When I first query an editor with an story idea, I break it down into a few simple parts. Here is the breakdown for my novel A Valley of Betrayal that was published February 2006.
As you can see, this is not an overview of the entire novel, but rather a summary that will hopefully hook the editor into wanted to know more. This type of summary can be used on a One-Sheet (popular at writer’s conferences to pique an editor’s interest). Or it can be used in your book proposal.
The bonus is that the same information can be reused when you begin to market your book. After all, the information that gained an editor’s interest will most like gain a reader’s interest also.
Nazi tanks roll across the hillsides and German bombers roar overhead, dropping bombs on the helpless citizens below. Italian troops fight alongside them, and their opponents attempt to stand strong—Americans, British, Irishmen—in unison with other volunteers from dozens of countries. And their battleground? The beautiful Spanish countryside.
From July 1936-April 1939, well before America was involved in World War II, another battle was fought on the hillsides of Spain. On one side, the Spanish Republicans, joined by the Soviet Union and The International Brigade—men and women from all over the world who have volunteered to fight Fascism.
Opposing them, Franco and his Fascist military leaders, supported with troops, machinery, and weapons from Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War, considered the “training ground” for the war to come, boasted of thousands of American volunteers who joined to fight on the Republican side, half of which never returned home.
The International Brigade was made up of volunteers from all over the world who came to Spain to fight Fascism. And even though they are from various nations, a small group of men and women will overcome the odds and soon find themselves friends for life.
Sophie is an artist who finds herself in Spain after traveling there to marry a photographer with the Associated Press. After her finace’s death, a member of The International Brigade rescues Sophie. With the brigade’s support, she uses her talents to become a combat artist in hopes that her drawings will alert the world concerning the fate of the Spanish people.
Philip, an American teacher (also part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade) is the son of an pastor. Philip finds himself staying in Spain after attending the Worker’s Games in Barcelona.
Deion is an African-American from New York City who is part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Deion can relate to the struggle of the Spanish people due to his own upbringing as a black man in the deep south.
Father Manuel is a young priest who has conflicting emotions on whether to side with the church or the people he’s given his heart to serve.
On the opposite side of the war, German soldier Ritter Anker is one of pilots flying with Hitler’s Condor Legion. When Ritter’s plane crashes, he takes on the role as a German Communist–and volunteer for Spain, finding help where he least expects it—from International Brigade members, including a beautiful American woman named Sophie.
That’s it! That is a basic summary of one of my novels. Feel free to share a novel summary you’re written!