STATUS: Wow it’s late but I’m finally getting around to writing this entry from home. Long day.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? DOWNTOWN TRAIN by Tom Waits
Over the weekend, I read about 100 queries (and in case people take notes on this sort of thing, we requested sample pages for 36 out of those 100 queries). That’s actually rather high (so great job on those queries folks). The number is usually around 15 or 20.
But as I was reading all these queries, something became pretty crystal clear to me. I would finish reading the letter and then ask myself, but what is the story?
If I had to ask that question, it was a NO.
So let me expand on what seemed to be the issue. Since I can’t really talk about any one query specifically, all I can point to is general elements.
Most of the queries end up following this structure:
Paragraph 1 describes the setting.
Paragraph 2 highlights the character traits of the main protagonist and who he or she interacts with, and maybe a little bit of his or her back story.
Paragraph 3 details the villain, the love interest, a second protagonist, who they interact with and some back story.
Then there might be some reference to them tackling a conspiracy, an issue, a mystery, or a need to reach a destination (etc.) together.
Now all of the above are great things to have in a query (make no mistake) but ultimately, these details are all set up and don’t answer the question, “but what is the story actually about?”
What is the main conflict that will make this story about these characters worth reading? Be sure that your query letter answers that question. As a reader, we need to know what is at stake. Without it, it’s a lot of frosting but no cake. Now I love frosting as much as the next person but it’s the cake that gives a query substance and is often the deciding factor between a YES or a NO.
So, got conflict?