Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Dreaded Query

I've spent months writing my Summer Story, agonizing over bits of dialog and plot and character development. I've played with half a dozen titles (I'm currently calling it THE TRICK TO LANDING), created a Pinterest board, and built a playlist. I've drafted and refined and polished until it's very near to something I'm proud of. I seriously love this book.

All of that? That was the easy part. NOW I have to somehow take those months of work, those 52,000 or so words, and condense them into a 250 word query letter that entices the reader, summarizes the story, and somehow does justice to the character's I've created.

This book has been hard to write and even harder to summarize. I've technically been working on a query since before I started writing - and I'm still unhappy with it. I've basically forgotten everything I learned about query writing prior to signing my publishing deal.

But wait! Published authors need to write queries?

In a word, yes. I have to give my editor something to describe the book I've written. Publishing is a business and my publisher has the right to either take this book on or not. A query letter is part of that. It can also be part of the cover copy. If you look at the book description for FALLING on Amazon or another bookseller, that is 90% word-for-word from my query.

There's never really a time when you won't need to succinctly describe your book. It's definitely not my favorite part of the process, but it's important. I'm going back to the three Cs - character, conflict, crisis - and examining my story with new eyes. If I can't break it down into those elements, there's something wrong with the book and that means it isn't read for a query anyway.

In the interest of transparency, here's what I've got so far. It's a work in progress and still so rough. But everything starts somewhere and here's my start :)

Sixteen-year-old skater Summer O’Neill wants to forget her past on the half pipe, blazing new trails in a sport that doesn’t exactly welcome girls. After a gnarly wipeout destroyed her chance for a spot in the X Games, it’s been one mistake after another, culminating in a DUI and a move halfway down the coast to tiny Oceanside, California. Life in Oceanside is a chance for redemption – on a board and off – but it also means adjusting to life with a mother she hardly knows, navigating new friendships, and redefining who she thinks she is. 

The very last thing Summer is looking for is a boyfriend, at least until she meets Sebastian Vega. Steady, unassuming, and sensitive, he’s everything she’d not. Before long, she’s sneaking out for midnight sandcastle building excursions and trading in her art class for private photography lessons in the darkroom with Bastian.

But Summer’s past isn’t finished and Bastian has problems of his own – including a bleeding disorder that shapes every aspect of his life. As he fights against the very restrictions she needs to make up for her past, their issues collide in a perfect storm of failure. Now Summer must let go of her past and embrace the moment if she has any chance at a future with Bastian.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Any brilliant query advice you have for me? Any tips for keeping sane while shrinking a beloved story into a tiny description? Good luck to all writing the dreaded query.


  1. Um, my only thought is I want to read this RIGHT NOW. Although I am a little confused about the "As he fights against the very restrictions she needs to make up for her past," line? I feel like it's missing a word, or something. Otherwise, I love it.

    1. Thank you so much! I agree about that line. Now to fix it...

    2. I'm always up for query reads, so anytime, just let me know. :-)