Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writing Wednesday - The 5 W's

Yesterday I read an article about the 5 W's and their use in writing a non-fiction piece. About half-way through reading I thought the same theory could work when writing a query letter. These are the same questions that make up a plot -- on a very basic level that is.

Consider this for an example. It's a slightly shorter (but not much shorter) version of the query I used to sell RAFE'S REDEMPTION.

Dear Agent/Editor,
I'm seeking representation for my historical novel, set in (when) 1866 (where) Colorado. (who) Maggie is an artist determined to (what)travel and sketch the western landscape. Her cousin is determined to see her dead. But when (why)they're trapped in a rough outpost, Maggie is used as collateral for her cousin's gambling debt.
(who) Rafe went (what) into town to buy supplies, not a woman. But when he sees a beautiful woman being sold to the lecherous townsmen, he (what) offers the winning bid. The last thing Rafe wants or needs is a woman. (why)He's got trouble of his own - a vengeful killer chasing after him.
Trapped by blizzards and pursued a killer, (who)Rafe and Maggie must attempt (what)to cross the Rocky Mountains (why)before his past catches up to them.

As I said this is a pretty basic breakdown, but I hope it's helpful when trying to write the dreaded query letter:)


  1. So true! And I love the pics you come up with, Jen.

  2. Ah, yes, the journalistic questions;)

    And you're right--answering them can give one a good start on querying. I hadn't thought of that.

    Nice post.

  3. And if you keep it to the basic 5 W's, you don't get too carried away telling the story. Thanks for the reminder, Jen.

  4. Something to think about... Thanks for that. It's along the same lines as what I read in Stephen King's ON WRITING - when you think you're too wordy, break it down and just say what you want to say simply. Then once you've got it, you can make it flow better. Every time I get stuck on something I try to say, I use simple sentences with as few words as possible. Then I dress it up. Works every time!