Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Query quandary

Okay. How many ways are there to write a query? How wet is the sea?

I've settled -- FOR NOW -- on three. First, from author Jodi Meadows, a technique posted last summer to the Writeoncon site, and reposted on Elana Johnson's blog. Second, the approach which, as far as I know, agent Kristin Nelson developed, focusing on the inciting incident. Which had better be found in your first 50 pages.

And lastly, the hideous and rarely spoken-of Third Method, where I build sentences through sheer force of will and stubbornness. If the first two methods are shiny-faced children performing piano recitals and eating politely, the Third Method is the thing under the stairs that keeps eating cats.

In any case! The result of many hours of brow-furrowing, talking to myself, gesturing at the cats, and consuming Stygian amounts of coffee is that I have three separate queries. All for the same book.

In the coming days I'll post them here. Note that each will have an opening and closing -- these are letters, after all -- but what you see is really the meat of the sandwich. Or the peanut butter and jelly if, like me, you have tasted this food of the gods.

Ready? Here we go. We'll begin today with The Third Method. I should note a strange situation: this query was originally written for a much longer book, which I've since revised, focusing only on the events in the first third. That first section has become the standalone book I am now querying.

Oddly, the original query for the longer book still applies, as it refers to events and situations which still endure in the new book. I myself am often surprised at life's little quirks.

So. Here is the Third Method query: a taste of the world of the book, the character and his conflicts, a few seasoning details, building up to what seems to be an unresolvable situation.


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.

Thirteen-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 Quartermoon Bay 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.

2 comments:

psoutowood said...

I know of what you speak. You've got to write your own trailer, each word a gem that makes the agent slaver for more. If you want to feel like a worthless piece of ess-aych-eye-tee, click the submissions button on this page:

http://www.wylieagency.com/

You'd never guess this company drinks champagne only because writers came to them!

S R Wood said...

Well, check out their client list. Pretty full. Makes sense that they're not looking to take on new writers. It really depends on the agency: some are hungry for new talent, others focus on the stable of writers they already have, and most are a little of both.

What I mean is that not taking queries except by referral is not uncommon ... but not unheard of either. Lots of agencies out htere...