Saturday, September 29, 2007

TMI vs TLI / Prolix vs Laconic

Just wondering about queries for very short picture books, say 250-500 words. The "too short" comment took me by surprise. When something doesn't have a complex plot, do you deliberately make a query longer than necessary? I hate writing queries for very short PBs because it seems like a waste of time to write one that can be longer than the actual manuscript. But yes, I do it when that's what the guidelines call for.
Ok, I realize that it is hard to write a description of a manuscript that is possibly longer than the manuscript itself. You should be able to imagine doing this, however. Those studying poetry, for instance, have written about William Carlos Williams' "Red Wheelbarrow" using a great many more words than the 16 in the poem.

And I'm going to take issue with the question, "do you deliberately make a query longer than necessary?" No, of course you don't. But "longer than necessary" is any description past the description I need in order to know
  1. what your manuscript is about
  2. what happens in it (which is often not the same thing as what it's about)
  3. what makes it particularly appealing/charming

The people who wrote those two very short queries were assuming too much about what the reader can reasonably draw from those short descriptions. Every writer can answer #2. But it's #1 and #3 that are really telling—about the manuscript, and about the writer.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

When a picture book text is that short (or thereabouts) should it automatically be included with any query?

ae said...

This could translate to:

1) Theme

2) Plot

3) Voice

right??

ae said...

I'll add on. You've opened my eyes to what I have to do in a query letter. Also, to what I need to accomplish in my mss.

Thank you so much!