Jo and I have had so, so much fun reading all your input on what hooks you, what makes a good query, and what magical phrase can get you to pick up a book.
And for those of you who haven't read the comments, the fabulous Holly came up with this killer Query Checklist, modeled off the few sentences I shared about 13 Reasons Why:
"1) Premise: who is this about (in this case, teenage guy named Clay)
2) Inciting incident: what happens to Clay to rock his world (tape arrives on door)
3) Conflict: What does the inciting incident make the MC do? (find out why she recorded tapes and killed herself)
4) Character motivation: Why does the inciting incident make the MC do #3 (because she was the one girl he loved)
If set up well, this is enough information to hook me!"
YES! This is, point by point, what I would love to see in every query. And that is such an awesome, concise list. Thanks, Holly!
The other thing a lot of you mentioned is the dreaded "I am so close to my characters and story that I am inclined to over-share because OMG I LOVE THEM and want to tell you everything" curse.
As far as writing problems go, I think this is actually a pretty great one. Passion is a much looked for, much loved quality in writers--not only because it means you love your work and will promote the heck out of it, but because it generally means you are passionate about writing itself, and thus very dedicated to continue practicing the craft.
So. I love that you love your story. Trust me, agents want to love it, too. But knowing everything up front rarely (if ever) garners that response. That passion that you have, the same one you want agents to have, comes by hooking and luring.
I have a weird metaphor for this. You know the claw-machines with the stuffed animals inside? Those things ate my allowance every month when I was a kid. My mom frequently reminded me that I could go *buy* a stuffed animal for the kind of money I was blowing. But that wasn't the point. The point was that I wanted to win it. I wanted to feel like I had wanted it, and worked for it, and then won.
Overall, that's how you want readers (and agents) to feel about your book--you want them to develop a personal relationship with the story. Readers should start by caring about the characters, and once they do, have to struggle through the inciting incident with them, so that when the story ends, they feel they have earned the ending through the emotional investment they made with the character/story. And for an agent, that bonding process begins with the query. An overview of the whole story is not going to accomplish what a connection to the main character or the plot set-up will. Agents have to want to invest themselves in the story.
Samantha C. cited an excellent piece of advice from the always amazing Kristin Nelson: write a query based on the first fifty pages of your story. That number of pages should cover a connection to the character, as well as the set-up for the main problem/incident your character will face.
And as a thank you for the thoughtful comments/love you've been showing the blog, we have a giveaway for you!
Also because it is Monday, and this seems like a good way to cure any Monday blues. We'll try to brighten up many more of your Mondays in the future with more free books :)
Today, we have The Writer's Little Helper, by James V. Smith, Jr. It's filled with great checklists, Q&As, and tools for your writing.
To win, leave a comment! It does not have to be about anything in particular. Although if you wanted to share what you were spending all of your allowance on while I spent every last quarter trying to hook stuffed animals, I'd love to hear.
Well, every quarter I had leftover from book-shopping, anyways. A girl has to have priorities.
*Enter the contest by midnight Wednesday (tomorrow) night!