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Monday, April 23, 2007

Queries and Goals

I did it! I met my weekly goal for querying nonfic articles and stories. It was very hard to reach this week. I came down with strep throat last weekend followed by a cold. (I may never get well!) But I finally felt human enough to do some work yesterday.

Part of this success is due to my coaching group. We post our goals for public scrutiny and every Monday we have to log in and fess up to how well we did. I didn’t want to let the team down so I burned the midnight oil to make my quota.

So I guess under my blog post on Motivators, I should have added “taking responsibility” as one of the bullet points. If you set goals, you have to own up to them. I hope I can keep going. It’ll be a lot harder once I get back to the saltmine.

Queries: I was talking to Daw the other day about that contest they have over at Fangs, Fur & Fey (cool title). I mentioned that I definitely noticed a pattern in what the judges deemed good queries. I also liked some of the premises of a few that didn’t make the cut. It’s hard to pick a favorite but so far I still like one of the first ones they accepted. If the writing is as good as that query, I’d certainly read the book.

Meanwhile back at Camp Maria, I polished and passed out the query to my novel to several peers whose judgment I trust implicitly. They gave me some incredible feedback.

That query sparkles with energy and color! I’d like to share some of the things I did inside that query as well as some of the great advice I got from my writing buddies.

• Have a great opening statement but make sure it ties in with the character and conflict of the story. In my case I used an 18-word hook as the opener followed by a second sentence that explained the overall thrust of the story.

• I left out all mention of the very strong secondary characters. Only the two main characters and the antagonist were introduced.

• Identify the marketing possibilities. In my case, since this is cross genre I can pitch this as either SF or fantasy. I am also going to pitch this as paranormal romance to some agents because I think it has enough sensuality to lean that way.

• Don’t leave any questions in the agent’s mind as to what this is about. While you’re at it, also keep it brief. (No pressure!) Nathan Bransford has a really good example of a query he likes here.

• Let your voice shine through. Some agents only take a query, no pages. The weight of that query is going to have to carry you through to the next round. I wanted to give the query the same sort of immediacy that’s built into the novel.

• Sandy suggested mentioning what author's work most resembled my style. That’s not a tactic I’m comfortable using. It would feel like a copout to compare myself to an established author. But then Sandy went a step further and proposed this gem: My work has the dark sensuality of “such and such” a writer. That was a very subtle point. It implies without comparing directly. Super smart and sophisticated.

• Mike suggested focusing on the personal conflict for both my main characters. Originally I had the over arching conflict and the personal conflict of only one main character but as soon as I did both it really snapped.

• Maya asked me to make the characterization stronger than the science aspects. Boy, that bothered me to do that because I really like the science in this story, but I followed her advice and it immediately became personal. Good call.

• Daw has a gift for knowing the perfect word for any occasion. She questioned my sanity and made me see that a couple of her word choices were better than mine. Once she got finished with me I could see that query crackle with color. That woman is mean with a hot poker! LOL.

Since this is an active query, I don’t think it would be appropriate to post it on this blog. But I hope some of these observations were helpful.

Ironically, after all the polishing it came out a little longer than I expected, (300 words) but it reads ultra smooth. This has to be the best query I’ve ever written. Hope it does well.

We’ll find out in the weeks and months to come.


Anonymous said...

I'm impressed by the way you've been able to use such a divergent set of suggestions and shape them in your own voice.

Good luck with this query, Maria.


Maria Zannini said...

heh...I learned from the best.

I'll send you the polished version later tonight so you can see the evolution.