I don't know how many of y'all follow me on Twitter, but as I tweeted about two days ago, I've started working on the query for The Book of Lost Runes. And let's just say it's not going well.
Yes, this is the part where I rant.
I feel like this shouldn't be so difficult. I've been writing queries since 2001. No, not continuously; I'm reasonably productive, but I'm not that productive, and there was that long dry spell where I hardly wrote anything worth a damn because I was trying to write short stories for publication and everything that came out of that period was crap except for one single piece. But in theory, I should know what I'm doing.
'Theory' is an incredibly useful word, especially when it serves as an indication that whatever I'm theorizing to be true is utterly and completely not.
To be honest, BoLR is not a book that's easy to summarize. A significant event occurs ten years before the story even starts, and while I cover that in the first chapter (without resorting to infodumps, yay me), that's presents two problems. First, it's an essential element for the two main characters, so how can I summarize it in the query? Second, since it's not actually part of the story's events, do I need to include it?
If you've noticed that these problems are contradictory, then I hope you see why summarizing this story is such a pain in the ass.
I almost wish I'd written the crazy dream book first and edited that one, because I already know exactly how that query's going to go. But I think BoLR has a higher chance of actually being published, mostly because it's not insane.
Anyway. There's also the fact that the essential conflict of BoLR changes over the course of the book. What starts off as a blackmail/revenge plot turns into the discovery of a serious problem involving both the main characters' homes. In all of my query attempts so far, getting that plot twist across has involved a lot more words than a query letter should have. I've heard the average query letter is around three hundred words, so I doubt many agents would look favorably on one that's a full five hundred words long.
Finally, there's the whole romance thing. It's pretty clear in the story itself - as I've said here before, the relationship upgrade happens in chapter two - but it's part of the plot in ways I can't cover effectively in a query letter. I know I'll mention it when I query agents who specifically want books with LGBT couples, but that means I have to find a way to fit it in that doesn't affect the letter if it's taken out, which is yet another issue. I'll probably leave it in no matter what.
The one upside is that I've figured out an essential part: how to end it. That's been the only easy part. I took the quick description I came up with for the book and worked that into the final paragraph, so no matter what happens with the rest of the query, I get my pseudo-blurb in there at the end:
Airships, blackmail, and ancient magic collide in THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES, a fantasy novel of 80,000 words. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Next week: I might have a query to share and request critique for, perhaps two. Or I might have taken up drinking heavily.