Guest Post: When is the Best Time to Write a Query Letter?

by W. E. Larson

clock (Erik)Writing a query letter is hard. I did a lot of research when I made one for my first novel. I visited many a website that provided examples, and dug deep into Query Shark. Then I got to work writing and re-writing that query. In the end, I didn’t end up querying the manuscript because it wasn’t really what I wanted it to be yet. Writing the query and synopsis helped me to decide that.

During that research, I came across a query critique on Query Shark that haunted me. The query wasn’t criticized only for its content, but the underlying manuscript was criticized as well. Now that would be tough. It’s one thing to change the query, but another to need to change the manuscript significantly.

That got me thinking that maybe the best time to write a query letter isn’t after writing the manuscript, but before. I’m not talking about writing the whole query, just the most important part, i.e., the pitch that tells the agent about the manuscript.

So I got to work, taking the manuscript idea in my head and trying to write a pitch. It was still hard, but I had the luxury of not having the manuscript set in stone. I took the pitch to a few people to read over, and it didn’t go over great. The pitch didn’t pop. I went back to the drawing board, made some significant changes to the story idea, and made a new pitch that did much better.

Armed with my query pitch and the story idea, I went on to write the manuscript. In my case, that means synopsis, outline, and then the writing. When I finally finished the writing and revising, I already had most of the query letter done. A few tweaks and I was good to go. The resulting query did a great job for me, getting requests and an offer of representation.

Like almost anything in writing, there’s no right way to do things, but writing the query first sure worked great for my second novel.

Erik LarsonW.E. Larson is a life-time midwesterner living in the Kansas City area with his wife, daughter, son, and two dogs.  He earned a degree in physics from Trinity University along with minors in computer science and mathematics.  He went on to pursue a career in software engineering.  He always enjoyed telling stories and decided to finally put some to paper—especially stories that his kids might like.

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Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

il_340x270.613823579_k1k3It’s officially summer! Summertime: when I listen to the Grateful Dead a wee bit more, eat lots of Italian ices, barbecue most dinners, go to the beach, try to sleep later because my kids aren’t in school (usually unsuccessfully), drive with the windows open, forego shoes whenever I can, wear straw hats, grow more freckles (no matter what I slather on my face), kayak, listen for the ice cream man’s song, and read, read, read. Well, I always read, read, read!

Summertime is also when I try to catch up on all of my queries and requested manuscripts and try to work on some of my own writing.

So….

I will be closed to submissions for July and August. And, I will be taking a break from blogging. But, some of my clients have agreed to guest post for me! Look for posts from J.M. DiVerdi, M-E Girard, W.E. Larson, Susan Lubner, Joe McGee, Natasha Sinel, and Katherine Sparrow. And watch for another contest run by my fabulous intern, Tara Slagle, where we’ll be giving away YA books.

So, enjoy your summer! I’ll talk to you all in the fall!

And don’t forget to post comments on my clients’ guest blog posts. We love a nice conversation over here at The Blabbermouth Blog.

xo

Lindaph1214

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Advice for Writers

photo 5Last summer, at the Writing Yoga® Retreat that I host with my colleague Stefanie Lipsey, I learned something that some might say, “No, duh!” to, but that I’d kind of forgotten. It was during one of our afternoon yoga sessions, and Stefanie was leading the yoga. She reminded us to focus on what was happening on our own yoga mat. That is to say, it didn’t matter if the person next to me could balance on one foot while wrapping their other foot behind their head, all while humming a satisfying OM to the universe, while I might be struggling to figure out which way to turn my head, where to place my hand, and how my foot happened to get where it is. Yoga isn’t a contest. It’s not a competitive sport. When I focused on what was happening on my own mat, not only was it a much more pleasant experience, but I was able to achieve the tasks I set for myself there.

Similarly, writing isn’t a competitive sport. “What?,” you might ask, “How can that be?!” Because your writing isn’t going to keep improving if you don’t keep your focus on your own work. Measuring yourself against other writers won’t make your writing any better or worse. Putting others down or putting yourself down in comparison to others also won’t change how you write. What will change how you write is writing and reading.

So, if you’re not a write every day kind of writer, that’s ok. If you’re a plotter or a *pantser, that’s ok. If you only write during the summer, that’s ok. If you can’t read in your genre while you’re in the midst of a manuscript, that’s ok. If you need to eat mini marshmallows while you write, that’s ok. However it works for you is ok. Keep your concentration on what’s happening on your own “yoga mat.” In that way, you’ll know what you need to focus on next and it might be a more pleasant experience.

*a “pantser” is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, as opposed to outlining a whole plot beforehand.

What’s one bit of advice you’d like to give other writers? What’s one bit of writing advice that made a difference for you?

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