June 28, 2011

Pitch Perfect Pain: The Battle of the Query Letter

I write for a living. I possess a graduate degree in professional communication. If you need a training manual, marketing copy, business letter, or resume written, I'm your woman.

BUT...there's one aspect of writing that jerks me to a halt. Like a towering concrete wall, I struggle to surmount the task of writing that perfect query letter to an agent.

Now for some of my readers, the term query means setting criteria to retrieve a subset of data from a database. Those are easy, let me tell you.

The queries I refer to are letters written to agents persuading them to say, "Yes! Send me your wonderful novel. I'm dying to read it."

I got most of my job interviews by artfully spinning words in a cover letter, so you would think the query letter would be no problem. Alas, I wish it were so. Writers spend their precious free moments toiling at the keyboard, creating worlds of wonder and imagination. The minimum length of a novel is 75,000 words. My fantasy novel is around 104,000 words, but in the query letter, I have to give a persuasive taste of that world in one short 100-200 word paragraph. One short, punchy paragraph that seizes the agent with excitement and interest.

Argh! It plagues me. It frustrates me. If only they could see my pages...If only they would let me send the actual manuscript. Gone are those days when writers printed pages, boxed it up, and mailed it to a potential agent. We get one short email to grab the agent's attention and make them say yes.

And still I try...

One day, I WILL succeed.  Meanwhile, I know other writers suffer and fight the same battle.

Query on, dear friends, query on!

June 16, 2011

The Compelling Power of Nature

Decapitated tree
Thunder droned in the distance.  Heavy clouds darkened the horizon, and neon-bright streaks of lightning cracked the sky.  We urged the dog to hurry up with his business, so we could seek comfort and shelter inside.  The rising storm distracted him, but we did get him inside before the monster hit.

Monster might sound strong for a thunderstorm, but this storm struck with vicious fury.  Wind shoved trees into horizontal bows, and I peered out the window praying the pine tree's shallow roots would cling to the earth.  Towering above the house, the pine tree struggled against the onslaught, bending further than imaginable.  A loud crack threatened disaster and I dashed away from the window, bracing for the impact on our house.  Remarkably the tree didn't fall, but later we discovered another tree in our back yard sheared in half, maybe struck by lightning.

That's NOT snow...it's hail!
Not to be outdone by the gusting wind, hail pummeled the yard and house. Parts of our yard disappeared under a white coating, the clatter of stones against the house deafening.  I couldn't help but stand at the window and stare in astonished wonder at nature's furious power.  The houses across the street disappeared in the heavy downpour of rain and hail.

After the worst of the storm subsided, we ventured outside to view the damage and snap pictures.  As incredible a storm as it was, the local news later reported that no one was injured.

A few hours later, piles of hail remain
I've never experienced a tornado or hurricane, and I find it hard to fathom a stronger storm than this one, but the power behind this storm gave me a taste of the adrenaline rush that compels storm chasers to risk their lives.  I get it now...I think.