Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Tightening Up A Covering Letter 2

Yesterday I looked at the novel description from a real covering letter I worked on with a student (who has given me permission to quote from it in the blog).

This is how his biography originally ran:

I am currently a second year undergraduate student reading Ancient history at the University of Blogville. My passion and study of history, including world religions, has helped shape my ideas and thought processes. This has enabled me to form a rich and realistic world to which the reader can relate. My book has been appraised and edited by the author ABC through the XYZ literary consultants. I have also worked closely with the novelist KLM at the University of Blogville. An article that I have written regarding my novel is to be published in the Blogville University Classics Magazine this December.

Okay, there are several points here.

He's made a big deal of the authentic background to the novel so he's right to say he's studying Ancient History, but there's too much detail.

He says he's had help from two sources - a literary consultancy and a novelist. Now, I think this is dodgy. The implication is, he can't write without extensive help and if an agent takes him on, will he be able to write another book without this level of support? And how much is genuinely his own work, and how much that of his helpers?

And the article he's written about his novel? For his student magazine? It manages to sound both a bit pretentious and inconsequential.

Finally, there's a typo - history should have been capitalised. A covering letter should be perfect.

And this is it rewritten:

I currently study Ancient History at the University of Blogville and this, along with my passion for fantasy, has given me a generous background knowledge upon which I have drawn to write my novel. An article of mine has also been accepted for publication.

He's addressed the main points. He's given just enough personal background to substantiate his claims about his knowledge of the setting. He's ditched the information about the help he's had with writing the novel, and he's gone for the simpler statement that he's had an article accepted. The first sentence is a bit long and clunky, but it's so much better than the first version.

When writing your biography remember to keep it relevant and straightforward. I hope this writer does well: he was a pleasure to work with.

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