Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writer's Conference: Queries & First Two Pages

[Reposted from 2010 - but the tips are still great!]

Friday, I attended two of Suzie Townsend's (from Fine Print Literary) classes, and I gained insight and ideas from each of them. Loved them.

First, she offered a Workshop Class on how to make your first two pages really stand out from the slush. Here are my notes:

As soon as possible:
1. Establish your character and voice
2. Establish the conflict and move the story forward
3. Establish the tone
4. Establish an indication of setting
5. Catch the reader off guard - to grab them and keep them reading

Goals of first two pages:
1. Create interest in the character and the plot
2. Create intrigue
3. Create investment

Anticipate the pauses when someone is reading and make these your paragraph breaks.

Then she read many pages from participant and critiqued them. Imagine American Idol. (But Suzie is SUPER NICE, unlike Simon.) That was very productive.

Her second class featured strategies for writing a great query letter.

1. Main character
2. What happens to her
3. What choices does she make
4. What terrible thing will happen because of choices

The mc must decide whether to ________. If she does then ___________. If she does not then __________.

Sound stark not verbose. Make your point and then stop talking.

Every three lines, skip a line. This makes it easier to read in an email.

At the end of the class, Suzie went through each of our queries and offered significant feedback.

I was really impressed with Suzie, her skills, and her knowledge. If you're looking for a fabulous agent, I would highly recommend her. Check her out here:  [updated link for Suzie: Suzie's Blog]


  1. Sounds like you learned some great stuff! Thanks for sharing, Suzie is definitely a wealth of information!

  2. Thank you! Glad you had a great time and glad you got something out of both workshop!!! :)

  3. Great info, Margo! Thanks for sharing it. One of the very reasons I enjoy reading your blog. (and why I left you an award the other day.) :)

  4. Thanks for this summary, Margo.

    Suzie is my agent and I love her!

    I'm going to link to this post on my blog tomorrow :)

  5. Great summary, Margo. Those are great pointers, I especially liked the email query pointers, its something that lots of us writers forget about, the fact that queries are read often on phones etc, and so you don't want to front load your email queries with lots of extraneous stuff...

  6. Glad I popped over from your "F" post. The query tips are great too. Sounds like it was a helpful class!

  7. That's awesome! Suzie is such a great mentor that way. I've done several of her query/critique combinations in the past and gotten excellent advice.