Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do we need a refresher course on queries?

My inbox is showing signs that you guys have forgotten some of the fundamentals.

Here's a quick rundown:

1. You absolutely must tell me what the book is about.  The easiest way to do to this is set up the precipitating incident. What gets the plot moving? What's at stake?

If you spend 720 words (a recent example) telling me what you want to say in the book, and I have no idea of the main character's name, you've got a problem.



2.  You should not use the word "review" when talking about what you want to have happen with a query.  Review means someone is reading your published book with an eye toward blogging/reporting/writing an opinion piece on it.  You want me to "consider" your book, or simply "read" your book.

Think this sounds nit picky? You bet it is. And I am ok with that. Words are your tools. When you don't use them well in the damn subject line of a query, I don't have much confidence in your novel.


3. Querying under a "clever" pseudonym.  I don't care if you want to use a pseudonym. Pick a name and use it. Do NOT use "You Know Who" or "An Author."  A query is a business letter, and this is not 1780.  Sign your damn name...whichever name you choose. Felix Buttonweazer works just fine.

4. Please do not quote blurbs for previously published books in your query for a new book. The place for those accolades is on your website. The place for your website URL in a query is underneath your name (see #3)

5. Understand the correct use of ellipses. It is NOT to create a compound sentence of too many clauses. Not now. Not ever. Never. EVER.  Need an example of what that horror looks like? Ok, here ya go:  Understand the correct use of ellipses is NOT to create a compound sentence of too many clauses ...not now ... not ever ...  never ...EVER...not even if you can't bear to use a full stop...as they say in the UK, ok?


6. Homonyms. If you don't know the difference between who's and whose, you need a beta reader who does.  Other points that get you: it's/its; should of/should have; there/they're/their; and my all time hair raising favorite lie/lay/lays.  If you have a character laying on the counter, I stop reading. If you don't know why, time for some refreshers in grammar.


*snarl*

30 comments:

Kitty said...

The lie/lay/lays get me every time.

Ellipsis Flood said...

No... not the ellipses... aaah... (yes, I named myself after 5.)

I have to say, in the beginning, I thought homonyms were a typical non-native speaker problem. But I did learn otherwise.

@Kitty: Mine used to be rise/raise. Not exactly a homonym, but close enough.

InkStainedWench said...

But what if the character laying on the counter is a chicken?

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

InkStained – Are you sure you didn't mean "But what if the character laying on the counter is ... a chicken?"

One of my biggest peeves as a newspaper copy editor is "try and." "He'll try and save the universe." In other words, he'll try, AND he'll save the universe. Busy day. Or perhaps the author meant "try to."

Colin Smith said...

If ya gonna be a writer... and put yaself out there; you really gotta try and make sure you use write words and good grammer an spelling an punctutition in all you're writing... blog posts... query letters... comments. Cos you can be sure agents are watching. And that ain't no lay. :D

PS: A BIG thank you to everyone who commented yesterday with kind words about my flash story. You guys really don't know how very encouraging that was, and how much I needed that encouragement right now. You da bomb (as they say). :D

Just me said...

Is laying on the counter okay in erotica?

donnaeverhart.com said...

Sidebar: I was, and have no shame in admitting it, messing around with the word lying, laying, in my little flash fiction story and I was so worried about misusing it, I took it out. That sentence became, "You're in the bottom of the shower."

Anyway, SO much to be aware of, and now I'm paranoid about my WIP which is in other hands at the moment.

InkStainedWench - I SNORT laughed at your question!

LynnRodz said...

I'm not worried about #6, but I still have problems with 'who and whom' so I try to avoid the whom completely.

Now, #5 I used recently and I'm beginning to wonder if I didn't use it correctly. Hmm. . .not sure.

Adele said...

I'm peeved by "try and", too, but I see it used by so many otherwise erudite authors that I think it must have become an accepted usage. Sigh.

BonnieShaljean said...

Wow I should of known your the one… the one and only… shark who can snarl underwater. Ignore anybody who says thats weird, their just jealous, its plane to sea.

Ardenwolfe said...

Wow. You know who? Seriously? Wow.

DK said...

Of course "You Know Who." How else would Voldemort submit his memoir?

Elissa M said...

Somehow I can't get "Lay that pistol down, babe," out of my head now. (It's lyrics, for those who don't know, not something anyone ever said to me.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wait, chickens laying on the counter, erotica and Voldemort? Only here my friends, only here.

Colin Smith said...

Carolynn: Sounds like another writing contest. Actually, let's not. Those words... eek, I can only imagine! :)

Amy Schaefer said...

Oof. I should learn not to read this blog before 5am. Even with a cup of coffee in me, I had a heart attack over the ellipsis issue. Twenty minutes of searching later, I'm not convinced I used them correctly. Out they come. I hate making grammar mistakes!

As I recall, we had an ellipsis contest back at the dawn of time. Why didn't I learn my lesson then?

Ardenwolfe said...

Okay you got me there, DK. Well played. ;)

french sojourn said...

Finally....finally.

Betty was ecstatic, and the little gaggle actually giggled.

"Felix Buttonweazer works just fine."

Not glowing mind you, but adequate.

One of our friends at the Hookielau a go-go called me on this.
Just desserts? Not so much...but it's a start. Now for the main course?
Fondly Felix.

Suilan said...

@ Ellipsis Flood

And I always thought homonyms were a typical native speaker problem that non-natives don't have. After all, when they learn the language (i.e. those who learn it in a class room), they are shown the spelling of each word along with its pronunciation right from the start.

The first time I came across "could of" I was completely mystified as to what it could mean (for about a second) and then (for somewhat longer): why would anyone get the idea into their heads as to spell it like that?

Same thing with lie/lay/lied/laid. If you ever see a non-native speaker/writer get that one wrong, it's because they've spent too much time amongst ye natives. ;-)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

"lie" and "lay" are ones I have a big problem with. I feel like nobody ever taught me the difference (along with other such niceties as sentence mapping and "fewer" vs. "less" [though I've caught on to the latter, at least]). As a result, my dog is told to "lay down". Sign.

(though really, she responds to just "down". She's a rules lawyer, so the less wiggle room the better.)

Colin Smith said...

@Jennifer: Re. "fewer" vs. "less"--I notice one of our grocery stores now has signs that say "About 20 items" instead of "20 items or less." :))

DLM said...

The Arrant Pedant on Less/Fewer: http://www.arrantpedantry.com/2014/10/06/new-post-on-visual-thesaurus-less-usage-problems/

Man, I LOVE the Arrant Pedant. And the t-shirts, too. "Better living through syntax!"

I can think of ONE soul who could maybe get away with the "You Know Who" thing: Gossamer! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This kind of stuff really makes me nervous, makes me want to take up knitting or water polo. But because I hate needles, and the only bathing suit you would ever see me in is turtleneck full-length corduroy, I shall continue to write and call it 'voice'.

BonnieShaljean said...

Thanks for the Arrant Pedant link, DLM. Brilliant! I particularly love the blog on Schottenfreude. Not Schadenfreude but Schottenfreude, in which Ben Schott expands on the German language’s compounding ability and creates words that should exist, e.g.

Deppenfahrerbe√§ugung (“the urge to turn and glare at a bad driver you’ve just overtaken”).

http://www.arrantpedantry.com/2014/03/17/book-review-schottenfreude/

James Ticknor said...

Now, when you say "Not now. Not ever. Never. EVER." do you mean, like, ever ever or is it just your personal preference?

*(I'm such a heckler.)

Janet Reid said...

all y'all just crack me up. anyone not reading the comments on this blog is missing the best part.

Stephanie said...

Google is your friend. Whenever I can't figure out the lay/ lie thing, I google it and magically it's there with a thorough explanation how to properly use it. Raise/ rise is another tricky one. But because I'm so careful, I've become a full fledged Grammar Nazi, constantly red penning people's facebook posts. In my head of course.

Ellipsis Flood said...

@Sulian You've never seen my class' After Test Best Of Errors (TM). And I don't think any of us spent much time with native speakers back then.

But yeah, 'could of' is just as befuddling to me as 'try and' (albeit for slightly different reasons).


And I think I'll add "Deppenfahrerbeäugung" to my vocabulary.

BonnieShaljean said...

I'm sort of a Grammar Nazi too (I once got told off in one of those old Usenet chat groups for saying "fora" rather than "forums" when referring to more than one).

Hey, we need Ben Schott to make us up a nice compound word to describe us...

DLM said...

Laws, I thought I'd died and gone to Southerner heaven when Janet called Gossamer her "honeypie" - but now she's not just used "y'all" properly, but done the death-defying ALL Y'ALL. Beautifully done, and not for amateurs either!

I begin to wonder whether milady shark growls with a drawl.

BonnieShaljean, I loved that one - like Janet, the archives are a must at the AP. One of my favorite blogs ever.