Writing a Query is Harder Than Writing the Actual Book

And yes. I think this is true. When writing a book, (mostly) the words just come out. You have the immensely enjoyable task of moving the pieces around on the board, of telling them what their next move is, what their next decision will be. Telling the story is an amazing ride and, regardless of the outcome (read: regardless of how much your story sucks), it’s an experience that you will treasure forever.

Then, in 250 words or less, you have to tell how you told the story to someone who may or may not actually give a crap. You have to omit the part where you cried uncontrollably when Joey Somedude died in Katie Maincharacter’s arms. You can’t tell them about the spiritual epiphany Penelope Antagonist had before she turned to the good side. You have to boil it down to A happens, then B happens, and as a result, C happens. Part of me feels like this is an injustice to all my characters have been through!

But most of me knows that this is good exercise if nothing else – a practice in showing not telling, in knowing what happens in your story without drawn out explanation. If you can’t distill your story enough to describe it in 250 words or fewer, it’s too complicated. If you can’t pick out the spine of the story without explaining why, you need to go back to your novel and do some major rewriting.

And there’s a part of me that just wants to say: First there’s an Apocalypse. Then an adventure. Now buy my book. You know you want to.

Think that would work?

How long did it take you to write your first query? Days? Minutes? Ever sent a query that you regretted sending? I know I have.

2 Responses to “Writing a Query is Harder Than Writing the Actual Book”
  1. I completely agree with you. I think I must be very bad at writing queries (either that, or I’m very bad at writing novels, and I’m not quite ready to admit that yet). Queries take me weeks to write and every time I send one out, I fiddle a bit. There is an interesting blog re: query writing (wish I could remember the url– I’ll tell you if I do) in which a real agent offers good advice and posts real author’s queries with comments to help them improve.
    (But I never heard the 250 word limit. Is that standard practice??! Perhaps that’s part of my problem!)

    • Could it be queryshark.blogspot.com? Or evileditor.blogspot.com? Both are very helpful sites and do exactly that. And I read from a lot of people that 250 is not necessarily set in stone, but it’s a good guide – that is one page of writing double spaced. If you can’t distill your novel into one page or fewer, then you might have a problem. So that’s where that number comes from. But it definitely takes me a long time to get my queries down to that size.

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