re: Help with Hooks

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Dear Editor…

I am having trouble with query letters. Any tips on writing an awesome tagline or hook? I’ve recently started my second project and I already have that hook down. But my first eludes me, I think I may be too close to it. Please help!

Danielle

Dear Danielle…

Don’t try to nail “awesome” on the first try. As with a story itself, awesome hooks are built through multiple drafts. Start by drafting a pretend CIP summary line. That’s the utilitarian description of a story that appears in the CIP data on a novel’s copyright page. CIP summaries always state the main character, that character’s situation/conflict/goal, and specific details that distinguish the story from all the others in the library—such as era, age of the protagonist, location, that sort of thing. CIP summaries are bland but good at pinning down the details that give each story its unique context. When you’ve nailed that one key element that really makes your story different from the others in its genre, then you can get funky. Rework the wording to emphasize that core distinguishing element, making it tempting, surprising, or in some way intriguing. You’ve struck “awesome” when you can intrigue your hook reader.

Happy writing!

The Editor

4 Comments

  1. Thanks to Danielle for a good question and Dear-Editor for a concise answer. I didn’t know about the CIP thing. I’ve always likened queries to the blurbs on the back of books. Now, it’s not just the query that has to hook — the first 250 words have to be very snappy, too, since many agents just want the first 250. seems like you don’t evenget to set up your characters any more, but must start the novel ‘medias res’ immediately. Good luck to Danielle and all queriers!

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