Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Query Letter Cliche Alert: ". . . Or Did She?"

About halfway through a tall stack of SQUIDs today, my intern Jemma threw down her letter opener and said, "This is the tenth letter or novel excerpt I've read that uses the phrase '. . . Or did he?' I'm sick of it! Auggh!"

. . . Or did she?

I will verify her exclamation later this week, when I need a break from the -- good grief, is it five manuscripts I'm in the middle of editing, all at different stages? Yes it is. Goodness -- and go through the SQUIDs myself, since she's done the first triage. (I also owe some back responses from October/November, I know.)

Just to be clear about this: The thing that is unfortunate about the repeated appearances of this phrase is not that they all occurred in the same batch of SQUIDs, but that, like all cliches, they're evidence of easy, lazy thinking and writing rather than the freshness and originality that will truly make your work stand out. Find a new way of creating suspense within the letter and the chapters, and go forth and sin no more.


  1. I think every male in the midwest says, "It is what it is." It drives me crazy! It's almost as bad as, "It was in the last place I looked."

  2. Thankfully, in my SQUID, I didn't include the sentence, "Or did she?".

    OR DID I?

  3. Five manuscripts at once? And your reading SQUIDS? That's impressive. How do you keep all the stories straight in your head?

  4. This probably doesn't bother most people, but I hate "the fact that." We were forbidden to use it in journalism school and I think it sucks the life out of prose. Also "at this point in time." At what other point would it be? At this point in the seventh dimension?

  5. The word "literally" is overdone, and not used like it should be.

    Harry Reid even said it in his recent press conference about the new DC capitol visitor's center and it amused me. " . . .you can literally smell the tourists."


  6. But in Reid's case, he was using it correctly! DC is hot and gross in the summer and tourists run around looking at things. They work up a sweat. They stink.

  7. Cheryl, this entry brought up a question about the structure of your job as an editor. Do you work regular hours in an office, or is it somewhat more flexible than that? Do you choose how many works in progress to take on at any given time, or is there some sort of quota? Who sets your deadlines? How is your progress measured? What's it like?

    If you find the time to reply in the midst of your five manuscripts I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance, and happy holiday travels.

  8. Hi, do you accept Squids via e-mail or snail mail only?