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The mission of Pens & Pages Writers Guild is to facilitate and encourage writers of all genres, to share resources and tips about the writing process and, most of all, to provide a positive and productive forum that will encourage and support each writer in his or her creative endeavors.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Query Letter Blues
We’ve all been there— staring at the screen, reading then re-reading our attempts at the dreaded query letter. Every writer has to write them, and every writer seems to hate them. I myself loathed my recent foray into the seventh circle of query letter hell.
My journey started simple enough: a homework assignment from an RL writing group. My mission: to write a first draft query letter for critique. No problem right? Wrong. Many problems, and drafts later (I think I got up to version 9.2) the query letter had me beat (500) to my (0). I was lost.
It’s not that a query letter is confusing. It’s not. No, really— it’s not. The problem with query letters is that they are subjective. There is no right, or wrong way to write a query letter. There are good query letters and bad query letters. Mine fell into the latter category for many reasons.
Thanks to Writer’s Digest resources which can be found HERE I had lots of advice on how to craft my query. But something was still missing. What I had was a lifeless letter that didn’t represent my voice, the tone of my novel, or even its characters. My problem was that my query letter lacked the punch my novel had, but why?
In a query letter, you have one page to sell your writing, and your novel idea to an agent, or editor. The piece I decided to do my letter on wasn’t even a completed project! I realized that I had to boil my query letter, and my project down to the bones, then pick the bigger plot question, and that would become the basis for my query letter. Sounds easy right?
Then why did it take me four days to figure that out? Because I got so tied up in trying to find the right way to do it, that I forgot to step back and look at the bigger picture.
Query letters are a pain in the neck. There is no magical way around that, but knowing what I now know, I would strongly recommend authors write a query letter regardless of where they are with their particular work in progress.
If you’re looking for a place to workshop your query letter, there are several online forums that were of great help to me. The first is WritingForums, I’ve been a member here for years, the people are polite and extremely helpful. Kevin Hearne also recommends AbsoluteWrite’s water cooler forum.
I hope this post helps fellow writers remember to take a step back (and a deep breath) before the query letter blues get to you!