Friday, May 7, 2010

Query Creation Methods For the Truly Desperate

I haven't been doing a lot of editing, lately, because I've felt pretty uncreative and preoccupied in general. This and upcoming finals are my excuse for lack of blog posts. I do feel pretty bad about it all and am trying to pull things together.

However, in the meantime when I wasn't doing all the stuff I should, I was working on my query. I've been working on this same query for at least twelve months, if not more. My "MIRRORPASS Query" folder has 23 documents--most of them complete rewrites of previous versions. To wit, I fail.

I'm not sure how this happened either. I mean, I know the rules of queries. I know what makes a good hook and how they sound. Plus, I've summarized my novel so many zillion times, that I am 100% certain of it's main themes, plot points, and climax. I'm a writer. I should be able to do this!

And yet--23 horrible, bloated, oblique queries sit inside the folder like so many dead fish on a line. They stink. I can smell them from here. When looking them over, I feel such an immense desperation.

I used to put them up on AW for crits, but that only seemed to make it worse. Don't get me wrong--I've gotten some very thoughtful comments that should be helpful. Except when reviewing them, I find myself realizing there's no way to resolve the issue that's been highlighted, except by starting completely over. It all sums up to the same thing: this doesn't work. Back to the drawing board.

Every three weeks or so, I open a new document, and start a new query. I find myself saying the exact things I've said before. I try to find a new way to say them, a new angle, a fresh slant. I try recombining old statements to try and make them mesh better. Maybe when I open it the next morning, it will have something work working on. Most of the time, I open it to find it's the same skunk poo I've written before.

Let me tell you a few of the things I've tried:

  • Writing the query in first-person, using my characters voice. (This didn't work so great since MIRRORPASS is in third person anyway.)
  • Posting on AW and making every change a critter suggests
  • Starting with the action
  • Starting with backstory
  • Focusing on each of the three main plotlines (Aria needs to find her crystal, Aria needs to find her twin, Aria needs to get them all home)
  • Focusing on two or more of the main plotlines
  • Focusing on subplots (Aria and the investigative report, Aria and her discovery of self)
  • Focusing on a mix of subplots and main plots
  • Making up new plotlines to focus on, because maybe there's something wrong with the novel?
  • Focusing on NASA as the villian
  • Focusing on DARPA as the villian
  • Focusing on a combination of made-up plots, subplots, main plots, backstory, and action, with both NASA and DARPA as villians, or neither, or just one
  • Writing queries en masse in the hopes one will turn out half decent

You see, I really have tried everything. My current experiment--and the one that seems to be faring best--is hunting through all my queries for the very best beginning sentence, then searching for the very best next sentence, and writing a query that way.

I mean, each query usually has a good nugget, it's the rest that's like skunk poo. So smart me, I decided to harvest the nuggets. I started out of desperation, but as stated before, it seems to be my best idea so far.

I'm also pretty sure there's other people who struggle as much as me when it comes to queries. Share! Make me feel like less of a wuss! I'd love to hear any tips on how you guys managed your query writing process.

Truly and always,

-Creative A


Donna (Bites) said...

Sounds like you're defeated so no matter what you write, you're going to think it's going to suck. There comes a time when you need to stop getting advice from others and settle with a query, otherwise you're never going to have one.

With mind I just put my foot down on the fourth critique of my query. I think I have the good points highlighted, the main story focused and I'm moving on. I could keep putting the thing up and every single time someone will find something wrong with it. Eventually you just have to stop. It's never going to be perfect to everyone.

Find the plotline you think hooks the best and go with that. But 12 months for a query is a little much. Time to put that foot down.

Beth said...

Um, my official opinion on this is, HOLY CRAP YOU'RE READY TO WRITE A QUERY!? I bow to your superior writer abilities. Um, as far as advice goes, I hope some people more experienced than me can help you, cause I'm useless :P

Creative A said...

Hey Donna,

Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I appreciate the kick in the butt. I should clarify that it hasn't literally been the same exact query this whole time, that I have been writing new queries. And I haven't had all of them critted or used all such critiques.

However, I do agree with you, I feel there is a time when I'll have to just put my foot down and go with it. I think I've been sticking it out this far because I don't need the query yet. I still have plenty of editing to do before submissions. So, plenty of time to be working on my query as it comes to me.

When that time comes, however, I definitely plan to finalize this one way or another.


Anonymous said...

"Writing the query in first-person, using my characters voice."

You can do that? Because my story is in 1st Person and I found it impossible to inject the right voice in query. But if I can write some of it in first person then....

Thank you for the heads-up!

Creative A said...

Hey Dorkvader! Seems helpful Blogger never posted my response to your comment, so I apologize. I got a kick out of it :D Everything is helpful at this point!

Ralfast--I should point out that writing in first person was an exercise I saw on a blog; the blogger suggested doing it to nail down your voice/story, and then just switch the first person references back to third afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Oh, well that sunk my ship. Well, I'll see what I can do with it.

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