Thursday, February 21, 2008

More words of wisdom on writing queries,
this time from a seasoned editor: Shelly Shapiro

Had an early dinner this evening with a couple of good friends, one of them Shelly Shapiro, the legendary former editorial director of and now an editor-at-large for Del Rey Books. We got onto the topic of query letters and how, for the most part, they're just too damned long.

This was her [slightly tongue-in-cheek] advice for the hook in your query letter:
"I tell people that I want to see your plot summed up like a TV Guide entry: three sentences. No more. If a writer can't do that, I know there's something missing."
So, kids, get crackin' on your TV guide entries!
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EDIT TO ADD: Okay, from the comments, I'm guessing that some of y'all missed the "tongue-in-cheek" part of the above. Hmmmm...

9 comments:

S. E. Ward said...

8pm, Cathouse. Buddy has a surprise in store when Stinkyboy hides in the bathtub. And why is the magical food bowl empty? Guest starring the ghost of Don Knotts.

jjdebenedictis said...

(Ooh, La Gringa and S. E. Ward have invented a cool new game!)

11pm, Roar Masters. Trina discovers it was Jayden, not Amanda, who spiked her A.C. with bodily fluids, but she can't confront him until after they win the truck rally.

Bobbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobbie said...

This is a tough one for me. I can sum my plot up like a TV Guide entry, but TV Guide entries don't give spoilers. And I thought most agents want the spoiler in the query. Is that not so much the case? I thought we were supposed to save the mystery for the readers but lay it all out there for the agents. In a previous post, you said to try to keep the query letter to 2 paragraphs. So one can be the "hi, I got your name from..." and the other is the "hook"--with the conflict as well as the resolution in that paragraph? I know sometimes longer hooks just raise more questions than they answer, so I can see why shorter is often better. And do I just have too many voices/opinions shouting in my head right now? Oh, what to do, what to do.

Tia Nevitt said...

Just practicing here . . .

When Abriel's husband kicks her out, she decides to become a warrior. However, she never expects to have to fight a god.

If three sentences are good, are two even better?

Josh said...

I've heard of the ol' elevator pitch, where you try to sum-up the story in 25 words or less. Does that seem like too little?

Amie Stuart said...

Oooooooo I'm totally using this for my Monday blog post at SFC

Tia Nevitt said...

Re: your edit. Not really. Just some early morning fun.

Amie Stuart said...

Okay maybe I took it too seriously but with all the talk in bloglandia lately about query letters, maybe it's not a bad exercise *ggg*