I know many of us want to rush things. We want to “hurry up and get the book done.” Then we have to “hurry up and have people critique the book.” Then we have to “hurry up and write the query letter.”
Believe me, I’m a hurry-ier. But I’m here to tell you to stop. Or at least slow down. I think it’s pretty common knowledge that after you finish a novel, it needs to go through a “curing” stage where you don’t open it, read it or think about it. It just sits quietly on your hard drive while you do something else.
I’ve heard and read different amounts of time for this "curing", but I like to leave mine for about a month. Sometimes less, sometimes more depending on a myriad of factors. But it cures. Then you can open it up, and really edit the heck out of it, because it’s fresh as you’re reading it.
The same goes for a query letter. I’ve seen so many examples of talented, lovely people who post their query letters for critique. They get said critiques and come back in, literally, hours with a revamp.
To me, that’s a #queryfail.
You need to let the query cure, just like you let the manuscript cure. I learned this with my very first query-critiquing experience. Janet Reid was doing a query-critiquing activity called Query Roulette, way last year. Mine was chosen. She thrashed it. But part of the deal was that we could do revisions and send them back to her. So I did. And she gave me some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever received.
“MUCH better! Another polish or two, just the kind of thing you'd do after you let it sit a week and go back to it with a fresh eye, and you've got a good letter. Good job!”
Here are the words that stuck out to me: “…after you let it sit for a week and go back to it with a fresh eye…”
Ah…so the query needs time to cure too. In fact, now I usually write my queries in stages, in completely separate documents. I lump the hook and the setup together and work on them first. Then I lump the conflict and the consequence together and work on them last. (Don't know what I'm talking about with the parts of a query letter? Click over on the right where it says "Writing Query Letters".)
And I always, always, always let at least 3 days go by before opening any part of the query and working on it again. After I put the whole thing together, I've mandated that a week go by before I look at it again. THEN I post it for critique. And after gathering those valuable crits, I wait again, really digesting their comments and questions and impressions, before diving back in to edit.
Because, just like your 90,000 word manuscript, your query letter needs time to cure.
By the way, if you want to see my query and Ms. Reid's full comments, you can click here. I posted it in the QueryTracker forum when it was all going down.
What do you think of this "curing" process? Dare I say that it should be applied to synopses as well? Do you think you have a keener eye on something you haven't read for a while?
Will you try it on your query letter and see if it helps? It might at least make the query writing process go smoother. Well, we can hope, right?