Monday, May 17, 2010

Query Letters: It's like beating your head against the wall, only more painful

I finished the first draft of Jacky's first book (which still doesn't have a title I'm happy with). Next week I'm going to be attending the Backspace Writer's Conference, and I need to have a query letter that I won't be ashamed to show off to other writers and--gasp!--agents.

There are lots of blogs out there about how to write query letters. Agents are so helpful, and they really want us writers to succeeded, despite the massive amount of rejection letters that speak to the contrary. Most of them have written up something or other about how to write a good query letter. Some of the ones I've found the most helpful are Janet Reid's Query Letter Checklist, and her list of things that will make her Instant Reject a query.

Well, those two aren't really on how to write a query, so much as good reminders for things to do (or not do) in a query.

The very most helpful blog I've ever read is Nathan Bransford's The One Sentence, One Paragraph, and Two Paragraph Pitch. Of course, all of Mr. Bransford's blogs are extremely helpful, but that's the one that's helped me through the last week of working on my pitches and getting my query ready for Backspace.

If you're like me, even with help writing a query is a long painful process. Did you know I gave up music because I absolutely loathed practicing scales and arpeggios, and couldn't practice the same line of music over and over and over again. Forget practicing those scales, arpeggios, and troublesome lines for hours on end. I got bored. Repeating stuff is mind numbing in the extreme.

Ready for the irony?

Writing a query letter is a lot of writing the same sentence over and over again, tweaking this, changing that, trying a word on for size, then discarding it because it fit wrong. I wrote ten--read it, ten--one sentence pitches. Most of them are variations of a theme, with lists of words and phrases to switch out. I wrote six one paragraph pitches before I got one I wasn't afraid to share with other people. That's no counting the dozen failed query letters I have stashed away on my external hard drive, never to see the light of day again.

I still haven't gotten my two paragraph pitch. The most important one, because that's the one I'll be using in my query. Beating my head against this hasn't really been fun, but I've learned a lot from it. I've learned just how stubborn I can be once I set my mind to a task, I've learned not to quit just because writing a pitch is hard, and I've learned that practice makes things better.

Yeah. The hated practice. Who would have thought I'd be applying it to writing?

No comments:

Post a Comment