My Query Letter: Before, During, and After

As a way to get back into the writing groove, I decided to take a look at an old query letter I’d written for my first (and now published) Horror novel.

For your (and my own) benefit I decided to show you the before, during, and after screen shots of the query itself and the comments I received so you can see the difference in quality and length. The query letter was composed and edited in Word. Where possible, I included all comments from The Editor. Nothing has been left out regarding the content of the query itself, however to protect the identity and privacy of The Editor I blacked out their name and henceforth they will only be known as The Editor.

Regarding the screenshots, I will do my best to keep them orderly, but the format on WordPress and depending on what device you are reading this on may change the layout of this post. 
Here’s what I sent to agents, publishers, and, lastly, The Editor. *Runs away and hides in shame*

**Author’s Note: the novel was originally called DECADENCE and is now called EXISTENCE (a more appropriate title for a Horror novel), and the genre changed from New Adult to Young Adult for marketing reasons. Most publishers and agents hesitate acknowledging or calling something New Adult because it’s not widely accepted as its own genre thus making it difficult to market.

As you can see/read, this query was lengthy (two full pages, double-spaced) and wordy, among other things. I sent this… thing to quite a few agents and publishers. *Groans*

Now I will show you the query, after The Editor reviewed it, in two ways: the first image will show you the red markings where they had a comment and the image after will show you the actual comments with a blue arrow or markings pointing to which red mark it is referring.

Here’s what The Editor had to say after they got their hands on it:

Here are the comments for that section:

**Author’s Note: I won a contest on Twitter for a once-over query edit.

**Author’s Note: This comment refers to the sentence beginning “THE KILL ORDER…”.

**Author’s Note: He’s referring to the closing quotations inside the sentence. They should be on the outside if NOT writing in British English. 

Yes, I missed a word. 

*Slaps forehead* So obvious right? And I strongly suggest re-reading your query multiple times and have other people read it to make sure you didn’t leave out any words. Important words. 

Next section:

Usually not a lot of red means you’re doing the right thing… In my case not so much. Read on:

 (I’m on a roll here of what not to do).

The Editor was kind enough to include a brief note after my query. Here’s what they had to say:

REDREDREDREDRED 

SO MUCH RED

I took The Editor’s comments and guidelines into consideration and drafted a whole new query. This one was much shorter (one page double-spaced) and clearer. Take a look:

Short and to the point and you can see from all the red that The Editor was able to do their job and give me appropriate feedback on a query and not the clustermuck I had previously written.
Here’s a breakdown of those comments:

As you can see, my query is clearer than the previous one but it still needs work especially the beginning. Agents and publishers go through piles of query letter so you need to be able to get straight to the point and grab their attention right away in the first paragraph.

Here are the comments for paragraph 2:

Of course. It’s so obvious. It’s refreshing to have another pair of eyes take a look. They can spot the mistakes and inconsistencies your eyes may have missed. 

No telling. Telling is bad m’kay.

Unless an agent asks, do not include backstory or subplot (like I did).

I kind of got this one right. You can see The Editor cut out the fluff words. I have to remember I’m not still in University trying to hit that word count. It’s a query letter not an essay. 

Paragraph 3:

Simple mechanics/stylistic preferences for the last paragraph. Getting there. (Insert thumbs up emoji here)

And the closing, and encouraging, comments:

Remember, remember… the stakes. Make it clear.

Overall, I was happy with the comments and the result. A+++

I let the query sit for a while and recently I came back to it and tried fixing it again. Here’s what I came up with:

I’m sure there are still a few more things I can do to clean it up, but I think it’s a big improvement over my original one.

How’s your query writing, and writing in general, coming along? I know I need the practice.

Until next time! Happy Writing!

MH

***If you wish to leave a comment about my query then you are more than welcome to do so. You are also welcome to agree or disagree with The Editor, however be advised that I have nothing but respect and gratitude for The Editor (they did not have to do this for me; they owe me nothing) and any comments I find disrespectful or unprofessional regarding their comments on my query will be removed. Please be kind.***

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It’s Been a While…

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here about my writing progress. To be honest I haven’t done anything to my WIP since October. 

I’ve done a few things to prep but I never wrote anything… not really. 

Don’t know why I’m in this slump. Maybe it’s because I’m working more, maybe it’s because this weather is making me feel blah, maybe it’s because I’m devoting most of my time to family/reading/self-care, or maybe it’s because I’ve lost motivation. 

I feel somewhat okay about all this because I have done some prep work for a new fantasy WIP. I’ve started detailing all the information for my characters, the map, the overall plot, and even started the outline for the first chapters (Don’t forget: reading is prep/research/fuel for writing too).

My character list fills one page (just the names and name meanings and their role in the story); the actual details will fill 3-5 pages for each character. My next step is to create a Pinterest board for each character and pin character related pics for each. 

The map is coloured in and all major areas named with some details about their population, languages, trade goods, etc.; I’m not satisfied with some of them, but maybe with writing the true names will flesh themselves out. 

The plot and all the key points plus research details I need to remember are reaching close to 50 pages or so (it’s a YA fantasy so world building is a big thing here and required me to research a bit before I could start on character development and everything else). 

The outline for the beginning chapters are all over the place right now; half in a notebook and half on my phone. I just need to devote some time to putting them in one place. I have the first two, possibly three, chapters figured out. 

As for my horror novel… haven’t touched it since October. I made some headway by looking at my old query letter and reintroducing myself with the story. My next step is to dive back into editing. I think I left off at chapter 4 (out of 30?).

Oh and I devoted some time to marketing myself and building my social media presence on Twitter by scheduling tweets for the whole year. I joined some fun writing/author prompts such as #AuthorConfession and #WIPjoy. There are tons more so you should check them out. I made a chart showing the progress I made for the month of January. Check it: 


I started off the year with roughly 325 followers and around 2000 tweets. I now sit at 375 followers and 2,208 tweets. Progress!

So that’s how my writing is going right now. Slow itty bitty steps. 

Until next time. Happy writing!

MH