Over the last week I have been gorging myself on the Query Shark archives, hoping to assimilate enough information that I will become a well-tuned query-writing machine. For anyone unfamiliar with the glorious shark, it’s a blog wherein writers submit their queries and have them torn to shreds by the agent behind the curtain, who then posts the original query + subsequent revisions, with critique and commentary.
I’ve reached the 2012 archives in my search for the elusive query format outline that the agent (Janet Reid) insists has been posted multiple times within the bowels of the archives. Every day my doubt grows that it even exists, but still I forge on.
In the meantime, I’ve read a seemingly infinite number of critiqued/torn-apart queries, so below are some of the highlights I’ve gleamed from them.
- Don’t use generalizations or be unspecific: you’re not querying a trope, you’re querying your inimitable story.
- Don’t include irrelevant details: no one needs to know what the weather was like the day New York was overtaken by giant beetles.
- Plain, simple writing is both the best and the hardest part of writing a query (but thankfully not blog posts).
- Cut the back story/setup and jump right into the important parts of the novel
- Don’t give away the ending!
- NO TYPOS. In a 250 word query, there is no room for writing nda instead of and. Forgiveness is unobtainable, rejection imminent.
The query advice out there is literally endless, but these are some highlights I’m trying to keep in mind as I wander down this road.
The query shark (pictured above) is attracted not to blood, but to clunky sentences and incorrect formatting.