I rewrote my query letter last week, and it was not easy. No matter what I did, I ended up with a rambling monstrosity that jumped from topic to topic. There was just too much that was important and too many characters I needed to introduce. I knew that I needed to cut out a lot of stuff, but I couldn’t decide what. What characters should stay? What concepts should I mention? How could I explain the core conflict of my story without getting lost in the details?
I eventually tried one of those “summarize your story in a sentence” exercises that’re usually used for brainstorming or pitch-writing. Here’s the one I tried:
It’s not amaaaaazing, but it was definitely useful. The Starburst Method encourages you to summarize your story in a sentence or two. I didn’t use the one-sentence version in my query, but I did use the longer, three-or-four sentence summary that you end up with near the end of the exercise. I broke up those sentences, edited them, and used them as the lynchpin sentences in my query. Then it was just a matter of filling in the gaps.
I’m very happy with it! The new query is much stronger than the first. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes you need to pull back–way, way back–and look at your story from another point of view.