Tip of the Day: Can't get enough queries? We're still talking about them! You'll also find great query letter critiques on Verla Kay's Blue Boards.
I read incoming manuscript for Rhemalda Publishing, and our query clinic got me curious. Which phrases crop up in queries again and again? So I analyzed a good chunk of queries I've read recently, and here are my most frequently seen phrases in query letters:
She finds herself having to choose between X and Y. This one isn't much of a surprise. We love to read about moral choices. Just watch that "she finds herself" construction, which is a little weak despite how commonly it's used. After reading a bunch of queries, I find I prefer a definite X and Y. "She has to choose between the possibility of love or the chance of a lifetime" doesn't tell me much. "She has to choose between the shark-infested waters or the pirate ship" is very telling.
Time is running out. It's hard to avoid cliches entirely in a query letter, but I was really surprised by how how many queries included this one. Again, we love to read a novel with a ticking clock aspect. But maybe find a more specific way to explain your ticking clock. That will at least give you room to use a much more telling cliche, like "Daddy's little girl." (I have a one cliche per query tolerance personally.)
She finds herself (irresistibly, increasingly) drawn to. This is mostly found in paranormal romance queries and YA queries, and we get a lot of both. Try to find another way to explain why the guy is so attractive. This one's been beaten into cliche territory.
To make matters worse. Most of the rest of my list is similar. "Things are bad enough when," "It was bad enough that." Look, the point of a novel is that things are going to get worse for your characters. I get that. You don't need to spell it out. Just tell me what happens.
Have you been reading our query letter clinic over the past two weeks? I guess we're in Week 3 since we're still talking queries. We'd love to know if you're finding it useful. Please let us know what you think of our query letter clinic. We really appreciate your feedback. Thanks!
-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages