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  1. #1
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    Query Help Wanted

    Hey y'all

    Long time no smell!

    I'm so glad I saw Keith here, and he gave this advice:

    A dynamite query doesn't explain your story. it doesn't introduce all the characters and it doesn't cover every major twist and turn. While you're at it, don't list and/or try to cram as much info into one page as possible (and 1 page, 250 words, should be your max).

    A dynamite query entices the reader to ask to read more. That's it. Show an interesting main character involved in a marketable story, and do so in a manner that showcases wonderful writing and an interesting voice. It's about the writing. Luck.
    I want to query a very specific, relatively large project (compared to me) that's already in the works. They're not asking for submissions. However, it has been "stalled in committee" for a long time, not sure why.

    The hold-up could be for a lot of reasons, but I know they don't have any writers who are paramedics. So I have a spark that they don't have. At least one of the principals knows it will be really easy to make it cheap, inauthentic, and sucky (at least I think he does).

    I guess I need a pep talk, as well as what Keith said above. Anybody else have any sage words of wisdom? The plan right now is come up with a "flash fiction" query, like optimally I want it to be one paragraph.

    Thanks
    (and mwahahahahahahahaaaa good to be back)



  2. #2
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    Did that thread post?

  3. #3
    Member Lawrence Tabak's Avatar
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    Yes, it posted. No, it doesn't make any sense.

  4. #4
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    Hi Lawrence

    I think the question will make sense to the people who know me.

    Basically I'm a paramedic and a writer, and I'm looking for ideas/feedback/moral support for an unsolicited pitch to a paramedic project in the works. The project has been delayed significantly, nobody knows why. I suspect it's because they are having a hard time writing it. They could churn out some more bull****, but one of their principals knows better. So I'm going to pitch him, when I feel like I have a strong enough query.

    Hope that clears it up.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Let me get this straight. There's a writing project in some way dealing with the subject of paramedics. "They" already wrote some material, but ran into some kind of difficulty, so progress stopped. You strongly imply that "they" are unknowledgeable about paramedics or writing or both, and you want to take over the project because you feel you have sufficient writing skill, but more importantly, an insider's view on the subject. So the purpose of your query is not to sell them something you've already written, but to convince them that you're the person to finish the project.

    Is that right?

    So where's your query?
    Last edited by John Oberon; 10-16-2012 at 04:30 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Oberon View Post
    Let me get this straight. There's a writing project in some way dealing with the subject of paramedics.
    Correct.

    "They" already wrote some material, but ran into some kind of difficulty, so progress stopped.
    It's not known whether they ever got to the writing stage or not; there was a lot of buzz but it was a long time ago. It's not clear to me that they've been able to get anything done on it.

    You strongly imply that "they" are unknowledgeable about paramedics or writing or both
    Not exactly. "They" are very adept at writing and producing such projects, something in which I have no experience at all. However, they don't have any paramedics. So they're breaking Rule No. 1 for writers -- write what you know. In that context, I anticipate another formulaic, nonsensical train wreck like "Trauma," which is a laughingstock in our community.

    However, one of the principals in this project knows our community well enough not to step in that particular cow pie. It occurred to me to wonder if this hasn't gotten off the ground because the person they need can smell the fail on it.

    and you want to take over the project
    I wouldn't say take over. I don't know how to do the part of it that they've got covered. But you need a spark to make a flame; if no trace of our voice can be heard, I think it will suck royally. I believe these big projects are team effort, sort of like running 911 calls.

    because you feel you have sufficient writing skill, but more importantly, an insider's view on the subject. So the purpose of your query is not to sell them something you've already written, but to convince them that you're the person to finish the project. Is that right?
    You nailed it.

    So where's your query?
    Geez, I only got this wild hair day before yesterday. It's a bit brassy even for me, I'm hoping to brainstorm it. (Getting clearer already

    Thanks

  7. #7
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    Okay, this sounds more like a job application than a query. Basically, you are pitching your writing skills and insider knowledge to help complete a project that has been stalled. To pull this off, I think you need to do a little homework:

    1. Find out the current status of the project. Is it stalled for a lack of funding? Has the work been unsatisfactory?

    2. Identify some folks on the committee and Google them. Find out what their interests are, how they're connected to the project, and if possible, what plans they envisioned for this project.

    3. Identify what they are missing, what they need. This one is tricky, but remember, you are a salesman here. You need to know what your customer wants and then establish yourself (and your skills) as the only and best answer to that desire. Again, Google is your friend. Look for newspaper stories on the project. Where did it stall? Are there hints as to the problems? See if you can find interviews with anyone who has been associated with the project. You are searching for the hole that hasn't been filled. Once you can figure out what they need, you can tailor your pitch letter accordingly. For example, let's say you find an interview where one of the sponsors says something like "We're very concerned about authenticity. We don't want this to be another [fill in the blank of the worst example]." Now you have something to work with. At this point, you know that their writer was fluffing the info and made a lot of mistakes, so you lean on your expertise in the pitch, playing up the fact that you also have writing skills.

    4. Finally, street cred counts here. You want to mention both your expertise and your pub credits and awards--anything that validates you as a paramedic with excellent writing skills.

    5. One other possibility to consider is to pitch yourself as an expert reviewer. My publisher just hired someone for my book, and he's fabulous. He will certainly receive an acknowledgment even though he's getting paid for the review. His expertise is helping me define and refine some plot issues in the story.

    Hope this helps some.

    Jeanne

  8. #8
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Yeah, it really is contract work, but I call it a query anyway. The only difference is that you're selling yourself instead of a finished product. I don't see it as much different from explaining your qualifications when querying a non-fiction work. But yeah, she's asking them to hire her to do a job.

  9. #9
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    It's unclear what type of project you are talking about. It sounds like it might be a tv series or film. If that's the case, producers normally hire "technical advisers" to help with authenticity of particular profession, culture, etc., but leave the script writing to the screenwriters. I would think that if you don't have experience writing screenplays, you'd have little chance of being brought on as a writer on the project, but you could be a good technical adviser. The thing is I find it hard to believe that a producer wouldn't have brought on technical advisers if the issue was authenticity and the writers wouldn't do whatever research that they need to do to bring what authenticity they need to it.

    I've been hired to write screenplays set in countries, cultures, worlds, professions, I knew absolutely nothing about, I've been hired to write characters from a variety ethnicities and backgrounds, all totally foreign to me. But I did the research I needed to to make it feel authentic. In fact I have not been hired to write even one project that allowed me to "write what I know." Except in terms of what I know about human nature and the themes being explored in the stories.

    TV and film projects stall all the time for a variety of reasons. But I'd be very surprised that if the authenticity is what's stalling it, that they wouldn't have hired a technical consultant to address that.

    I'm not trying to discourage you, Xavier, just giving you some insight into how this all works.


    Good luck.

  10. #10
    Senior Member L C's Avatar
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    I've been hired to write screenplays set in countries, cultures, worlds, professions, I knew absolutely nothing about, I've been hired to write characters from a variety ethnicities and backgrounds, all totally foreign to me. But I did the research I needed to to make it feel authentic. In fact I have not been hired to write even one project that allowed me to "write what I know."
    Yeah, this "write what you know" shibboleth really needs to be put down already. I've never written what I thoroughly know. I've written what I had a passing acquaintance with and was able to research.

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