So you can read my books

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


A few days ago, I wrote how to get a good story ...

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution

Last Thursday, I wrote how you got a GREAT story ...

G ..... Goal

A ..... Adversay

S ..... Sex

Today, I let you in on what you need to write a winning query ...

M ..... Mission

A ..... Answers

P ..... Passion

I. First, a broad view of M.A.P. :

A.) A MAP is a visual medium ... like fiction and a query themselves.

B.) To get anywhere using a map, it must be clear to the eye, to the mind.

C.) If the agent can't "see" your novel clearly from your query,
you're in trouble.

1.) If your prose is so muddled that your agent can't see it in her mind,
the odds are your novel's prose and plot are muddled as well.

2.) An unclear idea of your novel means the reject button from the agent.

D.) What does a Map do for you as you drive?

1.) Shows you where you are. (In the query, it gives the agent your MC's start.

2.) Shows you where you where you want to go. (In the query, it gives the novel's end.

3.) Indicates the best way to get to your destination. (In the query, it gives the agent a brief idea of how your MC gets from the start of the novel to the climax. It also lets the agent know you have a blueprint for your story.)

E.) A MAP gives broad strokes.

1.) Condenses. Miles become inches. Cities becomes dots.

2.) Few details -- no descriptions of the fluffy bunnies, or the angst of the teen MC, or the unsavory dietary habits of the adversary.


When you looked at the picture of the treasure map above, did you frown, going "what kind of language is that?"


If you write to a Frenchman, you use French. If you write a query to an agent, you must use agent-ese.

A.) We write the query backwards usually.

1.) We write what the textbooks say : a winning one page summary of the plot, putting down why we think the agent would be a good fit for our novel.

2.) WRONG!

B.) If you want to accomplish the mission of your query, you must be clear to what it is in the first place.

1.) What is your query's mission?


3.) How?


A.) Again, we get this word backwards.

B.) We think of answers to how to write a GREAT query.


D.) We have to ANSWER the AGENT'S QUESTIONS as she reads our query.

1.) Can I sell this story easily to any editors I know?

2.) Can the targeted editor sell this story easily to the PURCHASING DEPARTMENT of the publisher?

3.) Is there a mass audience for this story large enough that will convince the editor and the purchasing department that the returns will far outweigh the cost of this novel?

4.) Is this query so long it depresses my weary eyes?

*) How can we know the answers to those questions?


A.) Passion, not of your characters, not even of yourself, but in the minds and hearts of prospective readers.

B.) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

1.) I saw the TV ad for this movie as I walked across a hospital lobby today. Derivative and cliched. Generic beauty in mini-skirt. Generic Stud with flashing smile. Vampires who obligingly waited for the awkward leg sweep of heroine. Puh-lease.

2.) TV can get away with that because it's free. Books cost the reader hard cash money. Cliches are out. Hot, imaginative twists to popular themes are in.

C.) Imagine the book in your query is an audio book :

1.) Would your story, your MC and her obstacles be good company on a road trip?

2.) Would your story entertain or depress?

D.) Imagine reading this query to a hospitalized respected teacher or landlord or ill mother -- would they want to hear more?

E.) Look carefully at your brief query :

1.) Would your story make a stranger want to root for your heroine?

2.) Does your story and its outcome seem real or cardboard?

F.) It's hard to become passionate for a cause

1.) Donna wrote yesterday that her novel had no real adversary or antagonist.

2.) There always is one : inside the MC


A.) It wasn't Darth Vader or even the Emperor who were Luke's adversaries.

B.) Luke's enemy was his temptation to give in to anger, to abuse his skills.

A.) He is a man who has lost his way due to the Civil War long before he becomes lost on Mars.

B.) His healing comes from the love he discovers upon an alien planet.

I hope this has helped in some small way to help you craft a stronger query, Roland


  1. Answers - can I market and sell this book? You bet publishers and agents need to know that one. Everything in the world hangs on that answer.
    I think my query was M.E.S.S...

  2. Every author out on submission needs this map! Love it!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. so much to think about!

    so much blood sweat & tears for so many rejections!

  6. Alex :
    I tried to answer on my Kindle Fire due to a malfunction on my laptop -- my fingers are not made for teeny tiny keyboards!!

    Your query must have been a great M.E.S.S. because it worked!!

    And the bottom line to intrigue editors and agents is to make them believe this manuscript will be a best seller.

    Heather :
    Thank you for thinking so. I tried to make it like a blueprint to help the struggling writers out there.

    Tara :
    Yes, rejections certainly draw blood! We writers fail more often than we succeed. Ouch! Roland

  7. Love it. So great.

    Yes, the object of the query IS just to catch the agent's attention. I've seen so many query's where the author is trying to fit too much in--take one rockin angle and nail it, I say. Keep it clear, to the point, tight, and filled with tension.

    Such a fun post! :D

  8. I love when you write in outline! It's short, to the point, and always contains good info.

  9. This is fabulous. I never thought of looking at writing a query this way. When it comes time to do mine, I know this is really going to help. Thank you!

  10. Roland, I think you need to put all your helpful advice together in place, get it bound (preferably in leather) and sell it. You'd make a fortune.

    Fantastic post. Brilliantly executed. As always :)

  11. Oops ... I meant to say 'put all your helpful advice together in 'one' place.

    As you were :)

  12. Great advice. And I'm so looking forward to John Carter. I'll have to put a bug in my ex-hubby's ear to take me out :)


  13. Most definitely - excellent and clear advice!


  14. My query got 25 rejections. And one YES. It is such a crap shoot. But one that has to be done right. (=

  15. More great advice! I definitely think you should make all these tips into a book - I would buy it!

  16. M.A.P. - what a great analogy for writing a query!

    I’ve been slow in making my rounds, but I’m saying howdy from the YA campaign group.