The Series Arc, Openings and Query Sharking

Yes, I’m still revising, but it’s catch the things that no longer make sense because something was changed or a typo. Oh, and I’m cutting words again. Who would have guessed?

I have a handful of friends who are at the query stage now, which means a few things. Write the durned query letter. Write the synopsis. Write the outline if the book has series potential… Wait. What?

Yes, I learned last night in an #askagent a person should know what the rest of the arc is.


I know what the ultimate end is. I’ve already written it. I’ve even written some scenes in between because they popped into my head so vividly I wanted to write them before I lost them. Plus, I have those 50,000 words I cut and several of those scenes are still viable. I just don’t know quite how things go together now because FAR RIDER has changed so much, what I first envisioned for the middle doesn’t quite fit now.

This, my children, is why you don’t write all twelve books in your series before you query. If you have to make a bunch of changes, those other eleven books may not work.

Now, I have a friend who has other volumes done, but it’s more that the first book is too long to have complete. It had to be divided. I’m not really concerned about her, because this story holds together very well and I would be astounded if anything major were changed.

Aside from the obvious things, we’ve pondered openings.

I’m concerned there isn’t enough tension in mine. Another friend second guessed herself and removed a part the requesting agent (Don Maass, you know the agent who is no longer active) thought needed to stay. The original opening is a fun opening as well as being a “what the heck!” opening. A third friend is concerned her opening is the dreaded “dream” opening. It’s actually a psychic vision and it’s what kicks the whole story into gear for the MC. It’s a James Bond kind of opening and it’s very well done. I don’t really know how else she would start it.

The conversation this morning was with the female James Bond paranormal author. We went past the opening discussion and moved on to agent matches. I know everyone thinks they know who their dream agent is.

For one group member, I do think there is a perfect match for her. There is something about what she writes and what he reps that has always seemed perfect. Plus, from what I can tell reading about the agent, I think their personalities would be a good match.

For the rest of us, we know who we would like to appeal to, but if dream author doesn’t click with dream agent, we all know what happens.

For myself, I really don’t need my hand held. I have my writing group for when I want to kick and scream about how unfair life is. Luckily, I don’t do that often or I would probably have to walk the plank. Our group is pretty professional and laid back. No drama queens and divas allowed.

I need an agent who believes in my work with all their heart. I need an agent who will tell me when I need to stretch and improve even if it yanks my guts out. I need an agent who has a vision for my career and will help me plan accordingly. I need an agent who knows what’s going on and is a barracuda. I’m opinionated on some things, but I’m not really a fighter. I despise it. I despise screaming people.

That brings us to another thing we discussed this morning. Screaming agent. Years ago, a woman who had been published made a comment on a writer’s forum about her agent. She said she was terrified of him. I asked why the heck she was with an agent who terrified her. I mean terrify to the point the woman became physically ill when he called or emailed her. He, apparently, was a screamer and the author was a rather retiring lady. Perhaps he didn’t know the effect he had on her or perhaps he thought that brought out the best in her. Perhaps, as they say in the scholarly circles, he was a dickimus maximus.

I asked why she stayed with him.

“Because he said yes and he sold my book. I’m afraid no one else would rep me.”

Oh, no. That would never be me. I may not like fighting, but I like being a punching bag for someone’s ego even worse.

So, JB (female James Bond paranormal author) and I agreed chemistry between the agent and author is a good thing. Actually, JB’s book has a female James Bond who is paranormally linked to the MC who would be the equivalent to the Bond girl except her romantic interest is with another psychically linked guy character. Female James Bond is a good description of her book.

We also discussed queries and the conversation went to Janet Reid’s Query Shark.

In case you haven’t read it, you should. People send in queries and she dissects them and tells them what all they are doing wrong. If something clicks, she also does a, “Yes! This is how you do it!!!!” She probably uses fewer exclamation points.

I amble over there frequently, because, let’s face it, querying is here to stay.

I read the ones she’s dissected and I also like going to the “Queries that made it to yes” section. These are the ones that got to the point an agent would request.

I took a query workshop a while back and it was pretty much a waste of money, I think. The end product isn’t very compelling. I think the one I sent to a workshop in Surrey is better, but the story has changed now.

JB and I were discussing queries in the “yes” section and I pointed out one that I thought had a similar appeal to her book. Then we discussed why that query worked. How could we pick apart JB’s female spy paranormal (FSP) and apply the Query Shark lessons? What are the details that will push FSP to the top of the slush pile? The pages are delicious if we can get the query to the point the agent will read on. Therein lies the problem for most of us.

Still, I believe this is an invaluable tool for writers. It’s especially interesting if the people have gone through revisions to get to yes. You then understand most perfect query letter writers are not born. They are borne on a sea of persistence.

On the flip side, going to the queries that didn’t work is good because you see what not to do.

So, if a person can apply the lessons, Query Sharking is kind of like a mini workshop.

It’s just so danged hard to pick out those points and apply them. We decided it might be better if we just swap manuscripts and write queries for each other.

Maybe not.


  1. D.

    We should work on the query this week. I know you’re busy, but this needs to be done. Then you need to submit to Janet.

    BTW after discussing female James Bond paranormal, I got to dream about being hunted by spies all night. My plumber was an assassin. My pizza delivery guy was an assassin. I finally had to strike a deal with a very unscrupulous man to call off the dogs.

  2. Don’t read _Sisterhood_ before bed. You’ll have nightmares about the catacombs or graveyards or lovely Japanese gardens.
    I was dreaming about snakes and in the middle of it – true – I was texted by an extra kid asking for help deciphering a critique on his paper. Writing help at o-dark-thirty. Better than the dreams.
    We are supposed to dream about Galeno Sabel who will help you release the beauty within…

  3. I actually dreamt about a snake also. The man I had to strike the deal with lived on an ocean side cliff. You had to climb up a steep path to get to the house. There was a flat stone with 580 on it that reminded me of part of a phone number. The stone beside it seemed to hold the other number to access the gate.

    The owner came down to meet me and laughed because I hadn’t lifted the second stone to get the remainder of the number. On the back of the stone was carved the word “snake.” Sure enough, there was a deadly snake there.

    I could stand the Japanese gardens. I loved those. Catacombs I can live without.

    I think I’m still dreaming about snakes because the snake scene needs something. Maybe I’ll ask the gnomes to look at it.

    Now I need to look up Galena Sabel.

  4. Dammit, Julie, I have to WORK today. Now I’ve been sucked into Query Shark and my motivation is gone.

    Any of my users complain, I’m sending them your way. 😛

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