Getting the hook

So, two developments today of interest primarily to me only, so feel free to just skip this part.

First: They're trying to save money at work. They think this can be best effected by finally making use of all of the floorspace. (Ever since I've worked at the job, there are always dozens of empty cubicles, not from recent firings, just from inefficient use of space.) So a memo went out and said they were going to try a pilot program — of letting some people telecommute.


So I'm tapping the boss to see if she thinks this is something I should do. Truly, there's no reason why not — all of my direct coworkers and bosses are already 3000 miles away. Other than a copy machine, office supplies and the telephone there's no absolute need for me to be in an office. So we're wondering if there's some way of working from home 3-4 days a week and coming into the office 1-2 days a week. It's being looked into. My boss is away for a week, but I've already forwarded her the memo.

Anyone out there work form home? Good? Bad? Indifferent? I'd love to hear thoughts.

Second: The "other" job — I'm working on the hook for my query. A hook, for those who don't know, is a one-sentence summation of my book that more or less leads off the query letter. And the query, for those who don't know, is the cover letter you've got to send to secure an agent, or publisher. The hook in the query letter I got at a recent convention was very straightforward and plain, but said what it needed to in two sentences.

But this site I found yesterday gives amazing detail and suggestions for all elements of the query, and they say it should just be one sentence. Hooks, for example, are like these two:

Bridges of Madison County

When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and
turns into Francesca Johnson's farm lane looking for directions, the
world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience
that will haunt them forever.

The Da Vinci Code

A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister
plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since
the days of Christ.

This actually came more easily than I thought it would; again, the synopsis helped a lot. It's a bit of a struggle to avoid what I feel are overly melodramatic phrases ("that will haunt them forever" would qualify for me), because in a way you hear the trailer for the film running in your head: "In a world where…."

So I came up with about five hooks, three of the "When…" part and two of the other kind. I'm not in love with any one, but several satisfy. So I'm doing more practice tomorrow. Writing them actually feels like the work I do in the office at times — and getting started on it can feel like dragging myself into the office on a day when I didn't sleep much. But once I'm into it, it's a useful and thought-provoking exercise. At which I never feel adequate.


  1. Amanda on 4/05/07 at 6:42 pm

    [this is good] great advice and info. thanks! i have such a hard time writing synopses. would be great to have good sources for that too. so far i’ve sent my novel out to one publisher and heard nothing. i also sent a chapter out to a mag and heard..yep, you guessed it..nuttin. meanwhile i keep revising.

  2. Armchair News on 4/06/07 at 8:22 pm

    Are you trying to get an agent first? I hear agents are the way to go, for whatever that’s worth.

    What I did when figuring out the synopsis was to take each section — I didn’t really do chapters, just section breaks that ended up being grouped into 3 parts — and summarize it. I ended up with about 13 pages. Then I parsed that down further, and ended up with 14,000 words. And so on and so forth. Each generation of reduction takes you a half-step away from not being able to stand leaving something out, and that actually is very helpful in the process.

    At least, that’s my take. Of course, it’s not like this has landed me an agent or anything, it’s just my methodical way of doing it in the hopes that this works.

    Good luck! Keep in touch about how you’re doing.

  3. Amanda on 4/10/07 at 4:49 pm

    no. i can’t be bothered with that. i’m not ambitious like that. it’s sensible but quite a few of my friends have been published here in canada without an agent. i know many who have used agents and had a lot of trouble getting published. what i’d like to do with this book is get it published by a small press. we’ll see. still needs much work. may not be the book that gets published first 😉


    thanks for the great advice about synopsis writing; very helpful!