and then compared our notes. All week was a great exercise. Undisciplined as I am, I wouldn’t have done this on my own, not without being “forced” to, by doing it as a group. (It’s all about ccountability. Yay, critique groups and writing friends!)

An added benefit of this past week was to expand my thinking and realize that summarizing a novel beginning naturally led into the formation of other summaries, like a good query or pitch. In order for an editor or agent to read further or ask for more, one needs a good query, a good pitch, a good hook, AND a good storyline. As a result, I ended up redoing a couple query-pitches. It was a good week. It also got me thinking about those all-important first lines!

Whoever said writing was easy never has written, really written.

Now, on to sub and to write. Hoping the same for you.

Query Letter Writing

Literature Blogs
This week my critique group participated in a Query Letter Writing Workshop. Our workshop leader was Jaclyn McMahon. She had us read up on query letters and discuss the mentioned articles, books and blogs. Then we each submitted one of our own, which everyone in the group critiqued. Those critiques led to more discussion.

There are entire books written on this subject of writing a query letter, but I shall share a few things I learned this week:

1) There are many winning query letters (ones which land contracts), but there is no perfect query letter, i.e.,  what causes one editor/agent to reject the story idea may cause another to accept.

2) Three paragraphs within the letter are the norm: A) Intro with readership age, word count and genre, and how you heard/know of agent/editor; B) 3-5 sentences summing up the story; and C) Personal information, as in publications, education, experience in the field in which you’re writing, etc..

3) No need to list every little article or story you’ve had published.

4) Name-dropping sometimes works, but researching what the editor/agent represents is a better bet.

5) No getting chummy if you don’t personally know the person to whom you’re sending the letter. Stick to the facts. Be a professional.

6) Be polite.  (I list this is all by itself because it’s important.)

7) Do your Cross-your-fingers-and-hop-around-the-room-in-hope dance, then get back to writing and thinking and researching.