Friday, July 16, 2010

Query Letters: Mind the Gap

Well, Across Two Universes has been sent off to my beta readers (though I have room for a third reader, if anyone's interested), so now it's time to work on the query letter and synopsis. I've drafted both and posted the synopsis on OWW and the query letter on Absolute Write for feedback. So far, I've had one review on the synopsis, and there was only one paragraph the reviewer had trouble following. That's not bad. My query letter, on the other hand, still needs work.

Writing query letters is tough, but I think for SF/fantasy writers, it's even harder. It's not enough just to summarize the story; you have to explain the setting too, especially if it's much different from our world. To boil down a novel to a couple hundred words, you have to leave out a lot of details that help build credibility. There's a big gap between the novel and the query letter you have to mind, much like the famous "gap" of the London Undergound.

I think for my next draft of my query letter, I'm going to start with a background paragraph before diving into Paul's goals and conflicts. We'll have to see if that works better. In the meantime, have you experienced this gap between story and summary, and how did you deal with it?


Ted Cross said...

This is so true. With the severe space restrictions we have for a query letter, how do we get the important parts of our story across without it sounding derivative of other work? It is hard, and I haven't really succeeded yet.

Tara Maya said...

It's a really good point about sf/f queries. And I agree that setting can make all the difference in a fantasy epic. I'm not sure if trying to start the story with setting is a good idea though.

This doesn't necessarily mean it won't work in*your* query.

In general, though, I think it's still best to start with character/problem. Could you hint at the setting through describing that?

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Tara, in the current query, I did start by talking about Paul first and then moving to the setting. I think the people who reviewed my query weren't really familiar with SF, so that affected how they read the query.

Perhaps next week after I have a second version of a query letter, I can post both for review here.

barbaraannwright said...

Good luck with it. I leave out most of the description and try to focus on the characters and their unique situation. Maybe more description would help me out.

Sarah Bromley said...

Good luck with querying, Sandra! Getting it vetted by some trusted writer friends can help.

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