Last weekend in Birmingham, Alabama at the SCBWI’s Southern Breeze Conference, Molli Nickell–a publishing coach and former Time-Life editor (www.getpublishednow.com), presented a Marketing Intensive Workshop which I attended. And it was indeed a WORKshop. With her spirited and fun style, she guided us through a whole day. She helped us take apart our stories. We pared them down to the bones, looking for the GOAL, the OBSTACLE, and the RESOLUTION. Then we wrote a sentence for each–this, Molli told us, should be the opening paragraph of our query letter for an agent or editor.
Molli says a writer has only 20 seconds to catch an editor or agent’s eye in a query letter. Short and to the point–but highlighting the author’s unique voice.
Here’s an example of the technique using the fairy tale CINDERELLA as an example:
An overworked, beguiling young lady wants to attend an elaborate party to be hosted by the local prince, who is on the lookout for a princess-to-be. Her three evil and ugly step-sisters team up with their manipulating mom to keep her stranded by the chimney side on the night of the gala. The petite-footed young lady wastes no time joining forces with her enchanting fairy godmother and makes it to the ball in style, sporting the shiniest slippers in the kingdom.
Stripping a story down to its skeleton isn’t always easy. You may think you need a fairy godmother to perform magic like that, but you don’t. You just need some practice…and maybe a pair of super shiny shoes.
Check back in the next few days for more Birmingham highlights.