Writing a Good Query Letter

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Hello and greetings! With the month of November, us writers are quite busy with NaNo. In the meanwhile, I’d like to discuss the querying process for writers.

When it comes to querying, some writers dread the process. Unlike a manuscript, query letters are business. Similar to writing a cover letter for a job interview, this is your first impression to an agent or editor, so you need to make it count.

Contact Information

Include any contact information before your first paragraph near the top of the page, right justified. This helps the recipient contact you if they need further information. It also breaks the ice—so to speak—and shows that you offer a professional medium of trust.

Personal websites are a big plus; these give the recipient an idea of what you’re capable of. Below your personal info include the agent’s information, left justified.

Salutations

Give a proper business greeting to the recipient. Use his or her last name with the suffix Mr. or Ms. respectively.  If you don’t know the name, use sir or madam instead—not recommended as it creates a less formal feel.

First Paragraph

Your beginning, like any book, should catch the reader’s interest. Show the recipient why they should continue reading when they have a hundred others letters to peruse. Use a hook to grab their attention. Stand out from the crowd. Mention the recipient’s credentials, information posted on their websites, or anything that shows you’ve done your homework and are serious about working with them.

Use your first paragraph creatively. Begin with some background that connects yourself to the agent. Illustrate your talents, achievements, and ordeals. Even flaws or setbacks can be spun positively. Usually, the first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the query letter. This can make or break your letter’s review.

If you don’t have a tangible connection to the recipient, skip into the action of your book.

Second Paragraph

Early on should be a brief summary of your book. Say a few things that help it stand out from ‘oh another fantasy fiction with swords, elves, and horses.’ Explain general plot ideas and the main characters, their conflicts, and so forth. Mention the premise, genre, audience, and word count.

“The main objective of a query is simple: Make the agent care enough about your protagonist and your plot that she wants to read more.” —source

Third Paragraph

Include any bio or additional credentials that help argue your cause. Keep it short and detailed.

Here’s an earlier article I wrote on novel length to help.

Final Paragraph

Conclude the letter by thanking the recipient for their time. Describe a few more positive features about your book to wrap up. Mention that you can send the first chapter if they’re interested. Sign off short and sweet.

A Good Fit

Before you query, make sure the recipient is appropriate for your querying needs. Explain why you are querying an agent, what makes you and the agent a good fit.

Readability

Use short sentences and paragraphs if able. This helps with readability, allowing the recipient a quick look at what you have to offer out of the hundreds of other query letters. Use simple vocabulary, don’t try to be impressive with complicated wording.

Submission Guidelines

Follow whatever requirements or recommendations the agent has on their webpage. Every agent prefers different criteria for submission.

Length

Some writers can fit everything in three paragraphs, but it’s not recommended to do it in less than three. The bulk of the letter should be about your story. Anything more than a page may be daunting to a recipient. Aim for three to five paragraphs.

Font

This is debatable. I use a standard 12 pt. New Roman. Some recipients may prefer New Courier or some other font. If you can’t find the recipient’s preference online, go with a font that is readable and distinct. Don’t use any color text. Keep it simple.

Grammar

This goes without saying if you’re a writer. However, I’ve seen many writers flub the rules when it comes to a query letter.

Look for mistakes like dangling participles or run on sentences. Even a small typo can turn an agent away. I use Word and Grammarly to double check my work. A proofreader wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Tone

A query letter is a business letter. Don’t get carried away with your personal background or your story’s description. Keep the formality. Avoid contractions for a more formal feel.

Credentials

Mention anything you have published, any degrees or significant achievements. Avoid details that fluff you up or make you seem unrealistic. Compare your story to another more notable example if it will help.

Writing a query letter can be daunting. While there is no set formula for a query letter, the guidelines above should aid in the process. Here’s a brief overview for those who want a synopsis.

Overview

  • Include contact information and the recipient’s info
  • Keep it formal with Mr. or Ms. and avoid contractions
  • Use a hook in the beginning
  • Describe why your story matters and offer to send in the first chapter
  • Keep the length to one page, 12 font is ideal
  • Check grammar and tone suited for business letters
  • Adhere to submission guidelines
  • Connect with the recipient

Perseverance

There’s a good chance the recipient will reject or even fail to reply to your submission. Don’t lose heart! Remember that tens of thousands of others are in the same situation.

Self-publishing

Even if you never query an agent or publisher, understanding the business process is helpful. You may be called to do a contract or business deal in the future as an epublisher. If you do, remember formality and clarity are king. Thanks for reading and stay safe!


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NaNoWriMo 2020: Tips and Preparation

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It’s that time again Today’s topic is—you guessed it—NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event celebrated by writers the world over since 1999.

From November 1st to the end of the month, each writer must produce a 50,000-word novella—first draft version of course. Nobody expects a masterpiece as this is more of a rush-rush creative exercise.

What writers decide to do with the novella after NaNoWriMo is up to them. I’ve heard of some amazing stories emerging from the ritual. I might attempt it myself this year, if time and energy allow. The seasons are a busy interval for most people, and scheduling NaNoWriMo time is crucial. I may just use it to polish up Blade of Dragons.

If you’re brave enough to undertake this challenge, then there’s some important steps you should take days before November arrives.

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1. Determine Your Writing Medium

Do you plan to write on a desktop computer? What about a laptop? Maybe pencil, pen, or even a typewriter? Figure out your medium for creative writing beforehand so you can set up your workplace appropriately.

Stock up on fresh pencils, printing paper, coffee, food, or whatever you might need.

2. Plan and Outline Your Story

Days before, begin thinking about what genre you want to write. Will it be a romance novella or maybe fantasy-adventure? Consider the protagonist and antagonist—the actors that drive the story forward. Your story doesn’t have to be perfect for NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t even have to be good as a first draft, but it should be coherent and have potential.

3. Have a Plan

Create a diary or calendar, something that can set milestones, deadlines, and objectives. Remember, you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s around 1,700 words a day. Scheduling your progress will improve your organization and help you stay on track.

4. Write, Don’t Edit

For those seeking 1,500+ words a day, you won’t have time to edit or revise. Focus on the writing process only and don’t backtrack, otherwise you may ruin your momentum.

5. Get Excited and Motivated

Nothing kills a project faster than boredom. Be thrilled about your project, just like a sky diver about to plunge from a plane. Remind yourself the reason you’re writing. Is it to improve your writing ability? Maybe you’re finally finishing that forgotten story. Use that focus to propel your efforts and stay on top of your game.

6. NaNoWriMo Is What You Make of It

Ultimately, this event is determined by your goals and objectives. Some participates use it as a means to get motivated and don’t care about reaching 50,000 words. Others see it as a challenge that must be completed, up until the final letter.

Set goals within your means and remember to enjoy the process. If it becomes too hectic or stressful, that will hinder the creative process. Turn it down a notch, or meditate for a while.

NaNoWriMo is a time to get motivated and to explore one’s creative potential, in whatever way chosen. Some writers use it as an excuse to work on belated manuscripts, others on poetry. Then there are those who take the hardcore challenge of developing a whole novella in a month.

Think about what you, as a writer, want out of NaNoWriMo. That goal will be what shapes your experience and what you get out of it. Thanks for reading and good luck. 🙂


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My Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

Hello, everyone, welcome to another post. We’re on the second week of NaNo, and I wanted to share my thoughts. This is the first year I’ve attempted NaNo and it’s been an interesting experience.

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My Goals For NaNoWriMo

As with any NaNoWriMo event, the main goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. This can be done however a writer chooses. I decided to work on Tempest of the Dragon, the idea behind my alpha manuscript.

I wanted to make definite progress on the story; not so much new content, but reworking old ideas for the protagonist and his journey. Tempest has a simpler plot than my other WIP—making it perfect for NaNo.

A Short Synopsis

Here’s a short summary of what the story is about:

Kyosenko, a samurai outcast in Japan, discovers his destiny with a girl named Mina, a cursed Black Dragon in disguise. He vows to protect the ensorcelled girl with his life,  venturing with her across ancient Japan—to a place where Mina may find salvation for Japan. But there is another threat, an organization that wishes to capture Mina and abuse her arcane powers—the Kaji Clan.

I classified the story under the following:

#fantasy #romance #adventure #historicalfiction #spirituality

Current Progression

As of writing this post, I am at over 10,000 words for NaNoWriMo.

. Progress has been great so far; on my free days, I dedicate some time and churn out an average of 1,000 to 2,000 words, mingling editing with writing.

The Future

I’m not sure if I’ll reach 50,000 by the end of the month, as family business picks up around Thanksgiving. Still, I’ll try to—and then pick up from there. Regardless, I expect significant progress on the story by the month’s end.

My Thoughts On NaNoWriMo

NaNo has been a refreshing ritual for me. It has inspired my interest in Tempest of the Dragon—and writing in general. I am not a hardcore participant, however, and will enjoy the process in a casual light.

NaNoWriMo is what you make of it. As long as you’re having fun, then you’re doing something right. I’ve certainly enjoyed the process so far. It has reminded me why I write—to explore myself and share these ideas with others.

Final Words

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you good luck. Try not to stress over it too much. The objective of this ritual is to get you motivated and excited about writing. If you need some tips, check out my last post.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll have another post up soon. 🙂

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