Sunday, March 27, 2011

Putting the Query Horse Before the Novel Cart

For my next WIP (Work in Progress for those of you not cursed with the joys of being a writer), I decided I would try a different tack. I would write the query first, and then the book.

The query, or the short pitch that goes out to agents, causes writers much angst. It has to be a little work of art on all its own, a short-form beauty that gives just enough information about the story to entice (but not too much! A man in boxer shorts gazing off at the clouds is infinitely more sexy than a man eyeing his exposed privates with a dumb, simian gaze.) It must convey voice, a delectable suggestion of the plot, originality, and no grievous errors that might cause an agent to shout: "Fail! Delete!" Whole query-writing forums have sprung up to address the delicate issue of writing the perfect query. I cannot possibly address all the intelligence here. Many much wiser than I am have written much on the topic; Google it, and visit Query Tracker—an amazing resource.

Writers complain a lot about the query. And the truth is, it is tough to distill your chef d'oeuvre into a nugget of wonderfulness that will cause an agent's hair to spring into wild, excited curls. Or, if she/he is curly-headed by birth, to give him/her an instant Brazilian Blowout. Tough, but then you realize: It's another writing exercise. And I am a writer! How handy. I shall use my skills to turn this task into an excuse to dodge, parry, thrust with my keyboard. Ha! Take that!

But then I thought: why not try the opposite? I'll write a query for a really fun and ridiculous book—the query that I would love to send out if only I could. And then I will have to write it. Oops! It was different. I wasn't trying to distill a book. Instead, I was just having fun with my keyboard. It was like a miniature short story. When I saw what I had written I thought: "Well, how the hell will I achieve that? What on Earth did this character do to get where he is? Did I have to include murder? Who the 'hey is getting murdered? How do I get there, anyway?"

The challenge is set. I have set out to meet my query. 5,000+ words and growing. If my blog grows dark on occasion, you will understand. Huzzah!


Anita said...

Congrats, my witty and wise friend! Go ye out into the darkness, and bring back light for the masses.

Looking forward to the finished product. :-)

EEV said...


When I was in the first quarter of my WIP, I got really stuck. Writing a possible query letter got me on the path again, as it served me to understand where I was failing and why my MS was sucking so much. So I guess putting the query horse before the novel cart ain't that bad...

Angela said...

Wow, what a challenge! Or, as an optomist would say, what an adventure! lol.

Either way, I wish you much luck :o)


The Rake said...

Shouldn't that be the "Query Pony"?

Jenny Phresh said...

Oh, you Rake! You just like ponies, don't you? But yes...query pony!

Thanks all for the luck.

The Writing Goddess said...

my wv: unchy, which is what can happen to a writer's unmentionables when she is squirming over writing a query letter.

I like your approach - and hope it works for you. Why not?!