4.21.2007

Show don't tell

Ok, get out your query letter.
Print it out if you're querying electronically.
Set it down here in front of you by the keyboard.

Now, read along with me.
Find the spot where it says "my novel is"
if the next word is "about" skip to the next place you find "my novel is".

What we want is the place where you're telling me about your novel.

Here are the things that should follow "my novel is"
1. word count
2. genre
3. finished.

Does yours say anything like "charming fluffy funny piquant hot sexy cool"?

Take it out.
Strip it out right now.

If you're telling me you're cool, you aren't.

That's just a fact.
You know it too if you think about it.
The people you want to work with are rarely the people who tell you how easy they are to work with.
The ones who make a point of telling you how busy they are aren't so busy they can't stop to tell you how busy and overworked they are.

Same with your query letter.
SHOW ME you're cool.
Show me you're hot.
Show me you're sexy (pictures are not involved here)

The truth is I've learned in my perambulations through the query letter heap o'love that the people who tell me what their novel "is" are most often wrong. The people who can SHOW me get my attention.

I'm pretty sure which one of those you want to be.

5 comments:

ORION said...

So true...
The other line which in all honesty should probably be removed?
"I am the next Brown-Rowling-Grisham-King-Grisham-Sparks...(fill in name of any famous bestselling novelist)"

ABBAGirl said...

heh heh! did you happen to get a particular query letter that pissed you off?

adrienne said...

I once had a drama teacher who introduced herself at the beginning of the year as: "A lover of drama." Yes . . .well . . .I would expect you would be. And then she expanded on the topic, giving proof of how much she loved it. I knew the year was not going to be good.

I was right.

Michele Lee said...

What if you don't have "My novel is" in your query? Mine reads like "[Title], [approximate word count], is [genre] in the vein of [similar subject matter book/series]."

And, I've always wondered why would you waste space saying obvious things in your query, like "Novel is complete" or "I am seeking representation".

Squarehead said...

Every time I read this blog I learn something new. Today I have learned that I'm not a dumbass, I'm a Nitwit! My query letters suck but I think I'm starting to figure it out. Just a few more sharp blows to the head from the Snark Hammer and I may just be able to construct a quality query. Thanks for the tough love Drill Sergeant. (I'm knockin' em out. Down, up...Down, up..)