The biggest mistake you can make in a query

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It isn’t spelling the agent’s name wrong, comparing yourself to a bestselling author, or using all capital letters.  The biggest mistake I see time and time again when reading other writers’ queries is that they’re all over the place and confuse the reader.

No one wants to have to think when reading a query.  No one wants to remember seven named characters or try and connect points A, B, and X to figure out what you meant or what the point of your story is.  They want a succinct preview of the plot (i.e. book jacket copy) that makes them want to keep reading.

You never want to have someone read your query and think:

-Where is the setting?

-Who is this character?

-Is this character named John or Johnny?  Are they two different people or the same person?

-Are we in the present day or is this set in the future?

-I don’t know what the hell I just read.

One way you can avoid a confusing query is to summarize your work in one sentence and go from there (i.e. the elevator pitch).  Another thing you can do is write the query before you even start your novel.  I usually do this to help myself stay on track and so I have a clear idea of where the story is going.

Remember, a query is your first chance to impress an agent.  You don’t want to blow your chance because you confused them.

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