Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Sunday, February 24, 2008

In the Mines

Not literally. 'In the Mines' is just a phrase I like to use for time when I'm working at something I don't really like but will help me get where I want to go.

This weekend I've been working on my query letter. I spent a large portion of time yesterday working on the meat of the letter - the hook, the blurb, etc. I wrote and I deleted and I wrote and I deleted all morning until I thought I had something. I sent that something off to my CP. She did what a good CP does; she told me it was flat. Hear that big sucking sound? That was my query.

Anyway, I walked away from the thing after that. She was so right, but I couldn't see exactly where the problem was, which meant I couldn't see how to fix it. After a couple hours, the hook came up and hit me in the back of the head like a grandmother after hearing a naughty word. Ka-Thwap! I typed it into the letter, sent the line off to my CP, and from the reaction, I nailed it. Still couldn't fix the blurb though. By comparison to my new hook, my blurb sounded even worse.

I flopped on the couch with a book (which I may talk about tomorrow). I read a little, watched a little TV, and generally chilled out. Late last night, the grandmother attacked me again. Ka-Thwap! I re-read my query, hit enter enough times to shoot the crap to the bottom of the page (where I couldn't see it) and started from scratch. Voila! I really like what I ended up with last night.

Anyway, this whole thing brings to mind something I read on the BookEnds blog recently. And somewhere - I don't remember if it was in the post or the comments and I don't feel like looking right now - someone made a comment like 'if you can write a book, you should be able to write a query' or something like that. In a way, this is true. Writers write. Anyone who can write a book should be able to write anything else. But if you follow this line of thinking, fiction writers should be able to write non-fiction and vice versa. A novelist could also be an essayist. A poet could also be a humorist. After all, it's just writing. Right?

Unfortunately, each type of writing is a totally different animal from the others. Queries included. Each type of writing requires the mastery of a skill to be really good. Yep, queries too. Most of us book writers (at least the unpubbed ones) haven't mastered the skill (or there wouldn't be a bazillion posts on how to do it, and people wouldn't still be asking everyone they know how to do it right). I'm no exception. I keep learning and trying and gaining experience with every letter I write, but it sure as hell ain't like writing a book. I know how those work. Queries for me are like trying to write haiku. I know the mechanics of it, but I haven't mastered the skill yet. In other words, I can write haiku, but it sucks bigtime.

You turn: What are your thoughts on the issue?

BTW, the offer is still open . I'll be looking for a few good readers shortly, if anyone wants to beta read RTL. I won't provide details about RTL on the blog, so if you're interested, drop me an e-mail or leave a comment so I can e-mail you.

1 comment:

Wendy Roberts said...

Query and synopsis writing don't usually bog me down because I once took a weekend course on only those. Basically we learned the purpose of queries are to get the reader to go to the synopsis and the purpose of the synopsis is to get them to read the book. Write tight with a good hook and keep your query letter really basic :)