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Once again I’m sharing some insights on constructing successful query letters. This week the focus is on clarity in your query, both in terms of your line-level writing and also in terms of conveying the meat of your story in a clear, concise way. Too often the important plot elements get bogged down in explanation, backstory, too much world-building, etc., so it’s important to really hone the focus of your pitch before querying. The most important things to convey in your query are the protagonist’s main goal, what’s keeping him/her from achieving it, and what’s at stake if he or she doesn’t succeed. If an agent can’t see this clearly, it will likely lead to a pass. To review the actual query letter and my critique, please visit the KT Literary blog!

‘”Show, don’t tell” should not be applied to all incidents in a story. According to James Scott Bell, “Sometimes a writer tells as a shortcut, to move quickly to the meaty part of the story or scene. Showing is essentially about making scenes vivid. If you try to do it constantly, the parts that are supposed to stand out won’t, and your readers will get exhausted.”[5] Showing requires more words; telling may cover a greater span of time more concisely.[6] A novel that contains only showing would be incredibly long; therefore, a narrative can contain some legitimate telling.’ (Taken directly from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show,_don%27t_tell).

I think sometimes as writers, we get hung up on the show, don’t tell philosophy. While you absolutely need to show certain aspects of your story to deepen the reader’s experience, sometimes telling serves a purpose too. I think the above summarizes this perfectly. Knowing when to use each is a major part of perfecting your own craft.

So, I’ve had to learn patience the hard way. I want to be a published author and as many of you know, that requires ungodly amounts of patience. How to pass the time? Let me tell you how I started: by compulsively checking email inboxes, twitter feeds, query tracker, and the like. Then after about a week of driving myself completely batty (I was even getting ornery towards the chirrens), a good twitter friend and fellow agent-seeker asked me a totally harmless question.

Do you have anything else you’re working on right now?

Radio silence from my end. Well, not exactly. My plan had been to wait for the feedback on my full/partial submissions before I started writing the next in the series. I didn’t want to get entrenched in another ms just to have this one come back with major revisions needed. Then I’d have to potentially revise two mss instead of just one!

So, I thought a lot about what this twitter friend had said. And, as I thought, a 12 year old boy named Silas started talking to me (in my imagination, of course). He started showing me that he had a story that I needed to tell. And so, I started writing.

About a week and a half later, I have a 23K rough draft about Silas’s story. No more details yet. But it’s THE PECULIAR meets THE GRAVEYARD. A dark and lovely tromp through Silas’s adventure when his little sister disappears through a crack in their basement floor. I’ve done some initial tweaking and revisions and have sent it out to my first round of betas. Can’t wait to hear feedback!!