It's lunch break on the first day of Write on the Sound. The first seminar I attended was pretty good. It was taught by Pat Rushford and called Writing Mysteries to Die For. She pointed out all the things that make mysteries what they are. Many of the same elements can be used in whatever you write; for me with fantasy it's pretty well parallel.
The most beneficial thing she helped us with was a two sentence formula for summarizing a novel. This is needed for query letters to editors and agents and always seems to be troublesome. Essentially you need to ignore 75% of your novel and get to the point. Too many people, me included, think you need to explain a lot or no one will understand what your plot is. The trick is to forget the plot and focus on five things: Situation, Character, Objective, Opponent, Disaster. This also is similar to Donald Maass' advice for queries: Setting, protagonist, problem.
It was interesting to try to write two sentences that encapsulate the novel I have percolating right now, Broken, which is the rest of the tale that is started with my short story 'Protector'. Here it is:
"With Kingdoms and factions pushing towards war, Jacob Trueman must keep the Kingdom's Daughter alive. When a ancient evil reveals itself and brings devastation to the Kingdom's borders, Jacob must fight enemies seen and unseen to protect his charge."
That's actually a shortened version of what I first wrote. I could probably take a few more words out as well. But that's the point of the exercise. The summary here is not the complete story and says nothing about the journey Jacob makes after fleeing from the good guys after being falsely accused, etc. etc. etc.
I'll have more time to blog later but things are off to a good start here.