Ah, the Query Letter.
To the writer, the skeleton key that opens the massive iron gates to the mysterious and fantastic Universe of the Printed Word. The single-spaced sheet of paper that, if the runes be carved properly and the ink simmered with the perfect pinch of sweat and blood, can be transformed into a message that spans continents, slips through the narrowest crack in a literary agent’s armor, and tickles the ear of the publishing sovereign.
The Writer-Penitent who seeks to enter the Halls of the Represented must make sure to follow each convention, to stay true to the decrees and directives of the Gatekeepers. The arrow ridden skeletons of those who raced ahead seeking entrance by stealth or bribery, heedless of sage advice, line the pathway. Dusty and mold-ridden, their bones lie upon the remnants of rotting manuscript pages dotted with the wicked smart-quote, typed in the fiendish Font of Not Times New Roman.
But, say the listeners, surely any true believer, any of the pious who can read and write can follow these formulae?
Students of this lore laugh at such a foolishly innocent question.
These regulations are not listed out in black and white, boldly lettered over every portal. Even in those few, well-guarded entries that proudly display their incantations, one halting error made by the Writer-Penitent can release the Kraken of Rejection.
The mere thought of undertaking this quest can chill the most ardent heart, can cause the steadiest pen to stutter. “Perhaps self-publishing,” the fearful acolyte whispers, alone before the towering gates that seem to be forever slammed in his face.
And yet, amidst the carnage, wading through shredded 20 lb. laser-printed paper floods, brow unbeaten beneath her helm of rusted confidence, one more comes to do battle for entry. She will throw her skills against the chains and bars, forge her tens of thousands of words into a single, sharp sentence that will slide between the tumblers of the Great Lock. She will avoid the Trapdoor of Triteness and the Cleavers of Cleverness, while balancing on the tightrope over the Chasm of Showing Not Telling.
One single page. One chance. One try.
It is a daunting and terrifying feat even to one who has already created new worlds and breathed life into sympathetic and multi-faceted characters. Let us wish her well.
“What is your name?”
“My name is AUTHOR.”
“What is your quest?”
“To be published.”
“What is your favorite color?”
“Um… red. No, blue!”