Monday, December 7, 2009

Twelve pages

Twelve pages. Twelve. Pages. Of single-spaced notes, questions, failed attempts at a workable query. The process is a great exercise -- and I mean 'exercise' in the training-for-a-marathon sense -- because it has forced me to think about what's really at the core of my story.

What it all means. Why it matters.

Simplicity, I've learned once again, is hard. But finally, I think I've landed on something workable.


The port city of Quartermoon Bay teems with shipbuilders and captains home from the sea, fishermen and priests and menders of nets. People call fire from the air with a twist of their fingers, and an old woman’s storytelling silences a pub of rowdy sailors.

Twelve-year-old Riga has never seen much point in the stories Grandmother keeps trying to teach him. Until one bright morning, when six strange ships attack and burn his city to the ground, slaughtering the weak and the aged, and enslaving the rest. Grandmother has time to whisper one final story to Riga: across the mountains, hidden in a sea cave, lies the last Ship of the Light, a half-mythical relic of the old wars.

Riga escapes, killing two guards and fleeing into the mountains. He’s driven by the wild hope that he can find the Ship and strike back against the invaders who destroyed everything -- and everyone -- he’s ever known. But as he grasps the terrible significance of the ancient stories, and his role in them, he must weigh revenge against survival, and loyalty to his friends against the true burden of carrying the stories of the dead.


Peter S said...

Wow, exciting! I'd take out the "killing two guards part" just because it's a detail, not a major plot point. Do you want to mention that he escapes town with someone? This query makes sound like a very singular journey, which discounts the roles of those around him.

S R Wood said...

Thanks! Yes, I went around and around on the "killing two guards" bit, but decided to keep it because it's unusual for a 12-year-old, and it shows how determined Riga is, tying to the journey over the mountains and the nearly impossible task he sets himself on. See, it's not a query, it's a complicated knot, where every strand is attached to every other strand....

Sam said...

YES YES YES!!!! I love everything about it, especially when you included the stories of the dead part. PERFECT!! Did monkey mind whisper that in your ear while you were sleeping?
Small question: Are publishers for young adults excited to hear the word "slaughter" in a query? (I would be, just FYI).

S R Wood said...

Hm. I was wondering if the query was too brutal, and the word "slaughter" doesn't help. But then, it matches the story, and I wouldn't want to underplay the query only to have people shocked at the story. People die; I write about it.

And yes, I can't take any credit, it was Monkey Mind! Now I just need more bananas and tire swings.

missalister said...

Late to the party, but I love this query! All your complaints of late had me convinced all your talent had dropped out your bottom, was gone, pfft! Perhaps once a person has been talented for so long, it becomes the norm, so that they begin to look upward for the greatness in them and, to their horror, they see nothing.