Normally I would keep this to myself. I’d let my computer eat it, and it would sit in its belly. It would be regurgitated now and then, to be examined and tweaked, but ultimately it would be left there.
Did I just make my cover letters sound like vomit?
Why yes, yes I did.
My problem with cover letters is that I could write five different ones, telling *gasp!* showing different things, and I’d think they were all relevant.
How do you know what to include and what to leave out?
There are many ways to cut your way down to the best stuff. Here’s what I did.
I had a poke around this blog. http://queryshark.blogspot.com/It’s by a New York Literary Agent, and it’s where queries (cover letters) are sent to die and be reborn as better and brighter versions of their past selves.
I forgot about my book. Forgot that it is, in fact, over 100k words. Forgot the ins and outs, the secondary characters, the back-stories and the sub-plots. What’s left, the core that never fades from your mind, the fundamental part that you CAN’T forget, that’s what goes in the letter.
I focused on my main character. She is the point of my book. Every time I’m asked what it’s about, I’m tempted to say ‘It’s about Ara’.
I left out as many names as possible. The name of the country, the name of the main city, the name of the sanctuary, gone gone gone. Three names feature in the letter; the main character, the source of the conflict, and the ‘enemy’-the person ‘what’s at stake’ is tied to.
I thought ‘what am I trying to say’ and then I said it.
I wrote the letter the way I wrote the book; being bold and starting sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’, single-word sentences, single-line paragraphs…It’s a taster of your writing; it should be polished, but not shined up so much that it doesn’t sound like you.
Does it do my book, my story, my main character justice? No idea.
Here it is…
In a rebel sanctuary, hidden among thousands of creaking trees, Ara spearheads the fight against Kry Maladin; the country’s ruler.
The sanctuary is filled with people she snatched out of Kry’s crushing hands; people he wanted to work for him, people he’d make do what he wanted. Now those people watch her with frosty eyes and whisper about her when she shouldn’t be able to hear them. Ara isn’t like them, and even though she hides it, they know she’s different. Dangerous.
What they don’t know is that she’s the reason they were rescued; that she pitted her speed and strength against Kry’s defences so they could be saved. And no one in the sanctuary knows that she does it because, years ago, Kry’s crushing hands snatched her, and held on tight until she escaped.
On the two-year anniversary of her escape, Risk, Kry’s son, is brought to the sanctuary. And Risk, whose voice grips her heart, whose eyes arrest her breath and send phantom pains sweeping through her, came willingly.
He wants to join their fight. The council that runs the sanctuary, and resents Ara’s power, is eager to accept him.
A few words about the part he played in her past could keep him out forever. But Ara won’t speak about it. She won’t even think about it. And so he is allowed to stay.
When Risk discovers that Ara carries out rescue missions almost entirely alone, he is adamant that she have help. He doesn’t know the extent of her abilities; she didn’t have them before. He only knows what his father would do to her if he caught her again.
Ara knows too.
But help would be a hindrance; no one can keep up with her. Help could mean her return to the past. Still, she says nothing to stop it.
The council jump on the chance to dilute her control and she is forced to accept a team of rebels; a team which includes Risk.
When a rescue mission she wanted to do alone goes wrong, Ara stays back to hold off Kry’s soldiers so the team can escape. She’s hit with darts of a paralysing drug made just for her, and falls back into Kry’s hands.
ARA is the first book in a science-fiction series, and is complete at 108k words.
Thank you for your consideration.
Roisin Anna Murphy