Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Are YOU Query Blind?

There's an affliction sweeping the writing world. A pestilence that strikes when writers are at their most vulnerable. A pandemic that strips them of every modicum of good sense when faced with the most crucial blank piece of paper in their writing careers.

Its name: Query Blindness.

The statistics are grim: Fully 99% of the querying population will develop Query Blindness during the course of query development.

The symptoms:

  • Ability to produce 90,000 words of eloquent, coherent, brilliant prose yet unable to string together 300 words that make sense when face-to-face with THE QUERY LETTER.
  • Inability to see mistakes in own work yet able to lucidly point out those same mistakes and failings in others' query attempts. 
Fortunately, there is a cure.

What you can do if you think you're suffering from Query Blindness:
  • Seek help immediately. There are online resources ready and willing to assist. They may not be trained professionals, but their advice will be heartfelt.
  • Get a second opinion. Validate all heartfelt advice.
  • Keep an open mind. Close-mindedness is the leading cause of treatment failure. If you're not willing to act on validated advice, you will not get better.
What you can do to help others beat this dreaded affliction:
  • Be direct and constructive. Query Blind writers need your love and support.
  • Remember this is an affliction that will likely affect you, too, so how you treat others now will be indicative of how others will treat you when you find yourself Query Blind.
  • Understand that because a writer is Query Blind about their own work does not handicap them when it comes to evaluating the work of others. Query Blind writers can still function as effective members of critique groups.
  • Do not diss Query Blind writers' opinions about your work based on the strength of their query attempts. Remember, YOU may well be in the early stages of Query Blindness yourself and not yet realize it.
 A Case Study

A writer fairly adept at revising other people's queries came under the influence of Query Blindness herself when faced with writing a query for her latest WIP. In her Query Blinded state, she was SURE backstory was important and that over-explanation was essential to an effective query because, unlike the others, her story was special.

Fortunately, she submitted to Query 911 for feedback well before the WIP was finished. Fortunate because this writer was especially delusional and her Query Blindness persisted for weeks.

Once the WIP was completed, she reached out for query help again -- and again, and again -- only these times were in the privacy of her critique group whose members were well indoctrinated in the prescriptive treatment. Through tough love and constructive criticism, the critters helped the writer through her Query Blind state.

The writer then submitted a revision publicly for a final dose of feedback. The result: a reasonably strong, reasonably effective query letter able to be released confidently into the world.

Still, the writer must remain ever-vigilant, knowing that if she must produce another query for another WIP, Query Blindness is likely to strike again.

Because no one is immune.

Query Blindness - It Can't Be Prevented, But It Can Be Cured.  


Bernita said...

Witty--and so true!

Robin S. said...

You're not kidding, Bernita! This is a hoot. I have been so query blind, but now I can see, with help from talented friends, and two years of looking at my query, off and on. I wrote the key sentence two years ago - and it took me two more years, and a boatload of excellent advice, to get it right.

Why do these queries suck so much out of us? I guess the fact that the query is a pass/fail, yes/no to out writing world opening up. Yeah. That would do it!!!

Phoenix, your posts are killer good, honey.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow. Awesome. Thanks. Bibi

Anonymous said...

"Close-mindedness is the leading cause of treatment failure. If you're not willing to act on validated advice, you will not get better."
This is going on my wall.

Again, wow. Bibi

Whirlochre said...

I think the problem lies in the fact that although you may write certain passages of a novel "for someone else", or for reasons of fleeting inspiration, in the end you have to remain true to the idea of the novel itself — an internal set of rules you generate for yourself. This is why writers are often labelled 'dreamy' or 'otherworldly'.

The query letter is more businesslike, and has a specific grittily real purpose that can have nothing to do with flights of fancy.

So, I think the problem with the words arises from the problem of the game rules, the POV if you like.