Sunday, July 13, 2014

Adventures in Fiction Writing! Part Nine: Query Writing the Hard Way

I was going to subtitle this post Query Writing for Dummies, because I'm a dummy and I'm embarking on the first draft of the query letter for my MS (that's manuscript for you non-writing types), but I was afraid that y'all would assume that I'm calling YOU dummies. Then I got all flustered and turned around and was all: what am I going to call this post, then? And I chased those anxieties down the rabbit hole for a bit. Eventually I made it out and remembered what I'm supposed to be doing here:

Writing the goddamned first draft of my goddamned query letter.

So let's get the fuck on with it!

The very best piece of advice I ever received concerning query writing comes from a query-writing help book my amazing and super supportive boyfriend Brandon bought me. It's called Make it Catchy: The Quintessential Guide to Writing Query Letters by Marta Acosta. It's available as an ebook and you can buy it here.

Acosta says:

I suggest that you write a first draft without worrying about the word count. Then revise your letter to make it as tight and as intriguing as possible.

If you're like me, you read that line and breathed a sigh of relief. Because I've been pretty much paralyzed by the thought of having to summarize my book in a catchy, unique way--while following all the rules of convention and without getting TOO unique--all in 750 words or less. But I think I can give it a pretty good go without being shackled by the word count.

Here it is, in all its lengthy glory:

Query Letter: First Draft

All hope is never lost. Not even in Nowhere.

Cerulean and Amarillo Saffron are sisters separated by guilt, regret, and a secret the Ardor Laboratory Corporation will go to any lengths to protect. Only hope can reunite them and save the Lost Children of Nowhere. Amarillo hasn't seen her baby sister since the day she disappeared from their family home nine years ago. The older sister is plagued by guilt: if she hadn't left home, if she hadn't sought an exciting life in Somewhere, maybe she could have saved Cerulean. A chance assignment given to her by her boss, Mayor Naples Orange of Somewhere, proves to Amarillo that there was nothing she could have done all those years ago to protect Cerulean. It also gives the spunky young woman something else she sorely needs--hope that it is still possible to save her sister, and all the other Lost Children who are trapped in the neighboring city of Nowhere.

All Amarillo has to do is find a way to get inside Nowhere, which is no small feat as no one in Somewhere can remember anyone ever being able to get in or out of their sister city, except maybe Nowhere's mayor, the boogeyman Mayor Blue. But Amarillo knows she can do it, even if she has to do it alone. Mayor Orange is busy with his pet road project, the Roy G. Biv highway that will connect Somewhere and Nowhere and hopefully spur economic growth. Also there is the issue of the continued hope theft from the emotion recycling plant. At first Amarillo thinks she may be able to turn to Deputy Mayor Scarlet for help, but when she spots him inside Nowhere--on the other side of the seemingly impenetrable force field that seals that city off from the rest of the world--with an armload of stolen emotion actuators, she knows he is up to no good.

But what, exactly, is Somewhere's deputy mayor doing? Maybe it has something to do with The Outlawz, the elusive gang of saboteurs who have been attacking the road construction from the very beginning. Both Mayor Orange and the Somewhere Times have surmised that The Outlawz are probably a youth gang comprised of Lost Children. No one has any suggestions about what the saboteurs' motives might be, but when Amarillo sees Deputy Scarlet inside Nowhere with the pilfered hope, she gets an idea.

The more Amarillo digs into the problem of the Lost Children, the more she realizes it's not just a Nowhere issue. It's a Somewhere issue. The histories of Nowhere and Somewhere are inextricably connected, and they are tied to the secret that the Ardor Labs Corporation--the largest employer in Somewhere and the biggest supporter of the Roy G. Biv highway--will do anything to keep buried. Amarillo finds an ally in Somewhere Times reporter Fern Viridian, and together, they--along with Mayor Orange--fight to unravel that secret and free the Lost Children.

What Amarillo doesn't know is that the Lost Children have not been sitting passively by, waiting to be rescued. Led by her intrepid little sister Cerulean and former Outlawz members Azure and Denim, they have been fighting: against the other Outlawz, against Deputy Mayor Scarlet, and even against the evil Mayor Blue. When the battle finally unites the forces from Somewhere and the forces from Nowhere, they are ready to stand together and vanquish their foes with their strength and their hope restored.

ROAD TO NOWHERE, a young adult urban fantasy novel, is complete at just over 77,000 words.

This is obviously waaaaaay too long. Also, it's very rough. But it's a start. Now I NEED your help. I am completely out of my element with this query writing business. I've read helpful books and helpful blogs on the subject, but what I really need is feedback. PLEASE LEAVE ME COMMENTS. Tell me, if anything, in this first draft works, and what doesn't. What should I cut? Should I add anything?


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