The week that I unplugged, I was the recipient (i.e. victim) of a surprise query critique (i.e. query killing).
A few weeks ago a literary agency was accepting queries for critique and agreed to post the critiques of 7 lucky queries on their blog. I entered the contest on a whim, sent my query out and a week or two later, I was surprised to read the blog and find that my poor, little query was featured!
I nearly hid under a desk.
All I can say is thank goodness it was anonymous. I’m not going to direct you to the post because I’m still embarrassed. But I will give you some query tips:
1. Don’t have an awkward opening! My sentences were too wordy. Keep it short and attention grabbing.
2. Sell your character! Not just your plot! The letter did not share enough information about who my character is. I was all wrapped up in selling my plot, I didn’t share enough about the person behind it.
3. Make exciting plot points…exciting! Apparently, my plot was considered dynamic, but the telling of it was flat and boring. Use dynamic sentences to explain dynamic adventures.
4. Don’t bury your character’s psychological struggle! I would imagine this is only relevant if you have a character-driven novel (as I do). Any trauma or struggle he or she may need to overcome should be highlighted upfront.
5. Don’t capitalize genres! It’s women’s fiction. Not Women’s Fiction. (Apparently I missed that grammar lesson)
6. Mention your word count! This is apparently the only thing I did right…
7. Mention if it’s your first novel! Oh wait, I got that one right too. As if it wasn’t painfully obvious based on my pathetic, sickly query.
I’m sorry about all the exclamation points. But, with the amount of agency blogs I read, I’m at the point where I feel every agent is yelling at me. I know they aren’t. I imagine that they are really good people. Good people who read a lot of crap. So I don’t blame them if they get ornery about the things they receive in their slush piles.
I feel fortunate that I got this query critiqued before I sent it out. They confirmed what I had long suspected: my manuscript would have been rejected. But guess what? It wasn’t real! I have another shot! So, the experience is ridiculously valuable. Ridiculously. I told you that was my crutch word (no, I didn’t use it in my query).
I urge all of you to try and enter these kinds of contests. I will try and post more of them here.