Dear Author: Query Saturday

I stirred up quite a wasp nest over at Dear Author yesterday when they posted my query letter for For the Most Part as part of their Query Saturday post. Some negative, some positive, and that’s great. It’s what writing is all about. I was debating on posting a reply (not a rebuttal), but have decided against it. Let the sleeping dogs lie, eh? Instead, for those who might come across this post who so generously left feedback for me, I’ll list my thoughts here.

  • I have to admit I jumped the gun in submitting it to Dear Author. The query letter I submitted was a first draft and just barely edited after I wrote it. After giving it to several writer friends for their honest feedback, I definitely made some changes.
  • It is too long. The new query was definitely chopped down quite a bit.
  • I did mention too many of the characters causing it to sound too dramatic. It clouded up the main characters and lacked focus. All of the story lines about the siblings, other than Travis and Lorraine, got X’ed. I’m saving all of that for the synopsis.
  • Lots of tears and no hope in sight? Not all novels have a happy ending, but this one does believe it or not. I added a teaser to let the agent know there is a restroom up ahead.
  • I did get rid of that opening question thanks to an author friend who told me maybe the agent doesn’t celebrate Christmas…maybe they are Jewish or Buddhist. As a matter of fact, I downplayed a lot of the Xmas aspect because I don’t want this tagged a Xmas story.
  • I did not move the technical stuff (83,000 words and such) from the last paragraph to the first paragraph. I’ve been using the first paragraph to make my letter sound more personal and by mentioning some things I know about the agent. (It makes me sound like I did my homework, which I did.) But I will give it some consideration before submitting again.
  • I did make a point to let the agent know what genre this is. I even compared it to a bestselling Pulitzer Prize winning novelist as my inspiration.
  • Someone called it a “cute idea.” There’s nothing cute about this novel. I’m sorry to disappoint you.
  • Thank you to those who like the family drama concept and thought it should be a series. Thank you for taking interest in each of the characters and their story lines. For now, I’m done with these characters except for editing, but maybe I’ll give that some thought if a publisher bites.
  • I had to laugh at the commenters who puked at the illicit relationship between the high school teacher and one of his students, and suspected foul play. As a writer, it let’s me know I did my job right. Although I crossed it out from the query all together, in the book itself I wanted the reader to hate the older brother and think he killed the student. (SPOILER: Pssst…he didn’t do it.) But aren’t you glad I didn’t make him a Catholic Priest?
  • And lastly, in reference to those who picketed on my lawn last night because I said “biracial child who is a product of rape.” Grow up and get over it. Again, if it offended and upset you, then it lets me know my idea worked!  It’s funny that one person “assumed” Clare was white (probably because her last name is White) and that her assailant was black.  Hmmm…interesting….
  • There is no family dog, but there is a cat.  Nothing bad happens to him.

I’m honored by all who took the time to read and comment. Thank you again! I have to admit my revised query turned out much better, and has already gone out to several agents.

It was fun to find the similarities in what people had to say about it. Most were the exact same things my closest friends told me. And when that many people are all saying the same thing, you know they are on to something. And of course, thanks to Dear Author (an excellent blog), for posting the query.

Wish me luck! ;-)

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2 comments on “Dear Author: Query Saturday

  1. Congrats on braving the slice-and-dice. Looks like you handled it really well too. It’s rough, isn’t it? But my query improved too, I hope–so I think Query Saturday is a really good idea. What amuses me these days about the whole process is the spectrum of reactions you can get to a single work. I’ve had people say my story had too much going on in it and editors saying it didn’t have enough. You can’t win. You just have to trust your heart, in the end, and write the story you believe in.

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