As I work my way through queries and requested fulls, one problem consistently crops up: the amount of backstory and set up presented in the query or the first pages of a novel.
You don't need as much as you think you do.
Consider this "query":
Felix and Betty Buttonweezer live on Carolynn Lane. They've raised four (mostly) good kids, and avoided killing each other over arguments about which way the toilet paper should hang. Sure, Betty likes to finish Felix's sentences, and Felix has been known to tune out Betty's litany of complaints about her harridan sister in law (the wife of her otherwise quite nice sister Petunia.) They vowed for better for worse 25 years ago, and so far so good.
When Betty rescues what Felix thinks is a yappy, neurotic, scruff bomb with minimal resemblance to a dog, now called SweetumsMyPrecious (Betty's choice of course), Felix finds himself the odd mammal out.
Betty makes dinner when SweetumsMyPrecious seems hungry, not when Felix comes home from work.
Betty sits in the backseat with SweetumsMyPrecious when she and Felix take drives.
Worst of all, she's made Felix smoke his cigars not just outside on the porch but across the street because "the smoke bothers little Precious"
But Betty has found something to lavish her love on. With the kids grown and gone, and Felix off to work, then perfectly content to sit in his recliner after dinner watching The Great British Bake Off or Forged in Fire, Betty has felt alone and useless. Moreover, her Facebooks stories about, and photos of, SweetumsMyPrecious has garnered her an adoring fan club.
What neither of them know is that SweetumsMyPrecious wasn't a stray. And Felix is closer than he knows in his doubts that SweetumsMyPrecious is really a dog.
How much of this can you take out but retain verve and voice, and enough description and plot to entice an agent?
There's no one right answer, but there is at least one wrong answer: "none." At 252 words, this needs to be trimmed by at least 50 words.
Feel free to answer in the comments section.
Hack at it!