Queries are painful. There’s no getting around it. They rate only slightly higher than titles in my view, and therefore both query and title are generally left for last in my writing process.
But I’m halfway through a revision and writing a rough query to submit for a five-page critique. And I’m rewriting and rewriting and thinking WHY IS THIS SO LAME WHEN MY STORY IS SO AWESOME?
And then it hit me. I changed the query to sound awesome, rather than to exactly match my planned rewrite. And then glorious lights illuminated my awesome mental outline and turned it into solid gold.
The thing about summing up your story in 100-200 words is that it strips things down to the bare bones. And if your bones aren’t strong enough to bear the weight of the whole story, they’ll break. And that should be a sign that something needs to change.
It just took me, you know, FOREVER to figure that out.
From here on out, I’m totally writing my query before I hit my first draft. Yeah, it’ll probably change a few times before the end; but at least I’ll be more likely to spot fatal weaknesses in my story BEFORE the third overhaul.