Last weekend I had a chat with Charlotte Rains Dixon as part of her free coaching sessions she so generously offered during the month of June. We discussed some concerns I was having doing my rewrite and generally where I was in the writing process. When I mentioned that I would recommend writing a query before doing a revision or a rewrite, Charlotte suggested that this topic would make a great blog post. I hope I do it justice.
I’d love to say that I was inspired to write my query early because of some deep insight about the writing, querying, and publishing processes, but I’m just not that clever. In truth it was because an online revision group I was a part of suggested doing query critiques for one another. I knew it would be a long time before I was ready to query–halfway through one revision, I realized I needed to seriously rethink my plotting–but not wanting to be left out of the fun, I researched what the heck a query was supposed to contain and composed a letter of my own. It turned out to be the stepping stone I needed to get my rewrite going in the right direction.
The basic elements of a query, as outlined in Elana Johnson’s wonderful ebook, are these: hook, set up, conflict, complication, and consequences. The last four of these are essential elements to guide a writer in shaping the general direction of a plot. The set up tells the reader the situation when the story begins. The conflict shows how things get more complicated and problematic. Finally, the consequences let the reader know what will happen if the protagonist does not accomplish his or her goals. It’s not a complete plot map, not by a long shot, but these elements are certainly a great jumping off point for plotting. A plot that does not contain these elements would be lacking indeed. For me, query writing turned out to be just what I needed at that stage. I plan on writing a tentative query for my next novel before I begin the draft, to ensure I have its elements in place.
A few other notes:
Charlotte Rains Dixon is offering a few classes coming up soon. They conflict with my schedule, but if anyone else is interested, check out the details on her blog!
I’m doing the Clarion Write-a-thon and so should you! It started back in June, but it runs through July 27th, so there’s still time to join and get some good writing in before it ends. Join and write to a goal of your choice, measured in words, chapters, or anything you like. Or if you’d rather support without writing, make a donation to support a writer you love and fund the Clarion Writers Workshop for next year. (P.S.: If you look at my profile, it looks like I don’t have anything written yet, because I chose to measure in chapters and I’m still working on the first one I’ve started since signing up, but I am working!)
As always, a partial translation is below. ¡Por favor, dígame si hay errores!
Revisiones y Cartas de Pregunta: ¡No Espere!
El fin de semana pasado, charlé con Charlotte Rains Dixon como una parte de sus sesiones de enseñanza particular gratis que ella ofreció muy generosamente para junio. Discutimos unas preocupaciones que yo tenía durante mi revisión y por donde me llegaba en el proceso de escritura. Cuando mencioné que yo recomendaría escribir una carta de pregunta antes de revisar o reescribir, Charlotte sugirió que este tema sería bueno para una entrada de blog. Espero que lo haya hecho bien.