Show, not Tell

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

Pieces of Your Query: The Plot

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We’ve covered the other two main components to your query: the hook and the stakes. The last, and arguably the most important, is the inclusion of your story’s plot.

Your Story

Your Story

The problem with the plot component in your query is that it’s not a summary of what happens. If they wanted your synopsis, they’d ask for it. So, how do you summarize your plot in your query without summarizing it?

  1. Start with your hook.
  2. Mention only the key elements of your plot that directly relate to your hook and make it important. To make sure you’re avoiding blatant telling, make sure to avoid the ‘to be’ verb (was, is, had been). These plot points should show conflict and tension, and they should be the most intriguing parts of your entire story.
  3. Show who your main character is by introducing the things that they do in the story that demonstrates their personality. Stay away from “Leslie was nice” and show she’s nice: “Leslie donated half her income to charity.” (Notice the change in verbs here.)
  4. End with the stakes–why we should care about what your main character is going through and why it’s important to them.
  5. Revise. Make sure you’re using the strongest verbs and the best word choice. Most of all, make sure the voice of your main character is coming through. Your query should, for the most part, be in third person subjective point of view. Make sure to turn as many ‘was’ into stronger verbs that tell more about the characters than mere description can.

The most important part to remember about writing this part of your query is that often times a boring plot summary in a query means a boring plot. If people are wondering where the conflict is or what the stakes are, it could be that you’re either not communicating them well enough, or your story doesn’t have them.

Querying is a craft and that means you can learn it!


Written by Jessica Lei

November 16, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Queries

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