- Research agents
- Send query ONLY to agents who represent what you write
- DO NOT query on a book that's not complete
- DO NOT write every agent you are querying in the TO line
- DO NOT say that your kids/grandkids/parent/neighbor love your book
- DON'T say which agents/editors have turned you down and quote their rejections. Even if they are glowing, they're still rejections.
1st paragraph—Some agents want you to jump right into the synopsis of your story. Jill prefers to know why you are querying her upfront, so include short, precise and true reasons why you are querying her. This is where researching agents come in.
2nd (and possibly 3rd) paragraph—write 2 - 10 sentence synopsis of your story. Agents want to know:
- Title of your manuscript
- Is it a picture book, middle grade, chapter book, young adult?
- Genre: fantasy, contemporary, romance, historical
- Age of your main character
- What is your protagonist's problem
- If important, the setting
- Mention any previously published work, include name of publisher and year of publication. Don't mention self-pubished books unless you have sold 10,000 copies or more.
- Well-known and respected magazines like Highlights or Cricket mags. count. Little known e-zines don't make much difference
- Mention legitimate awards and honors
- If you have an MFA, mention it.
- Include any expertise that relate to your book ie. if you're writing a book on Greece and you're an anthropologist who's worked in Greece etc.
- Any membership info. such as SCBWI.
Martha Alderson's Definition of Plot:
Plot is a series of scenes deliberately arranged by cause and effect to create Dramatic Action. These scenes are filled with conflict that furthers the Character Emotional Development toward transformation. When the dramatic actions changes the character at depth over time, the story means something or becomes Thematically Significant.
Some important terms:
- Protagonist—defined by who is changed by the dramatic action
- Antagonist—Anyone or anything impeding the protagonist reaching his/her goal
- Goal—something tangible, concrete, measurable
- Climax—protagonist can do whatever he/she wasn't able to do before. It's the part where the protagonist finally triumphs over the antagonist
Flaws, hates, and fears are good plot builders. If your story drags, put your character in a situation where he is confronted by his flaws, hates and fears.
I have Martha's DVD, Blockbuster Plots, and find it extremely helpful in breaking down the plotting process. She also explains the different plot points in a clear, visual manner using Gennifer Choldenko's middle grade, Al Capone Does my Shirts, as an example.