Good Cop, Bad Cop of Query Writing

By James Campbell (1828 - 1893), via Wikimedia Commons

By James Campbell (1828 – 1893), via Wikimedia Commons

Queries are really hard. Good queries are even harder.
Writing a query is the stage of the writing process that requires you to hack your beautifully honed story down into three paragraphs and sell your soul. Or is it hacking your soul into three pieces and selling your story? I’m not sure. Could be either.
If you are having a bad query writing day, I have two things for you. One will make you feel like you can do no wrong and the other will make you feel like you can do nothing right but it will actually help you improve things.

Here are my go-to blogs for when I need a boost to my query writing process.

Good Cop
For those of us in a sensitive mood who need a boost to our ego, check out Slush Pile Hell. Every time I read the queries on there, I am both horrified that such things exist and pleased that mine sounds nothing like them. I mean, sure, these query letters are all for non-fiction, and I write fiction, so it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. But still. If you want to see some truly atrocious writing, go there. But try not to spend more than ten minutes on it, otherwise you start to fear for the future of books and the cynicism kicks in.

Bad Cop
For anyone with really thick skin, (and I mean it. You need skin as thick as an alligator), take a gander at Janet Reid’s blog: The Query Shark. She has posted query after query with critiques, and most of them are ripped to shreds. Harsh but truthful. If you know you need a good shot of honesty, or if you don’t care about your feelings and you just want some direction in how to make your query better, then definitely read Query Shark.
Reid insists that anyone who wants to submit their query to her for critique read through the entire archives of her blog. And that’s 269 queries to date. I’ve started on it. I have to say, I wish I would have done this sooner. I can tell it’s going to take a few months before everything she teaches about query writing finally sinks in. (Pun not originally intended, but then recognized and left in anyway.)

So if you feel rather unmotivated to write a query letter, maybe playing good cop, bad cop on yourself will help. Go read some slush pile, then go get bitten by a shark, and then sit down to write. The world needs your story because you are the only one who can tell it. Please don’t let a little thing like a query deprive us of your voice.

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