Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Eight Things Your Query Should Address

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Query Letter

Query Letter

  1. The Beginning. Where do things change or shift from what was before to what will come?
  2. The Protagonist. Who is your protagonist and what stands him/her apart from other protagonists?
  3. Conflict. What is the conflict?
  4. Antagonist. Who is the antagonist and how are they making things difficult? What makes this antagonist different than other antagonists?
  5. Plot. What are the key plot points until the climax? How will the progatonist solve the conflict?
  6. Stakes. What is at stake?
  7. The Book. What’s the genre of your book? How many words is it? What’s the title?
  8. You. What are your publishing credentials?

The Hook

Your hook is The Beginning. Laney was normal until she was exposed to a lot of radiation. Michael’s mother died and he had access to a large amount of wealth he never had before.

Your hook is when things went from back story to your actual story. It’s the point where the conflict is introduced and where things are changing for and in your protagonist.

In Harry Potter it’s when he gets an invitation to Hogwarts. In the Alex Rider series it’s when his uncle dies and MI6 comes looking for him to fill his place. In Twilight it’s when Bella moves to Forks and meets Edward.

This is your first paragraph and it probably shouldn’t be longer than three sentences. It’s the first thing an agent sees, so be sure to  make it good!

The Body of the Query

Your next paragraph or two should be about your plot. You need to introduce the Protagonist to us and the conflict.

By introduce, I don’t really mean that you should give us a brief introduction like you would at school. In queries, your MC’s action (or inaction) is what draws us to them. Make sure to portray your protagonist in the light you want–show us how they are heroic or anti-heroic. Make sure to show us what they’re like and not tell us.

We should see the conflict right away. In revealing the Conflict, you should also be showing us the Antagonist. In showing us how your protagonist is solving the conflict, you should be revealing the major points of the Plot. Give us all of the necessary information but don’t give us too much, either. If you need to, list everything you think is important and then pare down to the bare bones.

The last sentence should be the Stakes. What will happen if the protagonist doesn’t win? This should make us want to read more and find out what happens.

The Finale

The last paragraph should tell a bit about your Story and a bit more about you. Tell us the TITLE (in all-caps), the word count to the nearest thousandth (round 68,423 to 68,000), and the genre: TITLE is a 68,000-word romance novel. Then tell us about your publishing credentials, if you have any. Some agents like to know a bit about you personally, or they want to know that it’s your first book (if it is). Some advise against listing awards or contests, especially if they’re run-of-the-mill and not ‘prestigious.’ Basically, if you can and if you want to, add a bit of personalized touch that’ll set you apart from everyone else (other than your unique story).

This is also a great place to personalize. You can mention how you think your book is a bit like other books that they’ve sold. Perhaps you know that they like strong female protagonists or wanted to read a book about space-dogs and that’s what you’ve written about. Maybe you want to point out that you’ve read their submission guidelines or that you’re a follower of their blog.

Writing a query sucks and it’s going to take more than one (or ten) revisions to come up with something that might get an agent to think twice.

Don’t fret, though. You’ve just written a book, and I’m sure you can write a 250-word letter that can represent your book well.

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Written by Jessica Lei

October 5, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Queries

One Response

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by StyleMatters Writing, Jessica Lei. Jessica Lei said: Eight things your query should address: http://bit.ly/96yPS3 […]


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