I'm applying for a job today, one the college doesn't even know it needs. Writing the letter was the easy part though. Query writing has taught me a thing or two about how to structure these letters. I've long said three things about creating effective queries:
- there's a formula
- if it's tough to write, then the problem is with the book, not the letter
- write the query before you ever draft a word
I started with I got your name from... Then my pitch line: Writers want/need... with a description for my vision of the class. Then a graph of my pertinent experience, and Bob's yer uncle. Sound familiar?
When it comes to queries, it's the second bullet that people can't stand to hear. That graph everyone hates - the one where you sum up your story in a few sentences? It's not nearly as tough as folks make it out to be. Like I said, apply a formula. The formula works for the query because the formula works for stories.
MC, description and setting. Status quo interrupted by Bad Thing. MC reacts, probably making it worse. Antag throws out another Bad Thing, ups personal and external odds, really ups stakes, maybe sets a time limit. MC at a dilemma.
In a grim futuristic Colorado ravaged by global warming and hordes of starving people, Trinidad is an archwarden with a powerful Christian church preparing for war. His only goals are to make the final months for his dying priest as comfortable as possible, keep out from under his Bishop's radar, and put off taking the cross in the coming Crusade. But when an old Wiccan friend-- from a past Trinidad has done his best to forget-- turns up with a tale about a world filled with sand that heals and the scar to prove it, Trinidad realizes the sand could make an army invincible. It's too late to keep the other world secret. The Crusading Bishop has already discovered the sand and she'll murder to protect it. After Trinidad kills one of her guards - a brother-in-arms from his own church - in self-defense, he sets off a violent collision between conflicting faiths, his church, and a painful personal history he can no longer deny.
Using the formula above, this took me about 10 minutes to write. It's THE SILVER SCAR in a nutshell. Is it the whole story? I could write a whole other post of the stuff I left out (oh by the way, Trinidad is gay.) But at its heart, SCAR is a futuristic, religious thriller and I think I nailed that okay.
Writing is hard. Queries? Not so much.