I've been thinking a lot about queries since Write On Con. Well, actually, I was thinking about them even before that. I've been wondering what makes a good query.
I've come to the conclusion that a good query is startlingly like a good poem. Somehow, somewhere inside, it resonates with your soul. It makes you feel. It makes you wonder. The purpose of a poem isn't just to exist, but to make that connection between reader and poet.
The purpose is the connection.
When I read through the queries on Write On Con, I found the comments very interesting. And I found myself disagreeing with most of them.
Because there is not just ONE way to write a query, much like there is not just ONE way to write a poem.
And people, anyone who tells you there is only one way is wrong.
I think there is a tendency towards creating some kind of generic query that follows all of the rules like a good school boy. And then guess what happens? All of the queries end up sounding the same.
Generic writing is not compelling writing.
I know of which I speak. For I, too, once wrote a generic query.
I followed all of the rules....or the rules I thought existed out there and squeezed (hammered, chiseled, stuffed) my thoughts into a recipe for what seemed to be a successful query template. And I made it all fit.
Kind of like a too-tight sweater that pulls in the wrong places and isn't really that flattering.
I mean, just because you can wear something, doesn't mean you should.
(Sorry, metaphor switch. At first the query was a poem, then a schoolboy and now it is a sweater?? I'll get back to the poem part, I promise. I just can't help but sometimes put in a little motherly advice. And the just because you can doesn't mean you should line is one spoken often in the Thomas house. I mean, I have teenage daughters.)
So, anyway, after a bit of time (and very little response to my little query,) I looked at it again and realized that I followed all of the rules but that my query did NOT reflect very well the book I had written. As in not at all. I mean, I wouldn't even want to read the book I described. And I wrote it.
Then I realized that the query doesn't need to be the best query. It does not need to be the best little school boy. It just needs to make the best connection it can between my book and the reader.
And connections of any kind are magical. Everyone knows that.
So, I sat down and thought like a poet. I let the words flow out of me, allowing the voice I had so easily let loose on the page when writing my book have a turn at describing the book. I tried not to think about the agent or editor who might read my words, but rather that a friend might actually have to read it. I took all of the pretentious stuff out, since I hate sounding pretentious to friends. I allowed a more genuine take on my book to fill my heart and spill out.
And I thought what the heck? At least this represents my book better than the last, dry, generic query did. If an agent is going to reject my book, at least they will know what they are rejecting, right?
Now I am not saying that I actually wrote a poem and sent it in as a query. There were no rhyming words. There was no iambic pentameter. (But it would be funny to try some day.....) But there was an attempt to write a query that provided an electric connection between my book and whoever read it. I let my query sound like it was written by the same person who wrote the book.
And the first agent I sent the query to is now my agent, the wonderful Joanna Stampfel-Volpe.
So, I guess what I am saying is that when you write your query, remember that its sole purpose is to create a connection. The only rule it has to follow is to make the reader go dang I want to read that book. Now.
A beautiful poem is remembered not for its words (though they may be lovely or haunting or achingly perfect), but for the chord it strikes within the reader's soul.