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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Dreaded Query Letter


Paperback Writer has a wonderful post today on query writing--- what NOT to send to an agent or editor.

Here's an excerpt--

Thinly disguised novel that's really a memoir

Many things can trigger a novel-wrapped memoir, and writers usually go through at least one of them: a dysfunctional family, an unhappy childhood, a wretched adolescence, a lousy marriage, loss of a loved one, a career meltdown and/or a terrible divorce. So if the prominent features of your story and/or your protagonist bear a striking resemblance to you/your life, you've likely gone memoir in your novel.

There is nothing wrong with writing a memoir; I don't particularly care for them but there is a market, mainly celebrity-driven, for them. That said, a memoir is not a novel. Presenting it as a novel probably feels the same way it did to use code in your high school diary so that if your little brother snitched it from your room and picked the tiny lock he still wasn't be able to figure out who Chipmunk, Sassafrass and Mr. Whoopsie were. Don't assume the agent or the reader has to be treated like your little brother.

Recitation of events

Could your query pull double duty as a chapter summary or a synopsis of your novel? If so, you're event-reciting, not pitching. This type of play-by-play query often comes from an unwillingness or an inability on the part of the writer to condense a story into a pitch. A pitch is not a breakdown or a summary of the parts; it's a brief presentation of the whole.

Example: I could tell you I have a front end, a custom modified engine, tires, a chassis, a metallic flake scarlet paint job, a steering wheel, high-grade fuel, leather-upholstered seats, brakes, headlights, a trunk, a license plate and a rearview mirror. Or I could tell you I have a little red sportscar so fast that no cop can catch me. Now, which do you think is more interesting? Which better relates the concept of the object?

Read the rest here.

1 comment:

Cecelia Dowdy said...

The memoir/novel scenario reminded me of the James Fry incident about four or five years ago, give or take? He said his book was true, a memoir, because he couldn't sell it as a novel. He found a publisher and Oprah even gave his book her approval and she had him on her show. Later, it was discovered he'd lied and the book was pure fiction!