Monday, May 29, 2006

Q & A 24 Query Format

A lot of the queries you post seem to follow the same pattern: they start by throwing a question into the room - 'What do you get when two distinguished gentlemen move into a neighbourhood full of unmarried girls?', give some of the plot, and end on another set of questions: 'Will her suitor run from his monstrous mother-in-law? And most of all, will Elizabeth say yes?' - and leave off. Is that an acceptable or desirable format for queries, or would you recommend to sum up the hole of the plot?

Point #1: If there are any holes in the plot, don't mention them.

Point #2. Will Elizabeth say Yes? is a rhetorical question. If it's a romance novel, Elizabeth will say Yes. If it's horror, Elizabeth will say No, and will spend the rest of the book being chased by her rejected suitor and his axe. If it's literary fiction, Elizabeth will say Yes, but will die of cancer.

Point #3. If an editor wants a synopsis with the query, that's where you sum up the whole plot. If not, you sum up the synopsis in the query--hitting the important stuff, like who are the characters I'm supposed to care about, what are their seemingly insurmountable problems, and how do they deal with them? The fact that you gave away the ending is far less likely to matter to an editor than to a shopper in a bookstore. If an editor doesn't want to know how your book ends, it's probably because he isn't interested, not because he wants to find out for himself. Spoil away.

Point #4. Perfectly acceptable. No more nor less desirable than other formats that convey the same information in an equally well-written manner.


Jenna Black said...

Answers to "will Elizabeth say yes" for all the different genres are just priceless! You've got them all pegged! I especially loved the literary fiction one.

Brenda said...

Omigod - *laughs* I love #2! Spot on!

Anonymous said...

I have a genre question. Is literary fiction characterized by sad or melodramatic situations? I see this description a lot, and can't seem to match it up to what I think of as literary fiction. Writers like Pynchon, Gaddis, Roth, Acker, DeLillo, Rushdie, Coetzee--these authors write what I think of as literary fiction.

While their books may be tragic, they are never pathetic. If anything, I would say that they common denominator in their works (and others of their ilk) is a deep sense of humor.

Are these not literary fiction? What is? Love Story?

I am quite in earnest--which authors write literary fiction?

Anonymous said...

Oooh, I like that. Now I know why our venerable EE was so frustrated while reading my queries. I was using the "jacket blurb" format - trying to pique curiosity. Now - a mini-synopsis in the query makes much more sense. I just hope I can keep it to one page.

Lois Lane said...

Catching up on your posts and I am appalled anyone would complain this FREE service did not come to them faster. I guess anonymous thinks you are his/her private dancer, huh? Idiot!

Thanks for having this blog, even though I never comment and tell you what a good job you are doing, I come back often and I sure as heck appreciate what you do.

About all these analogy and metaphor questions, don't you think it would be better to just leave them out? Is the old fashioned keep it simple stupid (K.I.S.S.) rule still alive, or am I old and out of the loop?

For the question about the mysterious Mistland folks, is it me or is the wording wonky, or maybe just too wordy?

"In those ten years" implies the last decade was mentioned earlier. Couldn't that be cut? e.g. "His dream of following in his father's professional footsteps proved to be as impossible as coming to grips with his own failures." or "His dream of following in his father's footsteps proved to be as impossible as following those of Gene Kelly."???

Makes my head spin. I couldn't do what you are doing. Happy Memorial day!

Lois Lane

A. M. said...

Don't mention plot holes? Surely you jest, EE. I'd like to know just how big that plot hole is. Can I fly a space ship through? (That's what plot holes are for, I thought?)

Confused - Leave Earnest at the door and perhaps you too can laugh at the cliché.

BTW: By now it's perfectly clear just how analogies register on the enjoy-o-meter: - 8995. That is MINUS 8995. Analogies are for poetry. Some even work in novels. Query letters? Not so much.