Friday, May 8, 2009

Query Letters

What I'm listening to: Anberlin - A Whisper and a Clamor

What I'm doing: Reading blogs and articles.

I'm still reading through Robert Gregory Browne's articles, and one in particular seemed extraordinarily relevant.

He claims to be talking about how to get an agent, but what he's really aiming at is writing a good query letter.

But Amy, I hear you saying plaintively. You're only on chapter two. Why are you worrying about a query letter right now?

That's because I'm a slacker and a wanderer, and I'm not able to focus JUST on writing if I don't have something else to shift the focus to every so often. And by shifting the focus to something that will eventually help me in my quest to publish my books, I'm both slacking off on the writing process itself while still doing something useful and book-related. I am, at the very least, aware of my faults, even if I'm unwilling/unable to do anything about them, which is more than I can say for quite a few people of my acquaintance.

Back to query letters. I know the importance of them. I read Query Shark, and I've gone over the query letter sections of several agent's blogs to find out what works for them, and what doesn't, and I've read some of the Secret Agent entries. I'm fully aware of how much rests on your query letter, but that doesn't make them any easier to write. To date, my query letter for Eversong is in it's third incarnation, and is about to move into it's fourth, because of this very simple formula Mr. Browne was so kind as to supply us with.

Who, What, and How. Who is it? What are their circumstances. How do they resolve them? This is for creating the 'logline' (his words, not mine) of your query, the 'hook' that will reel in your readers. Following this for Eversong, I came up with the following:

Who: An average girl.

What: Gets thrown into a world full of magic.

How: She goes on a quest to save the world, the conclusion of which will allow her to return home.

And end up with my baited hook line:

When Vicky Crawford is thrown into a world full of magic and mythology, she's got to find a way to save everything before she can get back home.

This sums it up perfectly. Vicky's in a strange world (I keep going to write 'magical world' but the world itself isn't magic, just the creatures who inhabit it.) and it's in danger. She wants to get home, but before she can do so, she's got to save the world.

It's got everything; it's short and to the point, it covers the basics, and it tells you a great deal about the story without telling you everything. Using this as the basis, I'll be able to write a much better query letter.

And now as an exercise, I'm going to write it for the next book, too.

Who: A girl who's already saved the world once.

What: Her friends are in danger from a deranged king who wants to destroy the world.

How: She uses the love and help of her friends in order to send him back where he came from.

And from it is born the premise of Return to Eversong:

Vicky's already saved the world once, and brought home the tee shirt to prove it, but when the Dragon-Lord Draevn unleashes his thousand-year wrath on the world that rejected him, she returns to fight beside her friends and win back everything she loves from the clutches of a madman.

It does the same thing; sums up the story, the conflict, and the strength of character that Vicky has in order to protect the people and places she loves. Now, granted, I don't know as much about Return to Eversong as I do about the first novel, because I haven't done more than the preliminaries on it, and the hook for the second one could probably be better, but it's a start, and it's a way to interest people in the next novel.

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