Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Query Checklist

Graphic from College Hills
Let's skip the "queries are hell" preamble, shall we?

Excellent. Another fact: Assessing queries is a hellish task. This past month I judged a query contest with about 50 entries. This would've been impossible without some sort of objective standard. I put together a checklist -- by no means exhaustive -- that helped me decide.

It might be useful to focus on certain aspects of a query, rather than trying to assess its overall effectiveness.

  Categories to consider:
1. Muscular prose (tightness on the sentence level)
2. Overall flow
3. Clear MC throughout
4. Clear stakes
5. Logic of plot points as revealed through query
6. Voice and voice consistency
7. Compelling plot
8. Professional bio/closing
9. Info-dump (cut extraneous facts)
10. Length (adhering to the 250 ideal / 300 max standard)
More on queries?
Try the Shark or Agent Query 


By the way, I'm entering FLEFF's Checkpoints Story Contest this month with a 500-word flash piece called "Checkpoints on an Evening in the City." Fingers are crossed!


  1. AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!! (running away as fast as I can)

    Query, smuery. Yes, this list fills me with a sense of dread. Not sure why! Oh, wait. Yeah, it's because for me, it's similar to a checklist on how to make it to Presidential office.

    1) Complete law school
    2) Intern for three years (without pay)
    3) Network (smooze snobby people) during said intern
    4) Run for local office such as Mayor
    5) After 4-8 years, run for Senate--begging for donations along the way.


    All joking aside, though, thank you for posting this checklist, it's very, very helpful.

  2. Oh, and good luck on the Checkpoints Story Contest! Adore your writing style. I'm rooting for you, girl!

  3. @Lindy Haha! Indeed, lists can be overwhelming. I tend to make lists all the time - for everything :) So query lists help me break big problems into lots of little ones.

    Thanks for your encouragement on the contest, and for your sweet comment about my writing! *feels like getting teary but stops herself--today she's realized how very sentimental she gets over her writing community*

  4. Yay! I'm glad you posted it. It had perfect blog post written all over it (pun kind of intended). You were definitely a rockstar for getting through all 50 queries!

  5. This is great advice, Lora! I could have used it when I submitted my query in Deana's blogfest. I can't for September to arrive so I can actually send out my polished query.

    FYI - I don't know if you participate in blog awards but I nominated you for the Liebster in my post today. I hope it brings some traffic your way.

  6. @Alexia Hehe. I didn't realize till Deana asked if she could post it on her blog that it could be a nice succinct post. I'm kind of new at blogging but trying to keep to "every Sunday"--it seems like a good minimum. This fit the bill!

    @Nancy - You're a darling! Thank you... er... Does that mean I receive the Liebster now? Or is there a judging committee? Sorry! I've never had the opportunity to participate in blog awards before so I'm totally in the dark :)

  7. Hi Lora,

    Queries are a nightmare.

    Left you an award on my blog:

  8. Love this checklist. I'm still hitting myself over the head that I missed the deadline for both query critiques AND submitting it to the contest LOL. But I love how you've laid it out here.

    And good luck with the Checkpoints short story! :D