Oh, the painful process of writing the query, tempting to actually become a writer with an agent.
This is the "sweet sorrow" for every writer, except for the self righteous bastards that talk about how they never published a thing before and how they were just working on their first novel when they met an agent through a friend during spin class, and once he saw the thirty pages that were written so far, he sold the yet unfinished novel. Oh yea, I met that writer at a bookstore event. She was very proud that she took the express lane to having her novel published. I'll go back to that bookstore every week just to see how soon it hits the discounted shelf.
For the rest of us, however, we must write, and we must query. Basics: Query - attempt to sell your craft to the middlemen who convince publishers to buy manuscripts and turn them into thin tree slices stained with ink that people buy. We writers send queries to agents, managers, and even those few publishers that still accept them, hoping our sample pages and writing style are interesting enough to make us their clients. Query requirements differ based on the person you're submitting to. Some even request things like character biographies and what works are most similar to yours. Sure, I wrote the thing, now let me tell you how to market it too!
The most challenging part of a query I was ever asked for was a synopsis. I just wrote 70,000 words. That's my synopsis, isn't it? Turns out, no. The agent I'm asking to be my best friend doesn't have time for reading 70,000 words, at least not just yet. Film maker John Singleton once said, "Nobody cares about your little movie. You have to care about your little move." It's true in film, and it's true in writing. The agent, the publisher, even the public doesn't care about your little whatever you've created. You have to care about it. And because you do, you will introduce it to people in the best way possible, by quickly and concisely telling them all about it, in just six sentences.
Stop panting. It's possible. No, you don't have to re-read your novel and pull six sentences out. What you need to do is answer six questions.
Here are your questions.
1) What is life like for my main character(s) at the start of the book?
2) What sets them on their journey?
3) Why is the journey important to them?
4) What obstacles get in the way?
5) What is the biggest obstacle of all? (can be hinted at)
6) End with a Question or a hook.
Okay, the last one isn't a question, but if you really wrote a good story, that should be easy to come up with.
Right now I'm working on a science fiction novel. It's kind of like something Arthur C. Clarke would have written, mankind finds it's destiny in space. Let's see if I can write a synopsis using the format I outlined above.
1) Joseph Angsten is dying of a disease which is slowly robing his body of the use of it's muscles.
2) Both Joseph and his mother share a belief that mankind is soon to make a
leap in it's development, but to do so requires leaving Earth and Mars
3) His only desire is to die while in outer space, a dream made real by his
mother who helps him stow away on a mining ship bound for Jupiter.
4) Stowaways, and those that help them, are punished by execution.
5) Joseph's continuing bodily atrophy prevents him from adequately expressing his preternatural knowledge that mankind is dying and that the ship must never return to Earth.
6) How will the nearly paralyzed Joseph convince the ship's Captain to keep the ship where it is - with his very life, if he must.
There! I did it. One problem, I don't like it. Story is tension, and I've failed to depict any tension. Let me try it from a different angle.
1) Captain Hobart is the last surviving person aboard the Interplanetary Mining Vessel, Sunshine Laersk, as it sits marooned on the Saturnine moon Gannymeade.
2) Having not received communications from Earth and Mars for years, and confident that human life on those planets no longer exists, she sets about to journal not only the ship's fate but the condition of mankind at it's end, should some future and unknown explorers encounter her ship.
3) Were it not for her encounter with a crippled, ten year old stowaway on her ship who told her fantastic visions of what was about to happen, Captain Hobart's circumstance would be far different.
4) She wonders if she made a mistake in not shooting him in the head when they first found him, as is the standard punishment for stowaways.
5) As she sits trapped in the useless prison of her ship, she now wonders if her biggest mistake was not listening to him sooner.
6) Who is it that will find her written words, and what will they choose to do with them?
I like it better. I shifted viewpoint and it gets me excited for the story. Now let me clean it up for the queries.
Banished Children of Eve is a story told by Captain Hobart, the last surviving person aboard the
Interplanetary Mining Vessel, Sunshine Laersk, as it sits marooned on
the Saturnine moon Gannymeade. Having not
received communications from Earth and Mars for years, and confident
that human life on those planets no longer exists, she sets about to
journal not only the ship's fate but the condition of mankind at it's
end, should some future and unknown explorers encounter her ship.
Through her writings she realizes that were it not for a crippled, ten year old stowaway, who told her fantastic visions of what was about to happen to bring an end to mankind,
Captain Hobart's circumstances would be far different. Mostly she wonders if she made a mistake by not shooting the boy in the head when
they first found him, as was the standard punishment for stowaways. Sitting trapped in the prison of her useless space craft, she later considers if her biggest mistake was not listening to him sooner. What is it that will find her written words, what will they choose to do with them, and will mankind live on?
I like it. Time for queries.