I just spent twenty minutes writing a huge comment to this person here trying to help her sort her query letter. Since it’s useful information, and I did promise query letter help, I’m reposting it here. This way, the next time I stumble on an author needing query help, I can just point them to this link!

Writing Your Query in Seven Difficult Steps:

1. Write down what happens in your first chapter, badly.

And I mean it. Just say what happens. Here’s an example of what happens in my first chapter:

Elizabeth is standing there with her binoculars. She is looking at some boys. They are in her guest house.

Yup, all done. Pat yourself on the back.

2. Now sit down with your awful first chapter synopsis, and your first chapter, and start asking questions. In my case, there’s only one real question that comes to mind:“WHY is she looking at the boys.”

You can, if you like, go through the entire book this way, but I like doing one chapter at a time.

Now your synopsis should read something like this:

Elizabeth is standing there with her binoculars. She is looking at some boys. They are in her guest house. She is curious about them because her mother is trying to keep their presence a secret.

3. Now we add layers to this pitch. Make a note to yourself that the secret is probably going to be a good hook. Just write it down as an observation. Make a note about your main character’s personality. What does she have to say?

#@!! people moving into my mom’s guesthouse. I’ll show them!

“Meanie weanie mommmy. Why won’t she tell me what’s going on?”

You get the idea. In my case, Elizabeth Brooke is a bit of a trouble maker. She is, after all, spying right now. I’ll jot that down.

4. Write down the synopsis from your character’s voice.

5. You can even struggle to write it in your own voice, if you like. I’ll watch.

6. Finally you’re going to combine all these things and strap it to your Good Author Writing Skillzz. You know, the ones you left behind in your novel?

Let’s recap what we’re combining:

The Badly Written Synopsis
The List of Answered Questions
The Potential Sales-Pitch
The Character’s Voice
Your Voice (optional)
Your Good Writing Skills

Combine them all and you should get something like this:

Anyone would be curious about a handful of strangers moving in unannounced. Elizabeth Brooke certainly is, especially when her mother does nothing to stop the family making themselves comfortable in their guesthouse.

Since mom’s usual response to trespassers involved a 20-gauge shotgun and rock salt, Elizabeth is sure mom invited them herself. What she isn’t sure about is why Mom wants to keep it a secret.

7. Do this for every chapter, and then cut out anything unnecessary.

Ta-da! A query letter! ^^ Be sure to use third person present tense!

Advertisements