Cramming Novels into Nutshells

I’ve been trying to hammer out the details of my query letter.

Which is a fairly diplomatic way of saying I’m trying to cram a hundred thousand years of intergalactic history and culture, a fairly complicated plot, and half a dozen characters–all of whom are more exciting than anyone I know in real life into about two-hundred-and-fifty words. And P.S.: Some of them are blue.

And yes, blue was probably relevant a hundred thousand words ago, back when it was still porn.

Okay. Yeah. I’ll probably leave that part out.

A friend of mine (she doesn’t write, but her minor does) does a pretty good impression of the querying writer. Do you want to represent me? No? How ’bout now? Okay… but what if I add dragon/chipmunk hybrids? No? What about–

I’ve been knocking my head against a wall trying to find just the right words to describe that one necessary piece of intergalactic culture for… well, almost as long as I’ve been writing the book to go with it.

And today–maybe it was that extra cup of coffee–I think I finally got it. I’m closer than before, anyway. I have something that kinda makes sense, and kinda fits.

It took a lot of time to coax that minimalist approach out of my verbose little brain.

So, obviously, the most difficult, most irreplaceable bit of writing I’ve done recently is scribbled across a crumpled scrap of paper in the bottom of my purse. **sigh** Time to dig it out and polish it.

Organizing Query Research–Part The First

Last night, I started working on my agent submissions list for the next novel. I was up a long time, just pulling together a list of names.

Well, a tidy little pile of names. “List” is probably not the right word for this. I have index cards. Lots and lots of index cards. And it’s probably not a complete list… er… pile, right now.




Each card–right now–has the following information

  1. Agent’s name–One Agent Per card.
  2. Agency name–where this person works
  3. Genres–by which I mean, the genres they represent that I actually write actual full-length fiction in. It’s NOT a list of everything they represent.

And–at this exact moment–I’m focusing on #3 more than anything else. The goal is to find the agent who is the best fit for me, so I’m looking for the person who represents the highest percentage of my hard drive.


There’s no separate pile for Sci Fi, and Thrillers, but not Fantasy. They’re in that top pile. Personal priorities, but I do think most of my stuff falls on the Sci-Fi side of that line. So, they’re weighted accordingly.

So, there you go. 100+ names triaged into manageable groups.

Here and there–I’m going to admit this up front–there are a few cards that are going to get bumped up a group or two. Most of them are people I’ve already had contact with and liked, and can see myself working well with. The teeny-tiny, fraction of one-percent are people who represent my favorite authors. So, yes, I’m weighting these on emotional considerations, also. Not unduly so, I hope.

So, what about you? Any strategies for organizing you’d like to share?