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Queries: God's Revenge

Queries are God’s way of saying, “I’m not done playing tricks with the human race.”  Let’s face it, take a 400-page book and distill it down into one page?  Capture both the humor and pathos, the brilliant revelations and tragic stumbles?

Imagine Omelet, a novel:  A depressed, perhaps crazed Dane whose father’s died of suspicious circumstances discovers that his mother has married his uncle who is implicated in the death of his father particularly after his father’s ghosts tells him he was killed by his brother—Hamlet’s uncle.  Moping around the castle incapable of making decisions and succumbing to long, self-flagellating monologues, Hamlet is either crazy or pretending to be crazy to take revenge—that is if he can find the energy to take revenge.

His girl friend, Ophelia tries to help, is rebuffed, and told to go a nunnery.  After demonstrating that she too can go crazy, she decides against the nunnery—apparently not a good Christian girl, and she jumps off a tree into a river and drowns herself. Her brother vows revenge.  Her father gives useless advice.

Hamlet stages a play wherein he’ll catch the conscience of the king—the new king, his uncle.  He overdoes it.  His uncles exits, stage left, howling.  Then Hamlet has his two best friends killed, and Tom Stoppard writes an award-winning play from their perspective.

Hamlet confronts his mother in what comes close to an incestuous encounter but the censors won’t let the author take the scene far enough to provide an answer.

Then Hamlet and Ophelia’s brother duel, but Hamlet doesn’t know that the brother’s sword is secretly dipped in poison.  Hamlet is wounded.  A fight ensues and they switch swords and the brother is wounded.  Hamlet then stabs the king.  The mother drinks wine laced with poison that was intended for Hamlet.  Anyone of substance at this point is dead or dying.

Hamlet’s last words: “The rest is silence.”

Be honest—if you were an agent, would you represent this book?   (Actually, told this way, it’d make a great comedy, so, sure, you’d take it on as a comedy, but as a tragedy?  Nah.)  Now that I think of it, maybe I should write the book.

The point is, queries may make agents' lives easier because they only have to read one page—but they tell you virtually nothing about the book.  I’ll bet they already know that.

And don’t even get me started on synopses. 

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I often think that queries and synopsis tell you more about the writer and their style than the book. They exist simply to get the agent or editor to respond with a "send it to me." While they may not seem fair there has to be some way of controlling the avalanche of material that falls upon the agent and/or editor's head. We write in such isolation that we forget there are hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of writers who are doing the same thing--and all believe their work is brilliant and worthy of publiciation.

If an agent doesn't particularly like the type of novel you are proposing, isn't it better to know within a few weeks or a month than possible months or a year? The response time is vastly more rapid than waiting on an answer to sample chapters or a full book.

In fact, I might suggest that a query or synopsis is a challenge for the writer to convey so much more than the plot in order to convey the essence of the book, the writer, the style and still provide an honest rendition of the actual manuscript so there are no weird surprises when you do get the coveted "Yes, send it."

I know you're right. Agents are flooded. I just feel like I'm not capturing the essence of the book in the query...of course, I may be doing it just fine, but it takes 100 queries to get a positive response. I was just being cranky. LOL

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