Thoughts On a Query

You know how it is when you hit “send” and then suddenly think either WAIT! or RATS! or…. other words?

Yep, that’s what happened to me yesterday except my “other words” were “AH, I figured it out.” (I’m sorry if you were expecting something else.) This post is a little process piece for my own sake now, but perhaps it will be useful to someone else down the line, which is why I am choosing to still post it.

I attended a webinar a couple of weeks ago from Writer’s Digest that talked all about writing a query letter and landing a literary agent. Great event. The speaker, Chuck Sambuchino, was engaging, solidly experienced, and well-informed. Aside from getting disheartened once again about wordcount issues (have I mentioned before how much I dislike wordcounts?) (also, this was nothing new), the final useful piece to the webinar was that it includes a critique of each participant’s draft of a query letter.


Until I sat and stared at my sad synopsis. Should writing a synopsis be so difficult? My initial thought was this: if I cannot easily come up with a synopsis of my novel, then maybe that says something about my novel. Maybe it means that my story is lacking something.

Nope. That’s not it. Thankfully. I mean, it’s entirely possible that my story is lacking something, but that isn’t the actual problem with why I stumbled over this synopsis thing. I realized that I was still thinking in the mode of wanting to leave some mystery to the reader, that I should leave information out that would lead a reader too directly to the story’s theme and purpose. In other words, I got lost in the debate I’ve had with my husband in the past: what I intend for my audience and what my audience takes away may not be the same thing. I’ve always been on the side that it is totally okay for this to happen. That is the beauty of art.

However, this is NOT the way to approach a literary agent. The agent wants the story to be spelled out for him/her. She wants to know right off the bat if my story is going to be one that makes it worthwhile to read a few pages, then a few pages more. No mystery. She doesn’t want a message in her box that simply says “we need to talk”.

I know precisely what drives my main character. I know the process she must go through in order to overcome her personal conflict. I know how this conflict affects others.

The sample query letter I sent off to the webinar leader turned out alright in the end… but what is so great about this process is that when I do get his feedback, most of it won’t be a surprise. What I also love is that this reminds me that when I have a synopsis and query letter that is literary agent-ready, I’ll know. I’ll feel it. And then that excitement and confidence will come surging through and… carry me through the first round of rejections. Haha!

Have I used this one, yet? Seems fitting:

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4 Responses to Thoughts On a Query

  1. Mary says:

    “what I intend for my audience and what my audience takes away may not be the same thing. I’ve always been on the side that it is totally okay for this to happen. That is the beauty of art.” – SOO happy to hear you say this. I would always get frustrated when teachers would want me to tell them what the author intended for me to take away from a poem. I thought the point of good art was for me to take away what it meant to ME. Which makes me think of the book “The Giving Tree,” but that is a comment for another day.


  2. ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

    And the fact that we each take away something a little bit different is what keeps the art and the conversation alive and interesting. I have already gotten different comments from people about the different parts of my story that most resonated with them – I love that. I also love that already, one reader got really angry with my main character at one point – which surprised me, but the passionate response? Totally worth it.

    I think I’ve heard your thoughts on The Giving Tree… pretty sure you’re not alone on those, either! 😀


  3. I missed this post. Google reader is letting me down. Congratulations on sending off a draft of your query! And here’s to intuition letting you know when you’ve gotten it right.

    (Also, I’m looking at your other comments, & it was me who got angry at your character, wasn’t it? Actually, even thinking about it right now my heart rate picks up, lol. I’m glad my passion counts for something.)


  4. Pingback: On Top of the World | It'll All Work Out

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