Holy Tyra! Thanks so much to the Blogger team for making this today’s Blog of Note, and a warm welcome to everyone visiting for the first time. We talk about books, reality TV shows, publishing, monkeys, writing, and Cormac McCarthy, not necessarily in that order.
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I’ve blogged previously about my love of the VH1 show Behind the Music, and honestly, the Very Special Episode on Milli Vanilli is one of the most cherished hours I have ever spent watching television. However, there is one phrase that some people use in query letters that never fails to remind me of the tragic lives of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus as documented by a serious narrator on Behind the Music. And that phrase is “is shattered.”
“Is shattered” is used a lot in query letters. Here’s just a short list of some of the things that I have seen “shattered” in a query letter.
– Someone’s faith in the world
– Someone’s sense of complacency
– Someone’s optimistic outlook
– Someone’s heterosexuality
On the one hand this is good — if something is shattering, it suggests that something is going wrong, which means the book probably has a plot. Plot is good.
On the other hand, “is shattered” is kind of a cliche, and here’s why I would hesitate to recommend that people use it.
1) It’s passive. “Nathan’s day is shattered when he finds out Lauren Conrad sold a book and he wasn’t the agent.” The passive voice is found in your query!
2) It’s vague. What does “is shattered” mean anyway? It’s very nonspecific, and when every word counts, it’s important to use words that count.
3) Agents see it so often. You couldn’t have known this, so as with anything else, don’t feel bad if you used it, and there’s no way I passed on your query just because you shattered something in your query. And I’m sure “is shattered,” as with anything else, has been used effectively sometime somewhere.
So in sum: be careful with “is shattered.” If you do, in the immortal words of the Behind the Music narrator, “it all came crashing down.”