Got that first chapter done? Great, you’re ready for the query


Okay, okay. I can hear the phantom voices of a million agents screaming out at that headline.

So, I’ll explain. Do you send queries after writing one chapter? If you think the answer is yes, then do us a favor and run quickly toward the nearest brick wall.

Many writers fear the query letter. The dreaded query letter. The undoing of their brilliant manuscript. “I’d be a best-seller if I could just write a query, because my manuscript is a winner.”

Writing a query isn’t easy, but it certainly isn’t complicated. It’s painfully simple and hard to execute. But trouble writing your query may point to trouble with you manuscript. If you can’t sum up the characters and major conflicts in a paragraph or two, then you may just have a muddy manuscript that needs your attention.

So, why find that out at the end, after you’ve labored over every word and comma? With my current manuscript, I got a chapter in and decided to write the query letter.

It was an amazing exercise, and helped me identify where my story had focus and where it didn’t. It was like taking the vital signs of my story. Was it healthy at this stage? Mostly, it was.

My last manuscript revealed its problems after it was written, when I tried to write a query and struggled with it. I struggled with it because the manuscript was not in good-enough shape to show.

So, take your story’s pulse. Write the query early, play with log lines. Can you do it?

Now, I’m not suggesting that the query you write after one chapter is the query you’ll actually send out. No. But, it’s a start and should be a rather telling exercise in the life of your writing.


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13 thoughts on “Got that first chapter done? Great, you’re ready for the query

  1. I’ve jokingly said more or less the same thing. Come up with a pitch, then a query, THEN the story. I agree that doing that would bring a certain clarity to the whole endeavor. But I also agree that, in my case anyway, the ultimate story might bear very little resemblance to my initial vision of it. So, I’ll be interested to learn how you feel about it after writing ms #2. I had to write a synopsis for my current WIP and it’s already deviated 10K in…

  2. I totally agree, actually. It’s something I’ve found myself doing more often. As a journalist I always appreciate when interviewees can get to the point so I try to do the same 😉 It helps you know if you’ve really got a story or just a concept. Thanks for joining us!

  3. I agree. I start my query right away. Sometimes even before I write the first chapter. Get’s your hook in focus. This way you know what your hero is, what they want, the obstacle, and the decision made to over come the obstacle. I spend as much time on the query as I do on the manuscript.

  4. You know? I’ve never thought of this before, but it’s such a good idea! Just start the query right off when the basic plot is fresh in your mind! Thanks for the good idea : )

  5. I learned several manuscripts ago, that if the query or/and synopsis are hard to write then there’s a problem with the story. It’s 1000 times better to learn about the story by writing the pitch first. I think it leads to more streamlined plots and it serves as a reminder about what genre the story is.

  6. This “So, I’ll explain. Do you send queries after writing one chapter? If you think the answer is yes, then do us a favor and run quickly toward the nearest brick wall.” made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that! 🙂

    And also thanks for a great post. I honestly never even write a synopsis or anything until I’m done with the book. I’m definitely going to try your method with my WIP!

  7. I completely agree. But I’m actually going to take it a step further and say “write a one-page synopsis!” I had to do this when an agent requested it along with a full, and I was like “WHAT!?” But then after I finished it, I was like, wow. My story is totally simpler than I thought it was.

    Now, I’ve taken to writing a one page synopsis BEFORE I start a new book, and it’s done wonders for my focus.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, great post! Keep it up!

  8. I completely agree.

    I did this when I started writing my second book. (I didn’t even know what a query was until I finished writing my first one!)

    But rather than using the query to test the manuscript idea with myself, I used it for an initial Beta test. To see if the premise (query), combined with the 1st chapter, was something people liked. Just testing the waters!

    The feedback I got on the 1st chapter + query helped a lot — and made me excited to continue on and write the rest of the story.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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