In 2053, Trinidad took up the mantle of Archwarden at the age of twelve. Fostered by an Episcopal priest and trained by a godless armsmaster, he learned the brutal art of balancing faith and war. Now twenty-five, Trinidad is an accomplished soldier, revered by his Church and feared by his enemies: raiding Indigo clans and eco-terrorists. But the minority Christian population, living in walled parishes, are losing the battle on nearly every front, from faith to land loss. While Christians have long held the cities and wealth, the eco-terrs and clans hold something more dear in a world where civilization is breaking down: trade routes and fertile farmlands.
When a Wiccan long associated with the eco-terrs asks to treat with the Church, claiming they share a dangerous new enemy, Trinidad suspects it's a trick designed to bring the walled city of Boulder to its knees. He quickly learns he's not entirely wrong. The danger isn't just to the parishoners he swore to protect, but will shake the foundations of all faiths.
Real rough. That's okay. It's a working version, more to keep me on track with my own book. I read it... a lot.
Because this book is full of distractions. Trinidad is gay, for one, and his love interest is the Wiccan. (Not really such a big thing for me, but it might be for readers.) There are bands of roving bandits, there are Indigo clans--think communes, only with militias. There are slave gangs coming up from wealthier Mexico. There's treating Wicca with respect, and handling a centuries old emnity between Christianity and the Craft. There's eco-terrorism and rolling black outs and lack of basic goods and crumbling buildings and walled in windows, and a fair bit of sword play when the rifle ammo runs out. There's city marshals and a Church fading back into its cruel, mysanthropic roots. (Tudors, anyone?) There's an adopted little brother who figures prominently. And even more, of course. But I can't put all that into a query. I have to choose some succinct, leading words.
Like 2053. Like Wiccan (not correct or entirely polite terminology, but it shows bias on the part of the character, I hope. Also, I've learned "Witch" is not generally understood as the proper term). Fostered (his parents are dead--uh oh, what happened?), minority Christian population, and eco-terrs, and walled city. I'm trying to paint a picture of the world I've created and show there are lots of problems eclipsed by The Big Problem.
This isn't generally how I run my queries, though. This has a lot of backstory in it, but like I said, I'm painting a picture--and I hope the novel will be an atomosperic futuristic thriller. I'll likely switch it up for submissions though--depending on who I'm sending it to. In that case, an easy way to structure a query goes like this:
- Line introducing Character, job, and main feature of why S/HE's the one in the story.
- The problem (inciting incident) and his/her reaction (usually a When Statement.) I have one in the second graph.
- How Things Got Worse #1.
- How Things Got Worse #2, as long as you've still plenty of room for:
- The No Turning Back Clincher
So on that case, my selling synopsis might work more like this, without spending a lot of time cleaning it because I have a magazine to put out this weekend:
In 2053, Trinidad took up the mantle of Archwarden at the age of twelve. Fostered by an Episcopal priest and trained by a godless armsmaster, he learned the brutal art of balancing faith and war. Now twenty-five, Trinidad is an accomplished soldier, revered by his Church and feared by his enemies: raiding Indigo clans and eco-terrorists.
When a Wiccan long associated with the eco-terrs asks to treat with the Church, claiming they share a dangerous new enemy from a Silver World filled with sand that heals, Trinidad suspects it's a trick designed to bring the walled city of Boulder to its knees. He grows even more convinced as the Wiccan's actions takes the life of his best friend. But he soon learns the Silver World is long coveted by the Church, as well as other ill-intentioned peoples, and it's protected by fierce creatures. He kills one of them in strained battle and the creatures seek vengeance against his people. Trinidad must face a terrible danger, not just to the people he swore to protect, but to the foundations of all faiths. To protect his own crumbling world, he must befriend his enemies and watch as walls between cities, people, and his own past and future, fall.
Ok, I wrote that in about ten seconds. It needs a lot of clean up. But it gives me a good basis to show the extent of the problems in the book--to Trinidad and to the world I've created.
- Who Trin is
- An odd request from an enemy to see the Silver Sand. (inciting incident)
- His best friend dies--suspicion grows (problem # 1 that drags him deeper)
- Everyone wants the sand--it's a valuable commodity--complication that shows the extent of the new world I've created--lots of infighting and factions. (problem #2--this isn't just going to go away if he ignores it)
- Creatures make war in his world (No Turning Back Moment) and Trinidad must face what all this means, emotionally, spiritually and physically, to win. He must do things in New Ways (indicating the all-essential character growth and change).
I tried to allude to the complications--it is a complicated book (hense some of my current trouble with it), but also I tried to present clean, clear-cut central problems (granted, the graph needs some work to bring it down to size.)
But that formula makes a neat little package and is easy to write, providing your book has these elements. If you can't write this format based on your book, then the problem is not with your query writing skills. It's with the book.
And, though I'm not going into details here, this type of query has sold projects for me. I've also had a ton of partial requests for books with queries based on this format. It works, and the greatest thing about it: it lays plot flaws on the table before you send out the query--which is the best time to find out about them.