Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Query, Query, on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All?

Maybe your query letter isn’t on your wall, but wouldn’t it look nice in a gold frame if it hooked your dream agent?

I know, I know, I know. Writers hate query letters almost as much as they hate the dreaded synopsis, but both are necessary evils in this business. However, writing a query letter doesn’t have to be painful. I can help.

I’m going to critique four query letters on my blog. Unlike my other blog critiques, where I simply place your piece in queue, I’m going to select four queries from those that are submitted.

Are you ready to work? Writing a query letter isn’t easy even with the help of an editor. I’m still going to make you write the darn thing. That’s the best way for you to showcase your voice in the query. If someone else writes it for you and the agent or editor falls in love with the voice in the query, they may be disappointed when they read your work because the voice won’t be the same. It’s all about expectations. Agents and editors expect to see a hint of the author’s voice in the query letter.

What do you have to do? When you send in your query, I also want the GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflicts) of your main characters. I’m expecting to see the GMCs of two to three characters depending on the genre you write. Ex. There should be GMCs for the protagonist and antagonist for general fiction. The hero, heroine, and villain should all have GMCs for romantic suspense. These are just examples. I’ll accept queries for all fiction genres. Along with that, I’d like one or two sentences describing those characters. I don’t want to know what they look like or what they wear. I want to know them. Ex. Jo is a desperate mother who longs to find her abducted baby. She’ll do anything, even break the law, to get him back.

Man, oh, man. Am I demanding or what? I’m asking you to do this because that information will help me get a better understanding of your story and what should be included in your query. If you send in your query and other information, you’re giving me permission to post it on my blog.

And… There’s one last thing. You’re also agreeing to rework the query, keeping my critique in mind, and resubmitting it. I’ll then take my red pen to the revised query and post a before and after on my blog.

I can’t help it. I’ll always be a teacher at heart. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to critique everyone’s queries, but I still want my readers to learn from the experience, even if the critique is for someone else.

Why should you go through all this work when I’m only choosing four queries to critique? Depending on how many submissions I receive, I’d like to give everyone a single comment about their query and how they can improve it. To be clear, this would only be one sentence long and I’d only do this for everyone if I don’t have too many queries to go through. Otherwise, I’ll pick several names out of a hat and send those people a comment about their query. If you’re looking for someone to stroke your ego, you’re asking the wrong woman. I believe in being honest and respectful because that’s what’s going to help you improve. Telling you the query’s great, when it really needs work might make you feel better, but it won’t help you sell your story, which is what you really want, right?

In case your eyes glazed over while reading this long post, here’s what you have to submit:
-one query letter (the whole thing minus the addresses, not just the blurb)
-GMCs of all major characters
-1-2 sentences describing those characters.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, November 12, 2010. Please send everything in the body of an email. I won’t open anything with attachments. Put “Query Crit” in the subject line, so I know it’s not spam. My email address is: lynnette_labelle at hotmail dot com. Make sure you spell my name correctly or your message won’t get to me.

Please note: I’m only accepting one query letter per person. Thanks.

What are you waiting for? Get to work! :)


  1. It's great you're doing this...but, man, am I glad I don't have to write another query -- hopefully ever!

  2. Won't be sending on a query (not ready yet), but I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on other people's.

  3. Wow. I'm not at the query point on my WIP (still in re-writes), but I'm going to try to put together a letter and the required descriptions because this is too good an oportunity not to try for. Thank you.

  4. How awesome of you! Just sent you an email! :)

  5. Yay - I'm looking for all the help I can get! =)


  6. Question for you:
    Does this query have to be about a finished work?
    I have a query letter I'm working on for a book that I've written. The book's first draft is finished, but it is by no means polished.
    Does it need to be finished and agent ready, or just the query letter?

  7. Thanks for doing this.
    I like whole GMC thing it really puts the characters in focus when you have to write them down. Sending it off to you now.

  8. I've got mine ~perfected~ already. GMC's huh? Hmm. .


  9. Great fun. I may send mine in and see what you think although it is early days for the wip :)

  10. Oooh, yeah. I haven't actually finished my novel but I've heard of people writing their queries first and that helped their novel find their focus. I think I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and see where it goes.

  11. Reesha: Everyone works in their own way. Some people have their query letter completed before they begin the story just to keep them focused. Others wait until they have the finished product before writing the query, and some take a break after the first or second draft to write the query before polishing the manuscript. It doesn't matter to me. Thanks for asking.

    Donna: Do you mean you don't know what GMCs are or are you asking why I wanted them included?

    Lynnette Labelle

  12. Sorry Lynette: I was "thinking out loud" on that. Wondering to myself exactly what my MC motivations are. What this contest has done for me is given me the opportunity to seriously look at my characters.

    Thank you very much for following up with me :) I assure you I do know what GMCs are however. I'll be sending my query and the rest probably tonight. Tomorrow is a day off from the day job and I can stay up as late as I want to work on it :).