Resolution. A decision, mental state, or determination to resolve.
Resolve. To convert or transform by any process, through firmness of intent.
Where is your book going? How does your protagonist develop? How will the conflict be righted?
These are the questions you should ask yourself as you begin to write the third and final part of your query body.
Let’s re-cap the three elements to a successful query.
- The Hook – Why should the reader (in this case the agent) read on?
- The Conflict – What drama happens in the book?
- The Resolution – Where will it all end?
Before looking at your resolution and slap-happily giving everything away, remember: the query is not the synopsis.
We have to whet the reader’s appetite. Why would they want to read on if you’ve already laid everything out on the line?
Once again, I urge you all to approach the resolution like the back jacket of a book…so hop to your bookshelves…
“But beyond the court is a man who dares to challenge the power of her family to offer Mary a life of freedom and passion. If only she has the courage to break away – before the Boleyn enemies turn on the Boleyn girls…” – The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.
“One Choice can transform you.” – Divergent by Veronica Roth.
“But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?” – Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard.
“Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assasins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the Game of Thrones.” – You must be hiding under a rock if you don’t know what this one is.
So…all four are effective resolutions, but they all seem so different. What, exactly, do you put in that final paragraph?
The resolution can be a tough one, but though all four examples above seem very different, they actually do have a few things in common.
- Each paragraph feels like the protagonist(s) come to a crossroads – one path leads to some sort of Hallelujah moment, and the other to their destruction. This can be a mental state or literal destruction. No, not every book has a nuclear bomb about to go off, but every book should have some sort of journey. Personal, literal, it doesn’t matter. Eventually there is always a choice. There will always be a crossroads, and the choice made at said crossroads will always determine the outcome of the book.
- The stakes are clearly defined – if x does not happen, y will occur. Well, Divergent doesn’t directly state the stakes, but we get the feeling that a trans-formative choice needs to take place.
- All four are moreish. They whet the reader’s appetite, giving a glimpse into what might happen without giving anything away.
Pulling your hair out? I know. Take a deep, cleansing breath. I don’t think I can say it enough: the query is more important than the book. You need to take your time. Research the right agents. Construct your letter effectively.
There are a few excellent resources to help you find the right agent.
Number 3 is my personal favorite. Ensure that you purchase the most updated version – a new list is published every year…and DOUBLE CHECK THE LISTED AGENT’S WEBSITE FOR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! No attachments means no attachments. They want a synopsis, you send a synopsis. First 10 pages, means first 10 pages!
Once you have your agents (which should number above 20), it’s time to construct your letter.
You’ve probably read about personalization in query letters, well so have I. But I’ve also read conflicting instructions when talking about personalization, so – if you feel inclined – follow my how-to below.
How To Personalize your query letter:
These are the ONLY scenarios where personalization is a good idea:
- You met the agent at a writer’s conference (sorry, if you happen to be said agent’s barista at Starbuck’s, I wouldn’t mention it).
- Another agent recommended that you send your query to said agent. This is called a referral (in this case, DO NOT LIE. Agent’s talk to each other…A LOT. It’s best to supply the recommendation e-mail at the very end of your query…as in, after the sample pages etc. I would mention that you’ve included said e-mail).
- A book/author they represent absolutely changed your life (for the better…no mentions of swirling jealousy and a trip to rehab please!)
How NOT to Personalize your query letter:
- “I really wanted to submit to you because I thought you might like my work” – Duh. Said agent assumes you’ve already done your research and your homework, so there’s no need to state the obvious. You don’t get extra marks for finding out who they represent etc.
- “You like sci-fi, and this is the best sci-fi you’ll ever read” – Nope. See my post on The Author Ego. LEAVE IT AT THE DOOR!
- “You’ll want to jump on this, it’s a new best-seller!” – If I were an agent, I’d pass out of spite. Luckily for everyone, I’m not an agent.
So, unless some chance or contrived encounter fell under the HOW TO menu above, forget personalization *hands out tissues to mop up nervous sweat*. Relax. There’s a formula!
Here it is!
- Dear (insert agent’s actual name, not Dear Agent…and be professional. Use their last name and SPELL IT CORRECTLY)
- Immediately jump into THE HOOK
- Continue onto THE CONFLICT
- You got it…THE RESOLUTION
- New paragraph: *Insert book title in CAPS here*, is a work of *Insert genre here*, complete at *Insert wordcount here*.
- Continue with: It is *Insert comp title here* meets *insert another comp title/tv show* (you can flourish a bit here and add on things like: In a style similar to *insert author’s name* with a twist of *some other fanciful thing that sets your book apart), it will appeal to a *insert genre again* audience ages *insert your best guess here*.
- Optional paragraph: Biography. Note. ONLY WRITE A BIO IF YOUR BIO IS RELEVANT. Don’t mention that you’re a dad, or a mom, or that you live wherever. Only mention the following: If your writing has won any awards, if you have ever been paid to write, if you have ever been paid to edit. If money has never been exchanged for your work, then it’s not relevant. The agent wants to see if others found your work pay-worthy. Keep the bio simple. I have a degree in *BA here*, with a passion for *insert genre related passion*.
- New Paragraph: Below, please find the *insert what the agent requested in their submission guidelines* pasted below the body of this letter for your perusal.
- New paragraph: “I truly hope to hear from you soon, and look forward to potentially working together in the future.”
- New Paragraph:
All that being said, as this is the third and final installment of The Dreaded Query, I decided to bite the bullet and come up with a query of my own to share with you all. A round of applause to all my Twitter followers that were such great sports to participate over the last few months, but it’s time to bare my own manuscript. It’s only fair.
That being said, this series got me thinking about my own, even though I’m months away from being ready for the query stage, and I’ll probably re-work this a thousand times before I am, but here it is. My own Hook, Conflict, and resolution:
When angst-ridden Isa is suddenly freed from her subservient world, her life becomes one worth living. That is, until the Truth is revealed.
She is the Reaper. Tainted. The unwilling piece to the puzzle of Earth’s survival. But Isa can barely control her own anger, never mind her new found power. It’s going to take a miracle to pull it off, and her reluctant protector agrees.
Brandt doesn’t believe Earth can be saved. He’s just along for the ride, honor bound to keep Isa alive though his life is already over.
So when the past has destroyed the present, and the future remains unknown, betrayal rises from the depths of Perditio, extinguishing the flame of hope that has been kindling in the hearts of those already enlightened with the Truth.
Will Isa cave beneath the pressure? Or will the strong, powerful Reaper that she has to become rise from the ashes of the girl she once was?
Until next time, I can always be found on the Twittersphere! @Maria_Tureaud
Thanks for tuning in!