December 23, 2013 by Ifeoma Dennis
After writing the first two scenes of chapter seven on Saturday, it dawned on me I was only two chapters away from the first plot point (aka end of act 1) and since each chapter runs for an average of ten pages, I was looking at my first act being about ninety pages.
And thing is, my now-old query describes my first act, more or less… so my internal editor rang this question:
So you’re telling me your readers would go through the first ninety pages knowing what exactly comes next? Very enticing.
It was a disturbing thought. I loved my old query and have worked on it for sooo long, although there were some things I still had to tweak based on the feedback I got from Amanda and Natalie (who have not read my WIP). But thing is, in all the versions, I focused on the events right up to the first plot point.
Which would have worked if my first act ran for 30 pages and the other acts took up the remaining 324 pages (my first draft was 354 pages).
I honestly have no idea how this has never occurred to me. My query describing at least 90 pages of my book meant the story won’t pick up for my readers until after that.
And it led me to another thought: could it be that queries/blurbs can actually affect the perceived pacing of books?
I think it does.
Okay, this is a bad example of a query but consider this:
When Ada goes to the palace, she meets an old man that holds the key to the portal she’s been looking for. But he wouldn’t give her the key and Ada is lost until a house-elf whispers she has to find Gale from the other kingdom. Only Gale can make the old man give her the key. But the portal would prove to contain more than she can bear.
Ada meets an old man that holds the key to the portal she’s been looking for. But when he wouldn’t give it to her, she has to decide if the sacrifices she will make to get it from him would be worth what she finds in the portal.
These two queries are talking of the same plot, and might actually be intriguing in their own rights…but it might be possible that an agent/reader who reads the first one would consider the book slow and may even drop it because “nothing happens in over 100 pages…yawn”, while someone who reads the second one might think the book has great pacing.
Which means sometimes, pacing might not be a problem of our novels but our blurbs.
I still haven’t got a very good hang of mine, although I was able to work it to cover about 60 pages…so I still have a few things to tweak if I want it to cover only the events of the first three chapters. There are actually two words in the query that gives it a leap from 30 pages to 60 pages, so if I can find out how to side-step them and still make the query tense, then it’d be fine. I guess.
I can’t wait to finish this second draft so my CPs can read it and tell me how the pacing feels overall in relation to the query/blurb.
How about you? What percentage of your story does your query cover?