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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Backwards by Design: Query

^This was some kind of business theory which got applied to education in the not too distant past....the whole outcomes-based-learning kind of thing.  The gist being that if you decided where you wanted to go, or what you wanted to learn,  you could then figure out how to get there (or something far more filled with important jargon-y words, but you get the idea.)

How does this apply to writing (she asked rhetorically)....well, glad you asked.

First off, let me tell you two things about my process:

1.  I  never outline.

2.  I always have some idea what the finished product might be like before I begin.  (It is not always accurate, but it is a vision of sorts, which helps me navigate through the writing.)

So, I thought I'd try a little something....because I'm wild like that.

Usually, when I start a book, I open a "fake" document about the book that I call "the manifesto" in which I write all things pertaining to said book that I am not ready to put in the book yet.  Or it might be just me dreaming about the characters and such in the fake document.  So I thought I'd try a little trick....what if I wrote the query BEFORE I wrote the book (in the manifesto, of course).  I mean, if I have a title, an idea and a voice for the writing, who needs all the details?

So, I wrote some queries for some books before I wrote them and you know what?  That little paragraph of description really helped me figure out a lot about my book.  It made me think, "Dang!  I want to write that book!"

So, if you're stuck, try writing the query.  It's a lot more fun to write a query when you don't have to than when you do.



Lisa and Laura said...

Ooh! I love this idea...I smell a contest--who can write the best query (for a book that hasn't been written yet)? That ought to make you want to write...

Kelly H-Y said...

What a fabulous idea! I'll have to try that.
I do the same thing as you with my manuscripts ... but I've never referred to them as anything as glorious as 'The Manifesto'! :-) Love that!

Corey Schwartz said...

Hmm.. interesting idea!

And Lila contest suggestion is AWESOME!

Yat-Yee said...

I am not one who outlines much either, and I did try your trick, except with the synopsis. For the most part, it helped me clarified my thinking, but I couldn't figure a good solution I'd set up for my problem.

Grumble, grumble. They say to set up conflict and keep getting your characters into trouble. And now I don't know how they can get out reasonably and convincingly.

Any advice?

Myrna Foster said...

That's a really great idea! It might help me figure out what to do with that crazy partial draft I have left over from NaNoWriMo.

Jackee said...

I do this too! If nothing else it helps me stay focused.

Hardygirl said...

Oooo!! Great idea. And, I love Lila's idea of making it a contest.

We could also do it like nanowrimo and try to write a query a day for a month!!! This is AWESOME!


PJ Hoover said...

Great idea, Shelley! I should do this on my current WIP!

Sarah Dooley said...

Great idea! And that's perfect, because -- See, I don't feel like writing this morning but I'll have a touch of guilt if I don't. But, no -- I'll write the query instead! And that TOTALLY counts as working on my novel today, right? Right?

Susan R. Mills said...

Not a bad idea. I'll have to try it.

Julie Dao said...

I do this, too! I've always written pretend synopses for my stories and imagined them on the backs of books and movies. It really helps me get the gist of my own story and then I can go back and begin filling it in with my writing.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I did that with my current project. So, when I'm done, I'll hardly have to work on my query at all I think. Doing it that way, keeps in succinct.I like to rhyme.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Holy great ideas, Batman! That is a fantastic tip, Shelley - thanks! :-)

Tina Laurel Lee said...

I love this too!

It also seems like it would be so much more fun to do this for an unwritten book. Imagining what I want, in stead of what I did.

storyqueen said...

L and L- Hmmm...this has all the makings of serious fun. Perhaps a joint effort on the contest...

Kelly-Yes, you can't help but laugh at "The Manifesto." It's hard to take it too seriously, making it a good place to play with ideas.

Corey-Yes, I think so, too!

Yat-Yee-But that's the cool part. It's just a paragraph or don't HAVE to figure it out yet. You can just write some vague stuff that makes it sound like you know what happens, even if you don't.

Myrna-That's a great idea. Write a query now for your unfinished NaNo!

Jackee-I knew I wasn't the only one!

SF-I could NOT do one a day for a month! Or could I???

PJ-Let me know how it goes...if it helps at all.

Sarah-Any writing is good writing...(well, not necessarily, but any writing COUnTS as writing!)

Susan-Let me know if you do! Love to see if it helps or not.

Julie-See? It's that "great minds" thing!

Jessie-Ha! Another forward (or perhaps it's backward) thinker!

Shannon-Thank you! (Is Batman your inner editor, now?)

Tina LL-Yes, it actually is more fun, because you don't have to worry if you are true tot he story or not because there IS no story, yet.

Amy Tate said...

Wow,I've never thought of that before! What a great idea - a way to narrow your focus. I've printed this post!

Tess said...

Really? How very interesting. I'm not a huge plotter but I do a step by step method where I plot out the next two chapters only.

and, now that I'm near the end of my WIP, I need to start at the end and write a list of all the things that need to happen before the ending. Does that make any sense? Anyway, I guess it is sort of working backwards.

beth said...

I don't outline, either. But for the first time, with my current WIP, I wrote a synopsis. Not a long one, mind, but one that had enough detail to know where I was going (more than a query pitch, but not by much). But it was loose enough that I could deviate and not feel bad about it. That's been nice!

Bane of Anubis said...

Queries are too painful for me to employ such a technique. I'm currently trying to figure out how to write the query for my WiP. Normally when I'm decently into it, I have some clue how to formulate it (or at least make a first go at it), but I'm up a flooded creek on this one.

Anne Spollen said...

I did this, too, and yup, it helps - as long as I left wiggle room to change things from my fake query. It is a sorta outline - and I never do those either.

Doreen McGettigan said...

I always write the ending first..I have always been a little backwards..I am going to try the query first idea..should be interesting..

storyqueen said...

Amy-Yes, it's good for narrowing...I like it because it makes me WANT to write the book. Seems less hard, somehow.

Tess-I kind of do that when I get to the end...I know where it needs to go and I have to figure out how it is 'sposed to get there. HARD.

Beth-I think if I were writing a sequel, it would be very necessary! Because so much is already decided in the first book, it's a little less possible to totally fly by the seat of one's pants. There are rules now...

Bane-Don't let it be painful. Let it be fun! (Yeah, I know, easy for me to say...) But with a query, pretend you are explaining your book (in one paragraph) to a friend, instead of a random agent. (This method works for me...)

Anne-The wiggle room is soooooo necessary.

Doreen-Welcome. I appreciate the backwards folks just as much as the frontwards folks! (Pretty backwards myself a lot of the time.)

Kim said...

This makes total sense! In the essay class I took, the teacher zoomed right in on this point telling me my query was right on, and I needed to edit my essay to be more in line with the query.

Dawn Simon said...

Ooh! Great idea! You know what I find? Writing the query after the first draft is super helpful. It helps me see if the book feels big enough once I've boiled it down to a blurb. It also gives me something to work with when the book is finished.