Query letters are no joke. It's hard to boil an entire novel down into three paragraphs.
Luckily, I attended RWA's national conference last summer and learned some FABULOUS tips on query letters.
In general, the query should read like the back jacket of a book - high energy, low details, and dripping with suspense and tension.
Format, there is actually a format to a query. Someone at the conference was preaching about structure in queries and it finally clicked. Knowing the format took a bit of the mystery out of it for me.
Think about it like the three act structure in your novel (beginning, middle, end) only in the query it should be something like: Intro, Conflict, Stakes.
In the intro give one or two sentences setting up the character and world/setting. At least one sentence stating what the character wants and why it's important. It's okay to be direct.
Next you have the conflict: What goes wrong?
And then last but not least, we need the stakes: what happens if she fails? What does she stand to lose? What will she have to sacrifice? This should be big so it hooks us to want to read more.
Try this, exercise. Fill in the blank.
"She's a ____________ that wants nothing more than _____________. He's a ____________ that wants nothing more than______________. Together they must __________________ or stand to lose_______________________. "
Ideally, what she wants and what he wants should be in direct conflict with each other. Together, what they must do should push their limits and threaten to unravel them as individuals. What they must do together is the test that makes them grow and change.
This is a good format to start a query because it has the intro, conflict and stakes. This is also the format you would want to use if you were pitching this MS to an agent or editor live, and in person, at a conference or something.
What strategy do you use to craft your query? Share ideas here:
Want more advice on query letters? Check out this post and this one.