Manuscript presentation & query letters

Today I’m a much happier bunny with the sections I am reviewing for Writers’ Workshop. The Final Polish is littered with pictures, bullet points, bolds, subheadings and linked references to good resources. And the golden component – examples.

I am a little disappointed that the punctuation guide doesn’t drive through a couple of points, however:

  • that every writer has their own style and use of punctuation; variety is good, and so long as you check that your usage is correct, it’s okay if you don’t use semi-colons with the dedication of Ruth Rendell
  • whatever you choose to do, once you get an agent and a publisher they will want to imprint all their punctuation idiosyncrasies on your document anyway

The Perfect Literary Agent Query Letter

I’m quite amused to see “brevity” on the list given yesterday’s review, but this section does live up to all of its own advice, which is solid. Alas, it’s somewhat let down at the end with a link to other advice which turns out just to take the happy clicker to the home page – which is probably how they accessed this section in the first place.

Sample Literary Agent Query Letter

This I’m more dubious of. It starts off really well, but there is only one query letter and when I read it I stop, frown, reread it, shake my head and finish unconvinced. This is why:

It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman“…

This innoculus line completely threw me because the name has not previously been introduced. It may seem obvious to the writer who Fiona Griffiths is, but I have been presented with only the information that

  • it’s a police procedural
  • a young woman and her daughter have been found dead
  • a millionaire died in a plane crash some months previously

My guess is that Fiona Griffiths is the young woman who is dead, but if the murder is not the heart of the book’s mystery, the dead woman might not be neither. Fiona could be the daughter, a police detective or the millionaire.

This kind of confusion is definitely something I would want to avoid in a query letter. It doesn’t make the reader intrigued as to who Fiona Griffiths is – it annoys them that her name has been thrown in at random. So my advice? Think carefully about your assumed knowledge of the book as you write your query letter and synopsis and ask someone whom you have never mentioned your novel to to read it through and comment!

As the article points out, query letters are not the be all and end all. The novel is, so a few mistakes will be easily forgotten, but don’t get blaise!


About RowenaFW

I am a Fish. But you wouldn't know it just from looking at me.
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