I originally posted this on my blog, but with our recent Pitcharama event, I thought it would be great to share here with all of you as well.
I see a ton of queries. It’s the first thing I read with every submission that hits my inbox. With Query Kombat and Pitcharama, it was the first thing I read. What I’ve noticed from this is one thing:
People in general know how to write a strong query.
Writers have so many resources now that writing a good query is getting easier and easier. With critiques on blogs, in comps, from other writers, refining a query letter is almost as easy as 1,2,3. The queries I see most of the time have the rules down; a hook, the meat of the story, and the stakes. I think once these are clear, your query is ready to go, and I also think a query can be over critiqued, so be careful of that.
Good job to all the writers out there!
Now for the first page/250 words.
This is another thing entirely. This portion of the manuscript, for me, is what sells the story. In this brief glimpse of what’s to come, I can see the style of the writer, the voice, and the world building. A first page that introduces me to the main character right away and lays down piece by piece the foundations of the world is more likely to pull me in to read more. If there is info dumping, passive voice (a little is fine because, let’s be honest, passive voice is a beast) and telling in that brief glimpse, it tells me the rest of the manuscript will be riddled with them.
Allow me to use an analogy. Think of it like this: You are building a house. You start off with a blue print to show what the home will eventually look like. This blue print is your query. You place your blue print down to provoke interest and to show what this home is going to look like.
Now, the foundations for the house need to be laid. A foundation of a house is usually dug out, concrete poured, etc so the house has something stable to rest on. Houses with poor foundations crumble or don’t last too long, right? But no one can see the foundation in the long run, even though it is essential to the house’s structure and integrity. Your first page/250 words is the foundation of the manuscript. It’s the first thing to be “laid out” and is needs to be strong, clear, and precise. The basics of the world need to be set out without anything fancy like use of unknown terms for the reader, and the main character needs to be established. In the long run, this opening becomes forgotten in the plot and character interactions, but without it being there, holding the story firmly grounded in the readers mind, the rest of the plot falls apart and the reader struggles to make sense of it, so ultimately sets it aside.
So make the foundation of your novel strong. Refine that first glimpse of your manuscript and follow that refining throughout the book. Give your reader something to love and want to curl up inside and know they are safe and cozy.
Good luck to you all xxx