Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Starting a Query from Scratch

Lookee! Over there! It's yet another blog contest, this time to "Be an Agent for a Day," and as everyone probably knows by now, blog contests are my crack. Oh yes they are.

There are two components to this contest. The one that interests me the most is the part where people send in queries to be judged by Nathan Bransford's readers, as if they were actual agents. I know not all queries will be selected, but what the heck, let's give it a shot, so I'm going to send in a query for my unfinished YA Urban Fantasy, "Knights of Avalon."

Except here's the catch: I'm going to have to write the query first. From the ground up. My Surviving Matewan query I posted a while back? I had worked on and revised that for months before anyone ever got to see it. But I think it'll be an interesting exercise to show you my thought process as I put a new query together.

Before I start writing a query, the first question I ask myself is: What should I put in it? I love to bake and to me, this is like putting together a list of ingredients. And yes, it's very easy to forget ingredients, because as writers we're so close to our own work that we sometimes assume readers know something that they don't.

For Knights of Avalon , here's the basic premise: Knights of the Round Table reincarnated as New Jersey teens. To find out who is killing them one by one and save the future, they'll have to join together and discover their pasts.

Here are my basic ingredients for the query. I'll update this list if I think of anything else:

  • Story inspired by the legends of King Arthur and Camelot
  • The title (you think it's obvious but people apparently have forgotten)
  • Wordcount
  • Genre
  • No credentials will be included, because I really don't have any. Except that I love to write, my beagle thinks I'm brilliant and that I make the best pralines ever! But I don't think any of that's relevant here, so I'll leave it out. But seriously, my pralines are really yummy
  • Set in Avalon, New Jersey
  • In the plot summary, mention that Guinevere/Gwen has been kidnapped and it's this event that spurs her best friend Arthur/Justine to action and ultimately draws the knights together
  • Mention the murder of New Jersey teens, all of them brilliant and heroic in some way
  • Should I include quick one sentence descriptions of some of the individual knights? Will have to think on it. For example, for Dinadan, "a self-professed drama nerd whose only fighting experience is in West Side Story but finds herself able to take down a champion blackbelt with ease."
I'm clearly brainstorming here, but this is how I start a query. Just start tossing out ideas. I'll start a rough rough draft tomorrow and post it.


  1. Now I know that when and if your query comes up in Nathan's postings that it is an unfinished novel and not to request it.

    Thanks for the heads up!


  2. Thpppppt! :-) I considered this, but so few people read my blog, I figured it wouldn't be much of an issue.

  3. Just remember that a query is not a synopsis of your book - it's a tease to get the agent to want to read more. Don't give all the characters or all the plot points or subplots, just some tidbits that whet the appetite. Enough - but not too much. There are tons of sample queries on the agent blogs too if this is your first! Good luck!

  4. Came across this blog through a Twitter post. I grew up in Avalon, NJ. Have you been? Just curious. :-)

  5. Jenruss,

    Not yet! I'm planning on visiting next month. Right now I'm just using the town's web site and photos from the area to give me a feel for the place.

    Any info you could provide would be much appreciated! Just your impressions, things that only a local would know, etc. The Avalon in the book is going to be a little different from the actual town, but the closer I can make it to reality, the better.

    Feel free to e-mail me, if you click on my complete profile and go to my publishers marketplace listing, the address is right there (I don't want to put it up here and get caught by spammers).

  6. Popped over from The Swivet to read your #Underfail post (funny stuff!) and poke around. I don't participate in query blogs, but I have a couple of crit partners who tear into my queries before they go out. It's always helpful to have fresh eyes on your writing.

    "Knights of Avalon" sounds fun. Good luck with it.