Write a query before you're done with the book?

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Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby Ermo » 26 Apr 2010, 15:45

So, Nathan's latest contest got me thinking - would I really want to write a query for a book that isn't finished? I've never written a query before and I figured I'd jump through that agent-required hoop when I got there. Now, though, I'm wondering if maybe it would be beneficial to write that query. I feel like maybe I'd learn something about the potential of the book if I forced myself to write a query... or not. What do you guys/gals/polymath (I kid) think? What do you do?
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby Robin » 26 Apr 2010, 16:09

I have wondered the same thing. Is it alright to query an agent prior to finishing the manuscript?
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby bronwyn1 » 26 Apr 2010, 16:14

I heard that was a no-no, because if the agent asks for a partial/full and you don't have a partial or a full that's completely edited and sparkling then...that would be bad.

However, with non-fiction (non-narrative, i.e. not memoirs), querying without a completed MS is okay. You just need a proposal for the agent.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby polymath » 26 Apr 2010, 17:07

I do compose something similar to a query, at least a part of it before I've started/drafted/rewritten/finished a story, short or long. It's a pitch, a brief encapsulation of a story's central action, also known as a dramatic premise, an insuperable moral dilemma, a log line in Hollywood parlance, and handsful of other terms I've encountered. Doing so really helps get to the core meaning of a story's inspiration, gives me an insight for estimating how long the resulting story will be, and gives me a point of focus to stay on track. The essential elements I expect from a pitch are a larger-than-life character suffering an insuperable dilemma in a dramatic context confronting a life-defining complication. Character, plot, setting, stakes, and motivations, introductions purposed to engage audience rapport.

I don't submit a query before completing a work though, which I think agrees with the motivation behind the topic question.

I also write or mentally compose pitches of existing published works for practice.

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Last edited by polymath on 26 Apr 2010, 17:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby otherside89girl » 26 Apr 2010, 17:08

I've also always heard you should NOT query before you finish the manuscript. You shouldn't be rushed during the editing/polishing process. When an agent requests to see your manuscript, it should be ready to hand over.

I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to practice writing queries though. Just don't send them out until you're done.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby A.M.Kuska » 26 Apr 2010, 18:11

It isn't in your best interest to query with an incomplete or unpolished manuscript. First off, you don't need their services until the book is complete. That's like going to the ER when you're perfectly healthy or entering in the kentucky derby without a horse. If you send them a rough draft, the agent is going to assume you're a bad writer. Or your sloppy. Either way you probably won't get representation.

That being said, I do write the query before I begin the book. My reasoning is simple. If I write the rough draft of the query first, I am a step ahead when I get ready to send out. Also, if I can't hook myself with the story idea when it is still new and exciting, why bother writing the book at all?

I don't, of course, send the letter until the manuscript is complete. (And by the time I finish the novel the query letter usually needs quite a bit of tweaking anyway.)
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby Quill » 26 Apr 2010, 18:12

I think it is a great idea to write a query before writing the book and I know of at least one author who does so, just to test the premise. It can be useful as something to write to, mini-outline, if you will: hook, line, and sinker.

And no, for fiction it is expected that the manuscript is as good as one can make it before querying any agents.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby A.M.Kuska » 26 Apr 2010, 18:12

We must have posted at the same time Quill, but you said it better than me.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby Margo » 26 Apr 2010, 18:42

Writing a query prior to finishing the ms and submitting that query before finishing the ms is a fail with every agent I have ever spoken to (and all those I have ever known to address the topic in a blog).

Writing a query for the purpose of improving your focus while you write is a great idea. I recently tried it myself and found it very useful. I will not be submitting said query until the ms is finished and revised.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby FK7 » 26 Apr 2010, 19:12

Robin wrote:I have wondered the same thing. Is it alright to query an agent prior to finishing the manuscript?


This is a HUGE no-no. Gigantic, Jupiter sized no-no, unless you're writing non fiction. For 90% of agents, querying a non finished fiction project is often an instant rejection. This has been discussed over many, many agent blogs.

Writing a query before the MS is finished (as in revisions are all done), in my humble opinion, is helpful. It's a truth usually acknowledged that writing a good query requires a different skill set than writing a novel, so you might as well better yourself as you revise your MS over the few months you'll be perfecting it. Writing a nice query can also improve your own writing.

My 2¢
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby JustineDell » 27 Apr 2010, 07:45

Listen to the masses. Agents prefer (and most state this in their submissions guidelines) that the manuscript be done.

However, I have a book that's halfway done and I've started to work on the query. That part takes time, you know. LoL. But I wouldn't dare send it out until my book was done and polished so bright it blinded you.

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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby Matthew MacNish » 27 Apr 2010, 08:33

Writing the query and sending it out are obviously two different animals, but I don't think that's what you meant. Writing a query - or at least a pitch - ahead of time could help. I've never done it but I can't see how it could hurt.
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby mojo25 » 27 Apr 2010, 08:50

I always worked on the query while I'm writing the ms--tweaking, changing as the ms changes etc. And having it semi-ready comes in handy when there's a contest like this one. I wouldn't send it to an agent...just in case they like it and want to see the full right away!
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby FK7 » 27 Apr 2010, 12:26

mojo25 wrote:I always worked on the query while I'm writing the ms--tweaking, changing as the ms changes etc. And having it semi-ready comes in handy when there's a contest like this one. I wouldn't send it to an agent...just in case they like it and want to see the full right away!


I do (and think) the exact same thing, for the exact same reasons! :)
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Re: Write a query before you're done with the book?

Postby charlotte49ers » 27 Apr 2010, 12:29

I've got queries for both of my WIPs because it helps me to really focus in on the bare bones of my plot. Plus, they are kind of an art in and of themselves, so I want a lot of time to work on it.

I think this is what you were asking, right? Not about sending it out. I'm a while from that point! :D
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