The Starving Novelist
 
There are A LOT of really good websites out there for people who need help writing a query.  With this being said, I'm always AMAZED by how many REALLY bad queries I read on websites where you can post your query for critiquing (is that a word?).  Now, I'm not trying to be mean or condenscending, but seriously . . . come on.   I'm not even talking about the actual writing/wording of the hook/blurb (which even the best query writer can struggle with), I'm talking about the big no-no's: i.e., word counts that are triple the size of the average first novel, too much personal information, praising one's own work, odd formating, etc., etc.  I think having your query looked over (critiqued) is an awesome idea, but AT LEAST do some research before posting it.  It should be your personal best, and comments should help make it shine.  The people who volunteer their time to read over your query are there to HELP you, not write your query for you.

The REALLY scary part is when people who have NO IDEA what they're talking about offer advice.  Don't get me wrong, there are some people out there who offer REALLY good advice, and they know EXACTLY what they're talking about (these people have the patience of a saint if you ask me ;o)   However, I CRINGE when I read some of the advice.  For example, one person advised this newbie to open her query with a QUOTE from her book.  What?!?!?  Ugh, yeah . . . I don't think so.  I could be totally wrong, but I've NEVER seen this done before in a query.  I'm not saying not to listen to advice, but if you have any doubts- double check!!  Google is an amazing tool ;o)  Don't take all advice as gospel. 

On a final note, format is often a subjective thing (I see a lot of critiques on this).  Everyone says DON'T put genre/word count at the beginning of the query, but some agents request it this way!!  Always check the agent's submissions guidelines to see if they have a preference. 

 
 
I'm going out on a limb by posting my new and improved (I hope) query.  I figured since I was going through the trouble of overhauling my ms, I should do the same with my query.  Please let me know what you think.  I'm REALLY struggling with the tag line, and I might just dump it all together and not use one (I didn't use one in my last batch queries).  Again, PLEASE let me know if you think it works or not (I'm leaning towards 'not').  Also, I know it looks long, but it does meet the "12 pt/1" margins/1 page" rule.  Thanks in advance for any feedback!!

 
Dear

When recently widowed Ellie Langston finds herself falling for her much younger and happily engaged coworker, she learns the hard way that timing truly is everything.     

Thirty-five-year-old Ellie has struggled with bouts of depression for years, but when her husband dies, she’s thrown into a darkness so deep, it almost takes her life.  Four months later, Ellie is on the mend, but now finds herself dealing with other obstacles, such as; going back to work after a ten-year hiatus, raising her pre-teen daughters alone, and dealing with an overprotective mother.  The one thing she doesn’t have to worry about is her growing friendship with her new coworker, Aiden.  Ellie can’t help but be wooed by the twenty-five-year-old’s good looks and English charm, but what appeals to the ever-anxious Ellie is his friendliness and carefree spirit. 

Aiden is happily engaged, and since Ellie is recently widowed, there’s a mutual unavailability that keeps the relationship from crossing any lines.  However, one slow-dance during the company Christmas party changes everything.  Ellie and Aiden both realize there is something more brewing under the guise of their easy-going friendship.  Aiden is ready to give up everything to pursue the unlikely romance.  Ellie, however, is unable to break free from the tangled weed of guilt, fear, and responsibility that controls her.  After the year she has been through, Ellie is determined to provide herself and her children with a sense of normalcy and stability- even if it means, once again, losing someone she loves. 
 
Complete at 82,000 words, The Fine Line is women’s fiction with a heavy romance element.  It has the internal character struggle of an Elizabeth Berg novel, but the love story is reminiscent of the works of Nicholas Sparks.  

I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology.  I believe my knowledge of the behavioral sciences comes across in my writing, and increases the believability of the main character’s emotional state, along with the character interactions throughout the story.  Like the main character, I too worked in the field of public relations; writing press releases, and in turn, polishing my writing skills.    

I have much respect for your agency, and I look forward to the possibility of working with you. Thank you for your time and consideration.  

Sincerely,

 
 
I started writing The Fine Line in November of 2009.  A year has past, and with the new year just starting, I thought now would be a good time to "reflect" on everything I've learned.  Well, maybe I won't write everything I've learned (more than likely, you have a life, and have better things to do than listen to me ramble on, and on, and on).  Also, just to ensure I don't bore anyone to tears, I will do this in two parts (part two will be next weeks entry).

1) Writing- sometimes you LITERALLY have to force yourself to do it.  Come up with a schedule and stick to it- no matter what.  I HAD to write at least two pages every night, no matter how long it took.  To most of you, this might not seem like a lot, but I didn't want to set myself up for failure.  I wrote five nights a week (after putting the kids to bed).  I wrote on holidays, birthdays, nights I had to hold my eyelids up with toothpicks, and even when I was sick.  If by some chance I couldn't write, I had to make it up by writing on one of my "nights off."  I stuck to my schedule, and my first draft was finished in six months. 

2) Editing/Revising- I've mentioned this before, but I think it's worth mentioning again- after you finish your project, LET IT REST, and THEN start editing and revising.  I've heard the suggestion of six weeks, but some even recommend letting it sit longer.  This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I've acquired this past year.  It's so important to distance yourself from your project.  It's AMAZING what you find wrong after you've taken a break from it.  I didn't do this, and I could kick myself for not doing so.

3) Writing the query- There is no hard and fast rule for writing a query.  I used to be very anal about this, and therefore, drove myself crazy visiting every website under the sun, trying to figure out the "right" way.  Some say to put the genre and word count at the beginning, some say at the end.  Some say you should always include the first several pages of your ms with your query, some say don't include anything not requested.  I've learned that the MOST important thing about writing a query is the "hook" or "blurb" (another thing, can we require that everyone in the writing business use the same lingo? Thing of how much confusion would be laid to rest).  When it's all said and done, that's what agents REALLY care about- 'can this book make money?'  The second most important thing when writing a query is, common sense.  This means, keep in simple, formal, and respectful.  Mistakes can be overlooked (i.e. addressing the query to the wrong agent- yep guilty!  BUT ironically enough, I did get a request for a full from this agent!), but a lack of common sense can not. 

Next week- the first chapter, agents, feedback, and moving on