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Two Parts to Mastering Queries


Two Parts to Mastering Queries

The art of writing a query is quite different from the novel, which we hopefully all have mastered before we think of queries. Writing a query breaks down into two areas; the first is style and structure, the second is story. For the style and structure, we have some excellent resources here at AQC to help us. For the story, you the writer, are the only expert available. You have to put the two pieces together to get the end product. It’s very much like pieces of a puzzle that you have to put together. My own query went through numerous revisions including seven since AQC moved to this new site.

There are many good resources for the structure of a query and many examples of excellent queries here on AQC. The two pieces of a query that involve your story are the hook and summary. They are linked, but serve different functions. The hook is the ultimate summary of your story. It is essentially that one thing that your book is about and everything else revolves around. The rest of the query expands on the hook with a few tempting details to sweeten the deal.

I found that sometimes you need to bend the truth a little. Not outright lie, but rearrange and simplify. My story is very complex, but I managed to tell the whole thing in an understandable way in 200 words. In the query it doesn't matter if x happens after y or before. You need it to flow, make sense, and be true to the spirit of your story. I think of it like movie adaptions of novels, they really have to hack it apart sometimes, but the good adaptions keep the same core and tell the same story.

Lord of the Rings in an excellent example of a big and complex story, but it really boils down to Frodo and the Ring and the parallel story of the war following Aragorn, Gandalf, etc. You wouldn't want to name all the others of the fellowship in the query. Maybe you'd talk about Gandalf saving Gondor and leave out the rest. They key is simplify.

I really noticed how far I’d simplified my query when I decided to take a different tack on my synopsis. I started with my query summary and then expanded it. I ended up adding all those details that I consider important, but which had fallen off as I refined my query. I was able to do them justice in the synopsis, but in the query, they were in the way of doing the core story justice.

When you have your query in the best shape you can get it in, it is time to share it and get comments from others. AQC has many members who are excellent at giving useful feedback and comments. Filtering those comments for what fits is part of the challenge. In the end it is your query and you have to make the decision on what to change and when it is ready to send. Only you are the expert on your story and only you know when it sounds right.

The best query is one that is in your own voice. I've noticed that when you read a good query, you can tell. Even if it breaks rules, you can still tell. There is something simple and elegant about it. It gives you enough to draw you in and leaves you wanting more.


2 Comments

Thank you so much! Wonderful info. You have found something new to say about queries and I printed it out so I can absorb it :biggrin: and add it to my knowledge.
"I found that sometimes you need to bend the truth a little. Not outright lie, but rearrange and simplify." These two sentences speak volumes.