So you can read my books

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


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

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution

Yesterday, 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.

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


  1. Lots of information, thanks!

    I never considered why TV puts out the junk it does...cause it's free! Well, not really. Not anymore....but that's another discussion :)

    I loved that point, though. People have to pay for the written word. They're gonna want their money's worth and we should always be aware of that.

  2. Words Crafter : Yes, TV isn't quite free. Cable costs. But individual programs do not cost us, so it is much as if they are free since we do part with money at the time we view them.

    I think that TV studio's have contempt for the intelligence of their audience. I wish nothing but success in your publication dreams of 2011! Roland

  3. Thank you Roland; you so frequently amaze me.

    I honestly believe my novel will not "bore or depress" anyone. Well, the depress part, maybe just a little. Just enough to make a person think . .

    As this has given me plenty of food for thought, and a new perspective on the content of my query. I'm still tweaking on it. I'm sure I'll get there.

    Thanks for all your assistance.


  4. Donna : I hoped the post did help in some small way.

    Summer : Thanks for liking my take on writing a query. It meant a lot coming from you.

  5. Agent-ese, that's a new one on me! I wonder if there's an Agent-ese For Dummies book?

    I never thought of a query as a map but that's a great piece of advice. I'll have to keep that in mind when I start sending them out in a month or so.

  6. Amanda : If there were AGENT-ESE FOR DUMMIES, I would have a dog-earred copy on my bookshelf, and that's for sure. I will wish you luck next month when you start sending out queries. I would be glad to look over your query for you if you would like. Have a great New Year's Eve! Roland

  7. A M.A.P. to a query, this is exactly what I needed right now! Thank you so much!

  8. thanks for sharing this !! Have a wonderful new year!

  9. Heather : Your positive, "can-do" attitude is inspiring. I wish you success in all your queries!

    Flying High In The Sky : Thanks for enjoying my little post. May you, also, have a great and wonderful New Year!

  10. More pearls of wisdom strung by the master.

    As you can see I am playing catch up. I need to cut and paste all of these fantastic insights for reference later.

    One of my happiest days blogging was finding your site.

    Thank you for your time.