Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Queries are like cupcakes!! cuppppcakesssss!!!

Hey guys! Long time no blog. Can I say that? Is 'blog' a legitimate verb now? It should be.


Let's get into it with that one word. QUERIES. KWERE RIES.

Back when I was querying, I didn't think I'd write queries for my projects once I was represented. This is a lie. Query-writing is the number one most important tool I've cultivated. Writing a query ahead of a project helps to outline where the story is going, what the stakes are, and who the characters will be. It forces you to think like you did in the querying trenches - how to capture the attention of people with a story in less than two paragraphs.

Even now, I get a lot of people asking for help with their queries. I thought I'd breakdown my process for how I see/write queries.

Basically, queries to me are like cupcakes.

I know, you're like YUM WOW BEST ANALOGY EVER. Hopefully. Otherwise you're just staring at the screen like; 'this chick's crazy/obsessed with food'. Both are true. Alas.

picture credit! Her blog is incredibly drool-worthy! go check it out~  

(Keep in mind, the following is just how I do queries. It doesn't work for everyone, and your wonderful way is probably different, and that is amazing. I just thought it would be fun to share how I do mine!)

First up! The most important part of the query, in my opinion, the hook.

The hook is a lot like the cupcakey body of the cupcake. It sets the tone of the query, shows how blindingly good I am at being catchy (pft), and gives the reader an idea of the plot all in one or two sentences. It's best to be dramatic with the hook. Don't be afraid of being melodramatic. In fact, this is the one area of my query where I let myself be dramatic and maybe a little weepy.

Let's say I'm hypothetically writing a YA Fantasy inspired by A Game of Thrones/Legend of Korra. (^_~)☆

What I want is to zoom in on the hooky conflict. I need to make it about the main character's struggle, first and foremost. So!

Yura is the first Darkest Burn mage born in a century.

And the world wants to kill her. 

Tahdahhh! Conflict. We know the story is about mages, about a girl who's a certain type of mage, and that because of that, her world wants her dead.

Now, we need to elaborate. WHY does the world want to kill her? Let's get into that right away so the reader isn't confused. Let's call that the frosting. The frosting is the best part, right? It's the whole reason you eat the cupcake in the first place! You can actually eat it by itself. That's how good it is.

King Nalhalbet of Serko nearly conquered the world with his army of Darkest Burn mages. To stop him, King Farlin of Ral committed genocide against the Darkest Burns. With mage-types passed through bloodlines, the world rested easy - the Darkest Burn power could be abused by kings no longer. But magic found a way; it birthed Yura.

There. The world is fleshed in a little. We now know why they'd want to kill poor Yura. We could probably do without naming the countries each King is a part of, so maybe I'll take out the 'of Serko' and 'of Ral' later if need be, but I feel it adds to the flavor of the world, and shows the warring countries aspect. Let's bring our main character back in and combine her WITH the world. Her actions in it. It's all still frosting, mind. Make it delicious.

When Yura's kidnapped by slavers her magic spirals out of control, killing the slavers, fellow slaves, and the mage-hunting knights assigned to assassinate her. One knight survives - Kahn, bastard of the King of Ral. Determined to complete his assignment and avenge the loss of his comrades, he travels with a guilt-wracked Yura and the old mage Vendal. Vendal takes Yura under his wing, teaches her to control her powers, and leads her to a safe haven in the capital of Lekk, where people flatter, manipulate, and backstab to make her power their own.

This is more set-up, specifically what happens in the book, and who else is involved in Yura's journey. Arguably I could shorten and combine a lot of this with the MAIN conflict, which is below. The MAIN conflict acts as the cupcake wrapper, keeping the cupcake in place and making it appealing. It's essentially the last chance you have to draw the reader into the story and leave them hanging, leave them wanting to read more. So make it good!  

But a greater threat lurks; the King of Ral reanimates the corpses of the long-dead Darkest Burns in an effort to make another invincible army. They regenerate. They overrun villages and make their way to the capital of Lekk. And the only thing that can destroy them permanently is true Darkest Burn magic - Yura's magic. 

If she can't master it, Lekk will perish. If she can't control it, she'll kill innocents again.

Darkest Burns will consume the world again. 

In my personal opinion, I've done better MAIN conflicts, but I do like those last couple lines. Finally, we get to the sprinkles of the cupcake - the summarizing paragraph.

The Darkest Burning is a 78k word YA/Fantasy, pitched as A Game of Thrones meets Legend of Korra. Thank you for your time.

Overall, the query is rather average. I've never done a fantasy YA query before, so this was my first try! It's a lot harder than, say, contemporary, which has a straightforward plot without a lot of world building, since we already live in that world! Although, any cupcake is a good cupcake, I think, and this one is no exception.


  1. Thanks for the great query advice! I think your queries are awesome. It's definitely not one of my skills but I finally got one I'm happy with for my last project. I think I pants too much to write a query before a novel but I always try to start it after the first draft so that I have as long as possible to polish it, because they are definitely quite rusty for me.

    1. D'aww, thanks Zoe! I think it's maybe important, even if you pants, to try and write a query maybe sometime halfway through the book. It really helps you simplify and see your story in a new light! But I totally understand pantsing, too. I'm a huge pantser myself.

      And practice makes perfect! It's really true - you only get better with time, I promise.

    2. That's really interesting to know you write your query before even though you pants, I never would have guessed. Well I'm about to start a first draft so maybe I will try it now or even midway through. It's a good idea, maybe I'm just scared haha, oh queries!