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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Query Critique #5: De-Clutter your Home

Welcome back, readers! Time for our last query of the first-ever Query Critique Week. I hope you've found the analyses helpful, and I plan to do it again in the future. My comments appear in blue:

People are hoarders. It's part of human nature. We feel better about ourselves with the more goods we have. Even more so when they have designer tags on them. It doesn't matter whether it's the latest perfume collection, a pair of jeans, some pots and pans in the kitchen or the latest edition of the LCD or Mac. We want it. Living without stuff isn't an option in today's consumer driven society. [This may be true for the majority of us, but I'd like to see more specific examples here...e.g. iPad or other timely, recognizable big "brands." This reads too generic to the writer just came up with this off the top of her head.]

So what happens to all this stuff. According to some researchers too many things cluttering your home can have adverse affects on your health. You can suffer from a lack of concentration, too much procrastination and excess stress. All those utensils, things you rarely glance at let alone use, or clothes that are developing moth balls are ruining your health. [First sentence should have a question mark, not a period. And I want some specifics here. Cite some recent studies, and tell me more about what exactly these "adverse effects" (not affects) on your health are. Doing so will strengthen this query, and show the editor that the writer has already done some research (and so will be prepared to write the piece). Otherwise the writer is making some assumptions with no backup, which isn't likely to appeal to an editor.]

Your home should be your boudoir. The place where you can rest, relax and recharge your batteries. The more clutter you have the harder it becomes to unwind and recuperate. How do you feel when you walk into a messy room? Or there's a full sink of dishes in the sink? How do you feel when you come home and all the kids' toys are strewn across the living room floor? Do they really need them all? It's exhausting just thinking about it. [There are some grammatical mistakes in this paragraph, but my bigger concern is that as I'm reading it, I'm thinking, yeah, so? I'd rather see a study that links clutter and stress here than some fairly obvious observations (at least if clutter bothers you). This paragraph also is a bit wordy.]

I'd like to propose 'De-clutter Your House, Improve Your Life' for All You magazine.

In the article I will include information from professional organizational psychologists who help people with their clutter at home and in the office. I also propose speaking to individuals who have gone through the de-cluttering process to get their experiences.

The article will contain information on how you can de-clutter your own house within a few short days by focusing on one area at a time.

No need for multi-tasking here. The article will answer questions such as, Why does clutter stress us out? How can we avoid accumulating stuff? What are the benefits of having a clutter free home? Learning to live with less things? How you can help someone in need with all the clutter in your home? [I think the writer could fold all four paragraphs into one, and I'm not quite sure what the actual focus of this piece is...the query reads like the writer is figuring it out as she goes. It's a bit wordy, too. Here's one way to approach it: "De-clutter your House, Improve your Life" will describe the connection between clutter and mental health, report on recent research in this area, and explain how having fewer things can actually make you happier in the long run. The piece will also include tips for readers about how to de-clutter their own homes. I plan to interview experts such as TK and TK and can also interview people who have pared their possessions for this piece." Also, I'd like to know what word count she's suggesting and what section of the magazine she thinks it's right for.]

Would you be interested in this article for All You magazine? [Unnecessary; cut this line.]

I am a freelance writer and TEFL teacher currently based in Poland. My writing has appeared in Real Travel and among others. [I'd like to see her pump up her ISG. Does she have experience de-cluttering her own life, for example? What kind of unique connection does she have with this topic?]

Thanks for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Warm Regards

Readers, I hope you've enjoyed this week's worth of query critiques! Is there a writing-related topic (please limit ideas to what I cover in this blog--namely making more money as a freelancer in less time) you'd like me to cover in the future? Drop me a post and let me know...and have a great weekend!


  1. Kelly,
    Thanks so much for doing this. I've learned a great deal, and I'm sure that others have too. Feels like I've been to a full-fledged workshop on query writing and have a lot to take home.

  2. You're welcome, Carol, and I'm glad you've found it helpful. And as you may know, both of my books, Ready, Aim, Specialize and Six-Figure Freelancing, have lots of query samples both from me and from other writers. I think it's always helpful to see different types of styles, approaches, etc.

  3. Thank you so much for providing these great critique examples! I am learning so much from you!

  4. My pleasure, Kim, and thanks for your comment! :)

  5. Thanks Kelly for this critique. It shows how important it is to go through a query with a fine tooth comb.

    Just one question, I have trouble finding studies that I can link to my queries. Where can these be found? I've thought about using ScienceDaily and PubMed, would these be okay to quote from? Also with the interviews, can I include an expert's name in my query if I haven't actually spoken to them yet?

    Thanks again Kelly, this week's posts have been really helpful.

  6. Hi, Katarzyna,

    I use PubMed a lot; you can always cite a study in your query based on the abstract and then request the full article (or interview the researcher) after you get the assignment. As far as naming an expert, here's what I do:

    "I plan to interview sources like TK and TK for this story..."

    Note that I say "plan to interview sources *like*..." In other words, these are the type and caliber of sources I'll use, but if I can't get the person I named, I'll use someone in the same basic category.

    However, if the story turns on someone's involvement (say, it's a profile, or based on a particular researcher's work), I do contact the person first to make sure he or she will participate.

    Hope this helps! :)


  7. Thanks Kelly, this information is really helpful. Hopefully, once I put it in to practice (which will be immediately) my queries will be more effective.