Last week, I posted a bad query to show you what NOT to do. Today, I’m going to go through it with you so you can see what’s wrong with it. Note: I created this sample for the sole purpose of teaching you what not to do. No writer’s ego was crushed in the making of this example.
Dear Mr. Jenny Jones, (I’M GUESSING HERE, BUT I DON’T THINK JENNY IS A MAN. MS. JENNY JONES WOULD PROBABLY GO OVER BETTER.)
I’ve been working on a fictional novel (ALL NOVELS ARE FICTION.) for over ten years now. (DON’T MENTION HOW LONG IT TOOK YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK. IN THIS CASE, THE AGENT WILL WONDER IF IT’LL TAKE ANOTHER TEN YEARS FOR YOU TO WRITE THE NEXT ONE.) I’m not finished, but I wanted to see if I should bother writing it or if I’m wasting my time. (YIKES. NEVER CONTACT AN AGENT WITH A BOOK IDEA OR PARTIALLY COMPLETED BOOK. FINISH THE BOOK AND POLISH IT UNTIL IT SHINES, THEN QUERY AGENTS.) I figured what the heck? (AGENTS WANT WRITERS WHO ARE EXCITED ABOUT THEIR WORK. THIS SHOWS YOU DON’T CARE TOO MUCH AND WOULD TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. IF YOU’RE NOT EXCITED ABOUT YOUR STORY, WHY SHOULD THEY BE?) Why not query agents and see if they like my idea? (DON’T CONTACT AN AGENT WITH AN IDEA. EVEN IF THEY LIKE IT, BY THE TIME YOU WRITE THE BOOK, THE MARKET MAY HAVE CHANGED.) If they do, I’ll finish it and send it to them.
Blurb: (DON’T TELL THE AGENT WHERE THE BLURB BEGINS. THIS SHOULD BE OBVIOUS.)
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Jolene. (YOU’RE NOT TELLING A STORY HERE. YOU’RE TRYING TO HOOK THE READER INTO WANTINg TO READ MORE. THE BLURB SHOULD BE SIMILAR TO WHAT YOU’D SEE ON THE BACK COVER. AND I HOPE YOU DIDN’T START YOUR STORY WITH “ONCE UPON A TIME.” ) She was ten and hated life. (A QUERY SHOULD BE WRITTEN IN THE PRESENT TENSE. “SHE IS TEN AND HATES LIFE.” OR EVEN BETTER, “TEN-YEAR-OLD JOLENE HATES LIFE.”) Her mom was mean. Her dad was nasty. And her dog liked to bite her. When she was six, her dog bit her finger right off, but her dad kept it. (DID HE KEEP HER FINGER OR THE DOG?) Said it would teach her a lesson. Like what? To stay away from that particular dog? Yeah. Lesson learned all right. (THIS SHOWS A LITTLE VOICE, WHICH IS A GOOD THING. YOU DON’T WANT YOUR QUERY TO BE DRY.) But that wasn’t the only time she’d suffered because of her parents. They used to lock her in the closet for days, leaving only moldy bread and water for her. That only lasted until the neighbors found out and threatened to tell the cops and social services. (ONCE YOU READ THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT PARAGRAPH, YOU REALIZE THIS IS ALL BACKSTORY. DON’T PUT BACKSTORY IN YOUR QUERY. WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE ACTUAL STORY IS ABOUT.)
Now, Jolene is sixteen and out on her own. She’d had enough crap with her parents and left. Couldn’t be any worse, right? Wrong. She’d found that out the hard way. (SINCE THE CHARACTER IS SIXTEEN, I CAN ASSUME THIS IS EITHER YA OR WOMEN’S FICTION THAT STARTS WITH THE WOMAN’S YOUTH. BUT I REALLY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE STORY. A SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL MOVED OUT BECAUSE SHE HAD PROBLEMS WITH HER PARENTS AND FOUND OUT IT WAS WORSE BEING ON HER OWN. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? WHAT IS HER GOAL? TO BE INDEPENDENT? PROBABLY. AND WE KNOW HER MOTIVATION IS BECAUSE HER PARENTS ABUSED HER. BUT WHAT’S THE CONFLICT? WHAT’S AT STAKE? THOSE TWO THINGS ARE WHAT WILL KEEP THE READER READING, SO IT’S IMPORTANT TO SHOW THE AGENT WHAT THEY ARE.)
HARD TIMES is 50,000 words right now, but I estimate it’ll end up somewhere around 70,000 words when I’ve finished. (MAKE SURE TO MENTION THE GENRE HERE AND COMPLETE THE NOVEL BEFORE QUERYING.)
Please give this story a chance. (THIS SOUNDS WHINY. HOOK THE AGENT AND SHE’LL GIVE THE STORY A CHANCE. PLEADING WITH HER WON’T MAKE THAT HAPPEN.) I know a lot of young girls can learn from it. (THIS SOUNDS OVERCONFIDENT. LET THE STORY SPEAK FOR ITSELF.)
Pretend Author 1
When I edit for a client, I use Microsoft Track Changes, but my blog won’t support it, so I improvised and used all caps when critiquing.
If you would like to check out my query letter and synopsis critique packages, go here: http://labelleseditorialservices.com/editorial-services-2/query-letter-and-synopsis-critiques/
If your manuscript needs developmental/substantive editing, let me know. I have an opening July 28.