Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Night at the Question Emporium

Your website states that queries should include the first 3-5 pages of the novel. My novel has a unique format. The protagonist writes mystery novels and in the early chapters the protagonist's narrative alternates with passages taken verbatim from the mystery novel he's currently writing. Both story lines merge later in the novel. The first chapter is twelve double-spaced pages. The passage from the protagonist's mystery novel begins on the ninth page. You would therefore be missing an important element if I only sent the first 3-5 pages. Can I send all twelve pages of the first chapter in my query?

of course you can. There's no such thing as the Query Police despite my longstanding efforts to find and train a battalion of ninjas to spring from the rafters when writers do things that are charitably labelled "clueless": Dear Agent/bcc the entire AAR membership/quoting form rejection letters like blurbs.

That said, I won't read 12 pages.

What does that mean for you? Not anything terrible. The purpose of sending those first 3-5 pages is not to see if the novel works or to get the "important elements."  It's to see if you can write. 

It is a lamentable maxim that great concepts are more often accompanied by bad writing than good.  And the reverse is true: really good pages are often preceded by dreadful DREADFUL query letters.

The bottom line is: don't worry. Send the first chapter if you can't bear the idea I'll only read 3-5 pages. Do NOT send 35 pages. There's no way to read 35 pages in the body of the email without wanting to kill things preferably the sender.


Shaunna said...

If you're looking for recruits, Janet, I'd sign up for the query police ninja squad. Sounds like fun--more fun than querying, anyway.

Elissa M said...

And you probably don't really need to read all 3-5 pages to see if the writer can write.

Kathleen Kaska said...

I like your concept of alternating your protagonist's narrative with passages from your novel. Nice touch and great advice. Thanks.

Michael Seese said...


So true. Though it may be apocryphal, G.B. Shaw was rumored to have said, "I don't have to eat the whole fish to know it is rotten." (So the inverse should hold.)

BP said...

Yes, sign me up...query police...clueless writers...seeing that I pose as a clueless writer during the day, they'll never see my query-policing-ninja-skills-by-night coming! :D haha

@Michael best quote ever!