Last night I went to a meeting of the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association, as they were putting on a workshop about queries. Of course, many of the information was your regular do’s and dont’s, most of it common sense to me (like if you’re a smoker, don’t write your query where you smoke). Of course, some of it was information I hadn’t thought of. It gave me some great insight into the construction of a good query. So after the meeting, I went up to talk to the author who presented the workshop, a YA writer named Joni Sensel, and spoke with her a bit about the hook of my query. She gave me some great advice. It really is difficult to pinpoint the true conflicts of a story. Or even more difficult, to pinpoint what conflict of the story would sell it to the agents. In my book, for instance, there are so many layers of conflicts! It being a historical, there are the natural conflicts of the true parts of the story… can anyone say Richard III? Just the name is chalk-full of conflict. There is the over-riding conflict of the Wars of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster, there is the conflict within the House of York, between the Duke of Gloucester (future Richard III) and the Wydevilles, the conflict between the Duke of Buckingham and the entire House of York, the c0nflict between Buckingham and his wife, between Buckingham and my protagonist, Isolda, between Isolda and her nemesis, the knight Sir Perry, between Isolda and the Marquis of Dorset, between Dorset and Buckingham, between Sir Perry and Buckingham, and of course the conflict Isolda has with herself. It is a very complex story! Is it any wonder why each section of the story is so long? THE COUNTERFEIT NOBLE is 128,000 words alone. The second book of the series, A SANGUINE ROSE, is 170,000 words, so I am considering splitting that into 2 books so the word count doesn’t seem so daunting, and I am really going to strive to keep the last book, CRIMSON SUNRISE, to 110,000 or less. This time period is just so full of many different dimensions, it’s difficult to clearly describe the events of the time period and focus on a fictional story within that in fewer words. We’re talking about a time when loyalty meant nothing, and conspiracies were more common than raindrops in London.
But after speaking with Joni, she helped me direct my query to the most important conflict of the story, which is not the same as the most important conflict of the era. That would be, of course, Isolda’s conflict within herself. This conflict is especially important in A SANGUINE ROSE and CRIMSON SUNRISE, but THE COUNTERFEIT NOBLE, though substantial on its own, is really the setup for the other two (or three, if I split up ASR). As I just finished editing ASR two days ago, that portion of the story is really weighing on my mind. I am probably most happy with that book. To me, it captures the essence of the conflict of the era, as well as the conflict within Isolda, and both conflicts reach their ultimate climax in CS.
So, I’ve taken pen to paper, and scratched all over my original query, directing it more toward Isolda and the conflict within herself and with Buckingham. We’ll see if this works a bit better. I am still waiting for responses to the queries I sent off at the beginning of January, although I am not holding my breath. I am not pleased with the query I wrote, so I will not be surprised if they result in form rejections.
Until next time!