Friday, June 11, 2010
Today is going to be a little bit different than some of the other guest posts but don't worry, it's in a good way! As you all know today's guest is the amazing Hilary Wagner. Please visit her blog and become a follower, you won't regret it.
So, the difference today is that Hilary wants to share some thoughts about queries and advice in general before we wade into her query.
I'll let her take it away:
On queries in general: Before I began writing my query, everything I read about the query letter terrified me to my very core! Basically, you're led to believe that this one page letter can make the difference between landing an agent and getting published or seeing all your hard work languish on your laptop forever. Sadly, it's true! On that note, I had to get over my fear and write my query the way I wanted to write it. I tried a few of the "formulas" at first, but quickly realized they did nothing for me apart from making my query bone dry and boring. So, I threw all the academic things I learned about the query out the window and started writing no holds barred. This is what I came up with. Is it a brilliant, mind-boggling feat of query genius? Uhhh...no! But it did the trick and that's all any of us can ask for!
Advice: That's a tricky one. I'm not a huge fan of giving advice, because what works for me, may mean disaster for someone else. I suppose all I can tell anyone in good faith is to always write from your heart and tackle your query the same way. Don't try and be tricky or overly clever and don't try to come across as more than you are. People see right through that. Just be you. Write about your wonderful story and show everyone why it deserves to be read and shared with the world. Your story is exceptional. Your query should be too, because your hard work deserves nothing less than that. Don't let it down.
Now there is a little difference to how she wants to share her query too. She is going to highlight in red the sections that she will then discuss in blue. It makes sense to me so I hope it makes sense to all of you as well. If I find the courage to add anything I'll color it green, with envy, for how awesome NIGHTSHADE CITY sounds.
Nancy Gallt Literary
Attn: Ms. Nancy Gallt, Founder & Agent
Dear Ms. Gallt,
As a girl, still at the age when toys were the appropriate gift, I hated getting dolls. I did not want to pretend to be their mommy or make up pleasant conversation surrounded by tea and biscuits. I found them more than a little annoying, with their perfect noses and pristine curls.
We are told as writers to grab our readers within the first few pages of our MS. In my mind, the same thing goes for the query. When I say grab, I don't mean strangle either! Ha, ha. It just has to keep an agent of editor reading.
I certainly can't argue with that. The prevailing wisdom in everything that I've ever read on queries is that the first sentence is the most important. As Hilary points out it is pretty much the same as with your novel.
Instead, I loved animals, particularly of the rodent variety. I would sit in my room for hours, stuck in between my toy rats, mice and moles, spinning their next exotic escapade in the odd and mysterious world in which they dwell. Animals have emotion and depth, offering much more than companionship, especially when given a voice on paper. NIGHTSHADE CITY combines this voice, with the realm of fantasy, character driven fiction, and our continuing, albeit creepy, fascination with the cryptic, four legged creatures that overrun our great cities and homes. Outwardly just vermin, but are they?
I added this question to peak interest. Trying to say clearly these aren't your run of the mill rodents--they are special.
This is perfect. It is just the right kind of teaser, giving a negative connotation to the rats, but then hinting at the much more exciting (and adorable) truth. I should point out here that I have not read NIGHTSHADE CITY. The Rats may be ferocious ... or noble, or somewhere in between, but to me the idea of the brothers standing up for what's right against the Ministry SOUNDS adorable.
It may not be in the novel but the point here is to hook the reader, if I was the agent and I got the wrong impression, albeit a good one, and it made me request pages then the query still did its job.
The rats of Trillium City are underground and have been so for years. Little do the weary humans of the steely city realize, an ancient throng of strangely intelligent rats exist right under their very feet, thriving in the intricate Catacombs excavated lifetimes ago.
Barely escaping alive, rat brothers, Vincent and Victor Nightshade, flee their underground home, the Catacombs, dodging mandatory recruitment by the Ministry run Kill Army. They make it to the surface, disappearing into the dark, human metropolis of Trillium City, where they stumble upon a hidden rat made tunnel, and trek down to a concealed world, buried farther in the earth than even the Catacombs. Founded by a group of rebel rats, the covert city’s residents are set on derailing the corrupt Ministry of the Catacombs, and freeing its many citizens from death and torment at the hands of the narcissistic Killdeer, the charming and decadent leader of the Ministry, and Billycan, a peculiar and slightly demented ex-lab rat, who commands the Kill Army with a bloodthirsty fondness for butchery. When the Nightshade brothers join up with Juniper, the ardent leader of the newborn city and despised adversary of Billycan, they soon unearth the demons that have haunted Juniper since his youth and learn how their father, Julius Nightshade, really died. Working with Juniper and his rebels, a fearless Ministry seamstress, and a relic tribe of earthworms, Vincent and Victor Nightshade battle for retribution and redemption against Killdeer and his army, realizing their future and releasing ghosts from their past.
Here's where things got tricky for me and reading this now it still bugs me. My story has several twist and turns, but I had to narrow it down to one little paragraph. If I had to write my query again, I'd probably shorten this part even more. Don't even get me started on my synopsis! Ha, ha!
I'm not going to critique Hilary's query, mostly because I think it great, but I see her point. I struggle with this too. How do you boil down a complicated plot that you spent months concocting into something that fits on a single page, hooks a reader and still give the entire gist of the premise of your novel? Less is generally more with queries but as she said about advice, trust in yourself. The same rules won't work for every project.
Writing fiction since childhood, I’ve written NIGHTSHADE CITY, an 89,000 word novel, focusing on fighting for what you believe in, the true meaning of family and refusing to let a few decide the fate of many.
I saved my word count until the end. If they don't like your query they aren't going to care about word count anyway, so use the earlier paragraphs to sell your story. I added very little info about me. I wanted them to care about my story! I figured if they liked my MS, maybe they'd care about me later!
As you guys know from reading my blog I call this housekeeping. There is some debate out there about where to put it. When I begin querying again I will be placing it at the end like Hilary. I think she makes an excellent point about hooking right away. There are some valid arguments about putting it in the beginning, or even after the first paragraph, but I like it best here at the end.
The only caveat I would add is to make sure you research each agent that you query separately. If they want something SPECIFIC please adhere to their expectation. No need to shoot yourself in the foot before you get it through the door.
Thank you and take care,
Hilary L. Wagner
So that's it! Are you excited to read NIGHTSHADE CITY as I am? Are you so happy that you now know a blogger who's book actually comes out THIS YEAR? I am.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us Hilary! You rock hard like the walls of the catacombs.