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Show & Tell - The Evolution of a Query Letter

show and tell May 04, 2021

A query letter is a short piece of writing with a single purpose: to pique an agent’s attention enough that they will be interested in reading more—whether that’s the opening pages of your manuscript or your book proposal.

An agent should be able to skim your query to quickly answer these key 5 questions:

  1. Is this a genre I represent?
  2. Is this book within the word limit guidelines for this genre?
  3. Is this a subject matter or a story I am interested in learning more about?
  4. Does the query make it clear what the book is about?
  5. Does the author have the expertise to write this book?

Here’s one of my early query letter attempts:

Dear Ms. …

[Personalize letter for recipient]

Imagine the book Glennon Doyle might have written had she ignored the inner voice that whispered, “There she is” when she first encountered Abby Wambach. Imagine Glennon, a married, mid-fifties empty nester, hearing that voice again. Wondering if it’s too late to listen...

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Show & Tell: Beginnings Are Hard

show and tell Apr 16, 2021

Beginnings are important. Beginnings are hard.

Where to start your book? This is one of the most important—and hardest—decisions for a writer—particularly a memoir writer—to make.

My memoir, Graveyard of Safe Choices, has started in at least four different places. Let’s look at the opening scenes for my last two drafts.

The Draft I Thought Was Close-to-Final

I decided to start this draft with a brief prologue. In a future post, I’ll dig into the pros and cons of prologues, but suffice it to say for now, some agents/editors love prologues and some hate them.

The opening scene in this draft showed me in my early forties, standing at a literal crossroads during a spiritual pilgrimage. Nothing much happens in this scene, but I really liked the image and metaphor of the crossroads because that’s exactly where I would end up in the “real story.” The prologue also allowed me to get in some backstory so that when the reader got to the...

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