Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Queries suck and no two authors can share voice

By its very definition, two authors cannot share the same "voice." As a result, I sort of cringe when another aspiring writer tells me that their re-wording of a sample sentence of mine shows more voice. It's simply not possible. That's like saying "My eggnog tastes better than yours," when I don't even have eggnog.

All that leads up to this: I believe, at a very fundamental level, the whole query an agent process is flawed beyond repair. You can have a thousand hands craft what they all agree is a stellar query letter, and it can (and will) fail--fall flat--and go nowhere because of "too many cooks spoil the soup," and the simple fact that each agent is completely different. As a result of the agent's differences, one query aimed at Agent #1 might look awesome, but the same query sent to Agent #2 that agent might think it to be trite, stupid, long winded, boring, and stuffy--causing them to pass. And if Agent #1 isn't interested either, for whatever reason, all you managed to do was craft a carefully worded query that nobody likes except those that wrote it.

This is why, I believe, that TOR/Forge doesn't do the "query shuffle," as I call it, and simply asks you to send the first 50 pages of your manuscript. I think, at one point, they "got it," and decided to side-step the craziness in favor of becoming the world's largest publisher of science fiction. Their success cannot be denied.

If you've seen my previous query, you know it was a bit long winded (about 200 words), and after hitting up AbsoluteWrite, they (those who desired to help) pared it down to the following:

Dear <--whomever it's aimed at-->:

Sixteen-year-old Locarno just wants to study magic with his grandfather.

But he will become much more than a mere sorcerer when a secret society decides the time has come to destroy mankind.

Disobeying his grandfather, Locarno finds a magical ritual in a book of sorcery that promises to enhance his occult powers and grant him eternal life. With it, he'll be able to save all that he loves.

Only one problem...it will cost him his soul.

MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, a young adult/fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

They're trying to convince me that this, somehow, has more "voice" than what I use; which violates the rule that two authors cannot share the same voice. "Voice," just so you know, is the style in which a writer produces his work--the way it reads, flows, the dialect, cadence of words, all that is his "voice." "Mood" is a separate thing entirely, and is independent of voice. Two people, who did not share identical lives and learning, cannot share voice: this is axiom. So, when someone tells you they wrote (or re-wrote) your proposal and it shows more "voice" than yours...they're full of shit.

Not. Possible. Ever.

At one point, you can ask for help, but their help often will just muddy the waters further. Being brief is one thing (just look at the query they have written), but what does it tell you about the story? There's a kid, he's studying to be a sorcerer, and there's this secret society that wants to destroy the world; and he has to save everyone--at the cost of his soul.

At first glance, yes, this is a thirty-second synopsis of the story. Anything more? Not really. There's nothing there, and what is there certainly isn't my voice. It's their voice. And their voice is wrong, I had to pare out a sentence that wasn't even correct about the character. (I can't blame them, they haven't read the story and know only some bare facts about it.)

Then the AW folks even go so far as to say "if you can't write a good query, your manuscript or story is lacking."

Bullshit. If you read my story, it makes sense. Not one person who has actually took the time to read it had any issues other than easily corrected and overlooked grammatical errors. The story works.

Therefore, it is simply that queries are bullshit. The best one can do is write one good query, one you write, not someone else, and hope it displays power, strength, and your voice...all of which will cause the agent to say "Hey, I think I can sell this."

That's the key.

I'll use their stripped naked query for five agents/agencies. This will be the test. I predict failure equal to that of my previous attempts. And in the end, I believe, I will have only proven what I've just written: two (or more) authors cannot share voice.

1 comment:

  1. I posted that on my Facebook a while ago. Since then...it has gained itself a whopping zero interest. But there's time. Meanwhile, I'm still klunking away at it, putting it up for review--and getting the same "let's pare it down to nothing" point of view.

    Right now, my opinion of absolutewrite.com's Query Letter Hell forum is that they don't know what they're doing.

    Let's see if they can redeem themselves.

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