Queries and Other Torture Devices for Fun and Recreation

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I hate queries.

You hate queries.

All writers hate queries.

If you don't, then I demand you turn in your writer card right now because you're an imposter.

However, queries are a necessary maybe not quite "evil", but close. I think most of us have heard the reasons they're needed:

*For writers, they're a foot in the door with agents.
*For agents, they're a first taste of a writer's skill and voice, as well as an introduction to the story. (They're also a 1st line of defense against those who simply can't be bothered to follow directions and/or learn their craft.)

I've also found that queries can be a valuable tool when starting a new story. (I know... I'm as shocked as you are.)

When starting a new story, after you get the basics down, try and write a query for it. Seriously. Do it right now. (No, I don't care that you don't have a new project in the works, I said move it! :-P )

It may sound counter-intuitive, but starting with the query can not only help you map out the major plot and main characters of your new project, but it can also help you dodge plot problems before they wriggle their way into your MS and have to be surgically removed. It spotlights those nasty cliches that you can't pick up on when they look shiny and new in your head.

And the single biggest advantage of the query before writing method? You find out in advance if you know your story.

If you can't explain it concisely from the beginning - before all the juicy details are added - then you most likely don't have a handle on the essence of the story yet. You are, in essence, trying to build a house without a foundation, and that's never a good idea. (Neither is using "essence" twice in two sentences, but it's a repetitive day... just go look at Nathan Bransford's blog post.)

5 Chiming In:

Terry Towery said...

I hate writing queries. HATE IT!

That said, of course, you are right. In fact, Josin, I've become convinced that you are right about everything. It can be SO annoying. ;)

(You know I'm kidding, right? I mean about the annoying part, not the being right part. Because you ARE always right ...)

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

You know, I've always wondered if writing a query before the story's even finished was a good idea but you make some good points in favour of it. Plus it's good practice :) Queries are not something I'm looking forward to.

dolorah said...

I hate to disagree; but but I have a very basic grasp of where I want a story to go when I start writing. Beginning, end, and what the climax should be. Then, its all about the characters; the journey to the end.

I rely on my premise - the message I'm trying to impart - to keep me on plot. If I wrote the query first I'd be tempted to strickly follow the outlined plot points, and that would probably stifle the story. Or, I'd end up re-writing the query to fit an unfinished product and might spend more time perfecting the query than letting the story flow.

But I've heard many others who write best with a written outline; and a query is just a bare basic outline. I've seen that "write the query" first advice in many articles on writing. Its a popular tool for organizing your thoughts.

If it works; it works.


Josin L. McQuein said...

Very true. Whatever works works, and nothing works for everyone.

I don't use strict outlines. Sometimes I use bullet lists, and often those lists have to change as new developments in the plot come up.

Circlexranch said...

I did that with my latest WIP. Actually, I needed a query for a critique session. I had a great idea for a book and did a quick query. I sent it through QLH in AW and I'll be damned if it didn't turn into a nice piece of work. I did well at the critique also! Now, if I could just get the $%^& book finished! Terri

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