Here it is the middle of January, and I am bummed by the fact that I have yet to start subbing my novel. My original plan was to start querying agents last fall, but you all know that hasn't happened. I'm still trying to polish my query. And now I am forced to set a new goal, which is to start subbing by February. *Crossing fingers*
Anyway, I admit I am no expert on writing queries, but I thought I'd share some helpful information that I've learned by writing my query and by critiquing others.
1. When writing your query, be sure to answer three questions: What does the protagonist want, what does he/she have to do to get it, and what happens if he/she fails?
2. Don't waste words with descriptions that don't add anything. Example: life-threatening rattlesnake, poisonous brown recluse spider, expensive Tiffany's diamond, furry kitten, etc. These things are understood and not necessary to be stated.
3. Queries are not summaries, so don't cram every event into the query.
4. The average query should be no longer than 250 words.
5. Ending the query with seemingly random information never works. If the query revolves around John catching his father's killer, don't end with "John must catch the murderer. If he doesn't, he'll never forgive his mother" unless you've established that, for example, John thinks his mother is responsible.
6. Your protagonist should be active, not passive. What does he/she actually do?
7. Don't let the query process defeat you. (Okay, that has nothing to do with putting your query together, but it's important too!) Writing queries is rarely easy, but keep trying until you have the perfect one.
Hmmm. It's a short list. I'm sure I have much more to learn!