Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"This is where I'd stop reading"

Dear Ms. Reid,

No, this isn't a query or a request for information. It's a simple note to say thank you for your remarkable blog, Queryshark.

I think I'm a decent writer. Perhaps I'll never get my novel published, but I should at least be able to interest an agent in reading a few pages. Yet the way I was going about composing the query in my head, it would never have happened.

I'll spare you all the gory details, but the main reason my letter would have prompted the auto reject is that I simply had no idea what a good query looked like. Now, thanks to Queryshark, I think I know. No, I know I know!

I found myself laughing out loud and nodding my head at many of your comments—and wincing at the tortured writing that provoked them. You see, I'm a university professor, and every semester I have to slog through a dreary stack of term papers, 90% of which should never have been written. After the first couple of sentences, and definitely after the first paragraph, I know whether it's going to be a good paper or not. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of pressing auto-reject, nor can I be as snarky as you are in your comments; so the bloodied, dissected letters you post on your blog provide me with some much-needed catharsis.

One very illuminating thing you've done on a couple of occasions is to say, "If this had been a real query, here's where I would have stopped reading." I'd love to see that with all the submissions: maybe a big "X marks the spot" or a set of teeth marks :)

Thanks again for the blog. Perhaps one day you'll receive a real query from me. If, after the wealth of guidance you've provided, I can't interest you or another agent in a few pages, then I'm a nincompoop.


Roseth said...

I have read a few like these, and my impression is that the main requirements here are severe masochistic tendencies,coupled with the appropriate display of craven humility. Did I miss something here ?

Unknown said...

Yes you did. The tone of the reception of advice is set by the receiver not the giver.

FeliceGerwitz: Author, Speaker, Consultant said...

I have found that in order to grow as an author the number one trait is humility and the ability to take criticism. I highly recommend this blog and service on my podcast and to my consulting clients. It saves me much work.

dana e donovan said...

I submitted my query the day before yesterday, and if, as I hope, it is posted, I shall brace myself for both barrels. In ten years I have self-published ten novels. Between each one I run through the motions of submitting my queries to dozens (sometimes hundreds)of agents, wondering why none will even LOOK at my work. Now I know. I suffer from query envy. So to Janet I say, please bring it on!