Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday morning at the Question Emporium

If my novel has two protagonists, is it OK to include both in the query? Both are equally important and have equally high stakes. The novel is told from both POV's, switching back and forth from chapter to chapter. I've gotten some feedback (not agent) telling me to narrow the query down to one character to keep it simpler, but I've also heard the opposite.  

There is no right answer here. There's only what works.  The purpose of a query is to entice the reader (in this case an agent) to read more pages.  Does your query do this? If it does, it's effective. If it doesn't it's ineffective.

Rules about query letters are to help you avoid the pitfalls that can diminish effectiveness.  Rules don't create an effective query; rules help you avoid being ineffective.  It's a subtle distinction but it's important.

It's a distinction I hear a lot about over at QueryShark.  "Show us what works!" queriers write.  Well, ok, I'll try but honestly what works is often times not something another querier can repeat.  There's no formula.

And remember: take advice from the people who are READING your queries, not anyone else.  I see bad advice from writers, and editors, and god help us all MFA professors about how to write queries.  Some of it's so bad I want to starting knocking heads with a cluestick.  There are lots of agents out there talking about how they read queries and things to avoid. Pay attention to them. 

And how many antagonists do you have? Maybe you focus there.  Try something new and different. Good luck!


Colin Smith said...

Reading the "FTW" queries on QueryShark really helped me understand the place of "the rules" when it comes to querying. Sometimes the rules help make the query better. Sometimes the rules go out the window because the query just works.

Liz Blocker said...

Sound advice, and much appreciated. We all want the rules to be THE RULES in the hopes of making query-writing simpler and easier - follow a formula and you'll be all set. The world, however, seldom works that way. It's a good reminder that what works will vary, and to do the best we can with the query we have. Thank you :)

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

I love for you to visit

and tell us if a cluestick is needed for our QueryCon.

Do you see or want queries that give the number of POVs? Just curious.

Anna Roberts Moore said...

The reason why everyone liked The Matrix was because it was new and different. The reason why everyone hated the sequel was because it was the same as the first; therefore, not new and different.

One of the first things we all learn about being a good writer - once you've mastered the rules, then you can break them. I remember meeting with an editor at a writing workshop, and her nose curled at the sight of my parenthetical aside on the first page of my first chapter. She hated them. Stay away from those, she advised, handing me back my pages.

Guess what I just finished reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and her book is rife with parenthetical asides. Why? Because she makes it look good.

One of the problems I have is - the agents who tell us THE RULES also tell us that we should first build a relationship with an agent, only query agents we respect. We shouldn't just jump into bed with the first agent who offers us a contract. But how do we "get to know" agents who do not blog like yourself? I would love to query you because I feel like I know you because of your blog, but you are not looking for my genre.