The word QUERY feels like it should have a duh duh duhhhh* sound after it (that sound following things that are supposed to be foreboding). To me, the thought of QUERYING is QUEASY-making.
Some time back I started looking into what this query business was all about, and started crafting my own long before my story was even done (it still isn't). I'd read somewhere that this was a good thing to do to get a better idea of whether or not your story was compelling enough, or if you even had a story to tell at all. One resource on writing queries suggested looking at the book jackets of books that you read, particularly in the same genre that you're writing, to get ideas for wording your query (they often sound similar). This sounded like a really good idea to me, so I gave it a try.
In the process of trying to write a query I discovered a few things:
1) I have a story to tell, which I believe is compelling (phew).
2) I have no credentials to add to the conclusion of my query.
3) I suck pants at writing a query letter (at the time I tried).
Those things are hard. Making sure it has the right tone, the right information, the most compelling details...not easy. Any way that I wrote it, it came off sounding cheesy or comedic (it's not). I know this just means that I need practice, and the letter itself needs work. And I'm prepared for that, but still. Aside from inadvertently spewing out a cheestastic description of my story, the part of writing a query letter that freaks me out the most is #2 on the list just above. I don't have an MFA, I've never published anything in this journal or that newspaper, nor do I have professional experience on the subject that I'm writing. I'm just a 30-something unemployed teacher plunking away on her keyboard trying to tell a story, hoping that somebody out there might read it.
Does this matter? I sure as heck hope not. Many of the agents advising on query letters say that it's not crucial, but I wonder if they really mean it. Will they make assumptions about my writing based on my lack of credentials? Do I really need to step up the rest of my query letter to make up for this?
Like I said→ QUEASY-making.
In my search for query-writing tips I came across some tools and information that I found helpful:
Query Shark→ She may be harsh at times, but her query critiques are really informative.
Query Tracker→ Under the heading "Querying", author Elana Johnson has some good tips.
Agent Vickie Motter→ She provides both a skeleton and details about what to include.
The Other Side of the Story→ Janice Hardy breaks down the query into manageable parts. She also has many other posts on this topic which you can find here. And here's her own query broken down.
There are many other valuable resources out there for navigating the querying process, I'm sure.
How about you? Have you written a query already? What resources did you find were most helpful?
* I typed this into Google to see how to spell out the sound I was thinking of. Google's autocomplete feature brought up duh duh duh duh song. I totally lol'd because I knew the exact song someone had been searching for→ Beethoven's 5th Symphony. We spent the better part of a semester in my grade 11 Strings class studying the finer details of this symphony on vinyl, so I couldn't help laughing.
Beethoven - 5th Symphony 1st Movement
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