Thursday, March 4, 2010

Again! With Focus.

Or what I've learned from writing a query

Some authors write the book blurb or their elevator pitch first, before they even start their book, but not a pantser like me. My planning stages involved several false starts, a first draft that that has almost entirely been written over, and some early attempts at an outline. Currently, I've outlined up to Ch.11 (out of 30), but I did finish my 3 pg. synopsis, so I'm congradulating myself, even if noone else is.

As for my query, I started working on it maybe eight months ago and have gone through 10+ revisions, and still haven't got it right. I highly recommend writing your query as you write your book for three reasons.

Reasons to work on your query now instead of waiting until you finish your manuscript:

1. You will have something to say when someone asks what your book is about.
2. Your query needs time to develop through rewriting just as your book does.
3. It helps you to focus on the main points as you revise. 

In trying to pull out the major conflict that causes my MC to leave her perfect world and come to our fallen world, I realized that my opening chapters are diffuse. (Anybody watch that Medium episode? I was writing, but my husband told me about it. Joe gets asked by his boss to read the  boss's epic Sci-fi novel and keeps hounding Joe to give his impressions. So Joe finally says 'It was diffuse.' Which is not a word that I'd like applied to my writing, and this guy didn't like it either. So in Joe's performance review, everything was 'diffuse'. Communication skills? Diffuse. Organization skills? Diffuse. The moral- do not EVER tell your boss what you think of their writing. Just say you can't wait to buy it when it gets published and leave the heavy hitting for agents. Is this how people get delusional? Absolutely. Do it anyway. Save yourself!)

In real life, Allison Dubois is a psychic medium who works with the police and husband Joe is an aerospace engineer, which makes their viewpoints very different. This clip was posted by CBS, so there's a 0.5 second commercial (really, it's that short, so don't give up), but I thought it was worth the wait. And it is interesting that the producer says here that it was the husband/wife relationship that made him want to do the show. Not the cool cases she solves, not the pyschic dreams. But their unique relationship. That's what I'm trying to show in my query!

Anyhow, diffuse. As in, there are too many motivations for my MC to leave her world and come to ours, but none of them stands out. There's no moment of decison, no leading the reader to see that OF COURSE she has to make this terrible decision. It's hard, and scary, but she has to do it. I realized this when I was trying to explain her motivations succintly in the query plus I have some crit partners who have made some comments that led me to start thinking about it.

I've stopped believing that there is only one way to write this story. There will be versions that feel more mysterious, versions that feel more grounded and explain the world more quickly, and it's up to me to judge which serves the story best. Because the story is there. I just have to let it out. So thank you, query. I'm working on it.

Has your query/synopsis/blurb writing helped you?


  1. Yeah, writing the query letter before you finish the book - before you even start the book, sometimes - is a great idea. I haven't actually written an entire query for Bob yet, but I have opened a document and started writing down sentences or phrases that come to mind, stuff I can use later on.

  2. Krista- that's good. When I knew I had months of revising to go before querying it seemed like getting ahead of myself to write the query, but it taught me a whole new way of thinking about the book. Good luck!

  3. I am TERRIBLE at blurbs/synopses -- I remember when my publishers first sent me the short blurb to "advertise" TG - I thought, Hey! That's it --! I then had something short and sweet to tell people when they asked, "what is your book about?" That was ALWAYS the dreaded question I received before the book was published.

    Now I sometimes even just say "It's an appalachian family saga..." and leave it at that...after a sentence or two, people really aren't listening anyway-they just want to show their interest :)

  4. Kathryn- true about the 'just want to show their interest'. I usually say it's a story about a girl who comes here from a perfect world and has to decide if the love she finds here makes the suffering worth it. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hey Kelly,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Just wanted to agree with you about getting yourself prepared before the manuscript is finished. I find that after the first few opening pages, I'm able to go write up a draft of my blurb/back cover--and this prepares me for where I am to go, and helps me have the story in a nutshell--in case someone asks.