Thursday, May 27, 2010

Developing a Query: Playing With Words

Now that I have some basic pieces of plot, I changed things up a little bit, trying to get a better perspective on the actual query.  This is one I came up with.

Dear XXXXX:


Sometimes your past can come back to haunt you.

After Sarah loses her husband, she is drawn by a series of visions that lead her to discover something dark about her past. With the help of a local man, she unravels the mystery of those visions, only to be confronted by the creature that drew her there. She soon finds herself torn between her feelings for a new love against her overwhelming bond with something much more sinister. Will Sarah be able to keep the one she loves safe, or will her darker side be the end of him?

Darkness Comes, a paranormal mystery, is complete and approximately 92,000 words in length. Darkness Comes is my first novel, and I am currently revising a possible sequel or stand alone book tentatively titled, The Familiar.

I would be happy to send you the entire manuscript at your request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Stephanie D. Johnson

(Query is not to be duplicated in any form.)
 
**You know, I am not sure how I feel about this one.  I do think that it loses the two sentence plot line by integrating it.  But being new to this I wasnt really sure.  I did change up a little bit of the end paragraph as illustrated below.  I am still undecided how I feel about adding my later works into the query.  They all relate, considering this book is meant as a series.  But do you add it or leave it?**
 
Dear XXXXX:
 

Sometimes your past can come back to haunt you.

After Sarah loses her husband, she is drawn by a series of visions that lead her to discover something dark about her past. With the help of a local man, she unravels the mystery of those visions, only to be confronted by the creature that drew her there. She soon finds herself torn between her feelings for a new love against her overwhelming bond with something much more sinister. Will Sarah be able to keep the one she loves safe, or will her darker side be the end of him?

Darkness Comes, a paranormal mystery, is complete and approximately 92,000 words in length. Darkness Comes is my first novel, intended as the first of a three part series, but would do well as a standalone book. I have completed the second in the series, and currently working on the third.

I would be happy to send you the entire manuscript at your request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Stephanie D. Johnson

Still unsure how I feel about these format.  I still felt it was too short and lacking something.  I hope to fix that with the next format.

What are your thoughts?



Monday, May 24, 2010

Developing a Query: Proper Form

Okay, so important to have your format down perfectly.  My first attempts at this were learned from a previously purchased book.  As time goes on, I discovered that format changes are made for sending queries via email.  RESEARCH, remember?  So as you investigate agents, make sure that you learn what and how they like their queries.  Best foot forward always!

My first basic format for snail mail:  (Query is not to be duplicated in any form.)

My Name
Address
Address
Phone
Email/Website



Agent Name
Title in Company
Address
Address


Date

Dear XXXXX:

After Sarah loses her husband she is drawn by a series of visions that lead her to discover something dark about her past. Along the way she is torn by her developing feelings for a new love, against her overwhelming bond with something much more sinister. Can Sarah keep the one she loves safe, even though she’s the one that puts him in danger?

Starting over is never easy to do, especially for Sarah. She wants nothing more than to find peace from the agony she is feeling after losing her husband. When a vision gives her feeling of happiness, she ends up on a road trip that changes her life. Her new relationship and desired happiness are threatened when what drew her to the small town of Vernonia turns out to be more than she bargained for.

Darkness Comes, suspense with a commercial bent, is complete and approximately 96,000 words in length. Darkness Comes is my first novel and I am currently writing the sequel, Blood Ties.

I would be happy to send you the entire manuscript at your request. I look forward to hearing from you.



Sincerely,

Stephanie D. Johnson


Enclosures:
Darkness Comes Partial
Darkness Comes Synopsis
SASE

Okay, now I have to look at this and go...hmmm....it's not awful, but it isn't great either.  The things that immediately grab me:
 
1.  The word happiness is used too much
2.  The length (too short at 168 words)
3.  Genre choice...is this the right one?
 
So, at least I have something basic down to start me off.  The next thing is just playing with the paragraphs and testing sentence position. 
 
Like this:
 
Dear XXXXX:


After Sarah loses her husband she is drawn by a series of visions that lead her to discover something dark about her past. Along the way she is torn by her developing feelings for a new love, against her overwhelming bond with something much more sinister.

Starting over is never easy to do, especially for Sarah. She wants nothing more than to find peace from the agony she is feeling after losing her husband. When a vision gives her a feeling of happiness, she ends up on a road trip that changes her life. Her new relationship and desired happiness are threatened when what drew her to the small town of Vernonia turns out to be more than what she bargained for. Can Sarah keep the one she loves safe, even though she’s the one that puts him in danger?

Darkness Comes, suspense with a commercial bent, is complete and approximately 96,000 words in length. Darkness Comes is my first novel and I am currently writing the sequel tentatively titled, Blood Ties.

I would be happy to send you the entire manuscript at your request. I look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,

Stephanie D. Johnson

Enclosures:
Darkness Comes Partial
Darkness Comes Synopsis
SASE

Not much has changed, but it feels a teeny bit better. 
 
Keep in mind, that each section and paragraph of the query have a specific purpose.  I purposely left out the about me paragraph, since I am a first time writer and have no writing credentials so to say.  Don't have it, don't add it.  Plus I did not make this query agent specific.  "I chose you.." type paragraph.
 
So, don't forget to look up proper format when doing your own.  It may be a little different than mine. 
 
In the next post, I decide to change up the query a little bit more.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Developing a Query: The First Phrase

Sometimes as a writer things strike in the dead of night that make you want to yell, "Yes!"  But you don't, mainly because you have children/spouse/animals/neighbors nearby and don't want to disturb anyone.  This was how a phrase that became the bases of my query letter started. 

My mind, as it often does, races with ideas and phrases that seem to jump out just before I fall asleep.  Maybe it is the silence, or just the fact that I have nothing else to think about.  But they come at me none the less.  The night seems to open up my muse and lets me be creative.  I do most of my writing at night.  My kids have often fallen asleep next to me within the dim glow of my laptop screen. 

I remember quite clearly one evening, while I lay in the dark trying to fall asleep, when this phrase hit me.  I was excited about it and turned on the light and quickly jotted down the two sentences that came into my mind.  Then I fell to sleep.

Later, I played with the phrase and put it away.  Then as I started researching query letters I came across a post by Nathan Bransford that helped me.  Do You Have a Plot?    (Come to find out, plot is a necessary part of a query.) 

Of coarse, I was sure I have a plot, don't I?  Funny how that comes into play now after I wrote over 100,000 words.  I had to, didn't I? 

Then as I read his blog post I discovered that the sentences that struck me, in essence, covered my plot.  I remember playing with them, but mostly they stayed the same. 

Here they are:

After Sarah loses her husband, she is drawn by a series of visions that lead her to discover something dark about her past. Along the way she is torn by her feelings for a new love, against her overwhelming bond with something much more sinister.

Okay, so to use the blog post listed above, this is what I have:

After Sarah loses her husband, she is drawn by a series of visions that lead her to discover something dark about her past.  (Premise)
Along the way she is torn by her feelings for a new love, against her overwhelming bond with something much more sinister. (Complication)

So with a premise and an added complication I have my plot. 
 
Basically....
 
So, it was the beginning.  At least and it gave me something to work with while developing my query for book one. 
 
Next, I hope to have one of my  first attempts at query writing...at least one I could find.  (They have been reworked a few times, and not all of them saved.)
 
So, what do you think so far?
Interested in reading an excerpt from Darkness Comes? 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Developing a Query

I know I am not the only one out there that spends endless hours trying to develop a perfect query letter.  Most times I feel that no matter what I do...it's never going to be right. 

If you're like me, you have researched a record number of sources, trying to understand the anatomy of it all.  Then come back more frustrated than before.

I've learned that there are basic things that need to be in a query, but I'm left astounded at the variety of ways to actually get it all in there. 

Thats not including the differences in each individual agent.  Perhaps the query style is basically the same, but then there are the difference in additional requests that come with it.  Some want a synopsis, others just pages.  But you know, the synopsis is a different post all together, so I won't go there.

The whole purpose of this post and perhaps a few after, is to show you how my query letter progressed, and eventually to when I query for the first time. 

My query process started with research, research, research.  Let me say that once again, RESEARCH.  You can google queries and a slew of pages come up.  Some of my more valuable finds come from agents themselves.  To a newbe like me, an agents blog is a wonderful place to find information.

A couple of agent blogs:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

(You can see a few others on my blog reading list.)

I purchased a couple of books about writing/publishing too that helped as well. But I believe just reading query examples and listening to the pros was the easiest thing for me. 

But still, have I gotten it right??  Who knows, but perhaps I can at least show you my thinking process and share with you along the way my experiences as I try to find an agent.  Maybe it will be helpful to others.  Maybe I can find people willing to share their advice along the way as well.

Starting with my next post I may share the first of the early development parts of my query. 

Let me know what you think along the way.  ;)