The Satisfying Torture of Query Writing

I remember my first attempt at a query.
*snicker* We won’t talk about that.

In the last month, I’ve had four different people help me with my current query. Four. Professionals. None of whom I’ve worked with before. Because, no matter how hard I tried, I still wasn’t satisfied with the thing.

Maybe it’s because I’ve learned from each editor along the way, or maybe she just speaks my language, but the final person I’m working with has helped me see possibilities I haven’t until now. This has me all excited for a number of reasons:

  1. Being able to explain my story clearly and simply is crucial. That’s what a query is all about. Yet it’s eluded me thus far with this book, partially because I’ve got a ridiculous cast of characters.

    ME: But Thor and Loki and Merlin and the goddess Brighid are really important to the story! And Arthur, I bring in all this great Camelot stuff. Can’t I try to fit that in?
    REASON: No. Name only the main characters.
    M: Ooooh! There’s these books that Loki leaves as clues, and—
    R: Simplify, woman. MCs + goal + conflict = query.
    M: Yeah I know but . . . *sigh*

  2. Query writing is freaking hard, so it feels pretty awesome to pull it off well. I’ve learned a TON working with so many editors on the same single-page piece. Improving my query has led to improving my craft across the board. My last manuscript revision happened after working with the first editor on this query, inspired by a resource she suggested. SO glad she did!
  3. This will be my fourth dive into the query trenches. I am more in love with this manuscript than anything else I’ve written (even though I love those stories, too). I want my query to sing, to lure, to raise eyebrows, to quicken the agent’s pulse. If I have to rewrite this thing fifty times, I’ll do it.

Like anything to do with writing, crafting a query takes far more work than it really ought to, but it’s worth it. I’m glad I did this little experiment: seeing how four different editors took on the same document. It’s made me get very clear on the essence of my story. I am exceedingly grateful for all the feedback I’ve received, even the bits that frustrated me. Every critique made me think, made me reach deeper to champion my book.

Is my query all perfected and ready to go? Yes! <Insert Happy Dance Here>

Of course, my manuscript editor will get back to me with more feedback for that part of the equation. My last revise cut tons of backstory, dug deep into Goals, Motivation, and Conflict, and otherwise shined things up, but I know there’s still more work to be done. An editor’s job is to say, “You’re on the right track here, but what about this?”

Every time I listen to their suggestions and work to translate them into my writing, I grow.

This post is part 1 in a series about my experiences with different editors. Stay tuned for part 2: Takeaways and Reviews of different Editing Styles

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