Thursday, January 14, 2010

Query from the Start

I sat down today with a fresh project, a new book (at least one I haven't worked on in years), filled with energy to write. (Yes, as TikiBird knows in the comments from yesterday's post, I was sorely tempted to forget about Areia and work on tweaking Madison, but her timely comment saved me from dwelling and fussing and making a mess of things.)

I wasn't sure where to begin with this ginormous project, so I started with themes. I have upwards of ten possible themes that I toyed with on the novel, but there are a handful that are the big ones, and of those, there are two that I decided needed to be the focus of the novel. The rest could play their bit parts, but the overriding themes needed to be solid, flow throughout the entire series, and be specifically important at times of conflict. The themes needed to be something that puts pressure on the main character.

To really pinpoint the flow of a theme through a novel, I needed to see where it cropped up the loudest. I realized I knew just how to do that. In fact, I'd been practicing for the last month. I wrote a query.

I've heard other authors advise writing a query letter before you begin your novel, again somewhere in the middle, and then again at the end. Now I understand the wisdom of this. By describing a novel in a few short paragraphs, it forced me to cut out all the extra story lines and adventures and narrow the tale down to the key scenes. When you're working with such a small word count, the fatal flaws of a plot-holed manuscript shine through.

Suddenly I didn't have a thousand-page novel. I had a book jacket. And as expected, I also had immediate problems. Without anything else getting in the way, I could see where themes got dropped, which events were important, and where I'll need to place more or less importance in the rewrites.

I'm not saying the one hour of query writing set the entire path ahead of me for the editing process, but it was a good start. Tomorrow, I'll do it again, strengthen the query, and see where that leads me.


TikiBird said...

Ah, queries. Good luck with yours, Rebecca!

And to help anyone else out there, there's a contest for a critique of a YA/middle-grade novel, for anyone out there who's got one completed and is ready to go! I'm entering! Deadline is Jan. 31.

Rebecca Chastain said...

How exciting! Good luck with the contest! I hope you win!