QUERY - THE NAMELESS

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Emily J
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QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by Emily J » April 4th, 2010, 2:37 am

Below is the query for my YA fantasy novel. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, be honest, be brutal!

Dear Agent:

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens to find herself driving down a four-lane highway.

Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time. As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But the truth is even crazier.

Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life by a creature known only as a Changeling. This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul.

To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity.

Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike, the girl is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death. She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield. But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings really are. If she fails, she will remain nameless forever.

THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Emily J

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Quill
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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by Quill » April 4th, 2010, 11:45 am

Emily J wrote:Below is the query for my YA fantasy novel. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, be honest, be brutal!

Dear Agent:

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens to find herself driving down a four-lane highway.
Good start.
Plagued by inexplicable blackouts,
Now we've switched gears from a night awakening thing to a presumably daytime blackout thing? It's a little jarring to have two phenomena without a bridge between them.
she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time. As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But the truth is even crazier.
It's good, but furthers the disconnect from the awakening/driving thing. Was the opening line just a teaser? I'm feeling cheated.
Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life by a creature known only as a Changeling. This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul.
Very good. I'm hoping you'll say more about this creature, where it comes from, and why it wants her soul.
To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity.
Good. Dramatic. But I didn't get what I wanted. Still hoping you'll say more about the overarching situation with the creature.
Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike, the girl is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death.
Now I'm feeling angry that I have to consider a sharpie and some matches, which are not attached to anything -- simply thrown out as floating clues? -- without me being fully brought into the scenario.
She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield.
Ah, finally. This is good, but still not enough. Why is this dark force invading little old Batesfield, Connecticut? I sure hope there's a juicy reason coming up.
But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings really are. If she fails, she will remain nameless forever.
Nope, just more about Erica. I'm going to need to know more about the changelings (or is it Changelings. Please be consistent) in order to care about this girl.
THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Overall, very good. Ninety percent of the way there.

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by Erica75 » April 4th, 2010, 12:22 pm

I am now deeply disturbed (you have to look at my name to get the joke ;)

Here's my two cents: "Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time" (I still haven't figured out how to do the fancy quote thing) is a bit redundant to me. No one remembers what happens during blackouts. I'd put the period after "days" and toss the rest of the sentence. I'd also take out the sentence "But the truth is even crazier." Some people are a bit picky over starting sentences with "And", "But", etc. and you might not want to chance it. Plus, it's a "show don't tell" problem, I think. Why is the truth crazier? You show that in the next couple of paragraphs, so no need to point it out. In "To save herself from being completely consumed", I'd take out the word completely. It's an adjective (yucky to many agents/publishers) and isn't needed. Again, consumed implies completely without needing the extra word. Oh yeah, is it just me or is "sigils" not a word? I didn't quite get what it meant or if it was just a misspelling.

That said, your query was pretty short and I just took out 17 words. Think about doing that and then adding one or two extra sentences explaining a little bit about why taking away a person's name makes others forget about her or what "The power of names" means in this world. I almost have it, but could use a little more.

Good story, I think you've got a great chance!!!
we blog - erica and christy - http://lynneawest.blogspot.com/

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by shadow » April 4th, 2010, 9:26 pm

Here I go...

Dear Agent:

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens to find herself driving down a four-lane highway. That hook just doesn't connect for me. It's very confusing how she would wake up driving. I honestly had to reread it to get the gist of it but when I did it seems like she has double personality disorder or something...

Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time. As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But the truth is even crazier.

Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life by a creature known only as a Changeling. A separate soul? What exactly is a Changeling? This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul.

To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity. Since this is young adult I don't see how that could happen... Does she run away? How?

Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike, I honestly don't see how her family could just forget her.the girl is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death. She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield. But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings really are. If she fails, she will remain nameless forever. I don't think its just her name she is worried about at this point. If I were her and this is just me picturing myself in Erica's shoes, but I would be worried about loosing complete control to the creatures. A name can change but an identity can't be returned, if you know what I mean.

THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. I am not too sure but that sounds a it short for a fantasy, which usually run up to 120,000. Mine is 86,000 and I though I was keeping it too short. Up to you though and I don't won't to make you fluff it up. Its just an opinion so ignore it if you wish. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Emily J Very nice. Your story sounds interesting and compelling though it does in bits remind me of something. I just can't think of what at the moment. I would read it. Good Luck!
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 4th, 2010, 10:45 pm

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens (this isn't a problem, but I thought you might consider "awakes" as a more current form of the word, but I don't think it matters that much) to find herself driving down a four-lane highway. (This hook works for me, I like it.)

Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time (I agree with a previous comment, that part isn't necessary). As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But the truth is even crazier.(However, I do like this part.)

Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life by a creature known only as a Changeling. This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul. (Here, you sort of distance yourself away from the story to explain this changeling and what it's doing to her. Personally, I find the sudden change in perspective disengaging. It makes me want to know, how does Erica know about this creature? To combat this, I think you should follow Erica's perspective, like so: When Erica (EXPLANATION OF HOW SHE FINDS OUT ABOUT THE SOUL-SUCKING MONSTER, examples: meets a mysterious stranger / sees her picture in an old book (of prophecies! or something) / visits a fortuneteller / etc...) she discovers a creature called a Changeling that is trying to steal away her memories, her life, and her very soul.)

I have to say, though, you refer to the Changeling as a doppleganger that's stolen her memories and "bewitched" her name. I assume that means the creature is taking the physical form of Erica in order to "replace" her? If that's what you mean, I'm not sure I get how that explains Erica's blackouts. If a creature can look like her and steal her identity, wouldn't it prefer to lock her up or kill her and "replace" her in her life rather than... making her slowly lose her memories or experience blackouts? I think this segment of the story needs to be described more specifically.


To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity. (You might want to consider saying something like, "reclaim her identity." Relinquishing rights sounds like a custody battle, honestly. And reading about a custody battle against dark forces... actually sounds kind of funny, but isn't the scope of your story.)

Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike (is the Changeling acting as her "doppleganger" and stealing her life and pretending to be her to her family and friends, or simply making everyone forget?), the girl is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death. (I also think this requires a bit of specificity. If you want to keep that sentence, you might want to explain in detail what kind of magic she's using and give the reader a better sense of how the sharpies and matches tie into the magic. Is she drawing voodoo symbols and burning magic incense? If not, you probably don't want people making that assumption.) She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield. But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings really are. If she fails, she will remain nameless forever. (And what will the dark forces that are invading Batesfield do? And what do they want with the town and her soul? Why is she special? These are questions that might not necessarily need to be answered in the query, but you should at least hint the reader will find these answers, and more(!), when they read your book. Right now, you're saying her identity is at stake, which is sufficient if we're talking about a personal drama story, but you're setting up a fantasy story with dark forces invading a little town and creatures sucking souls out, so you might want to address the larger stakes to compel the reader to read on.)

THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by kenpochick » April 5th, 2010, 9:56 am

Emily J wrote:
Dear Agent:

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson (I don't think you need all 3 names here. I know that names are an important premise to your MS but in the first line it feels awkward to read all 3.) falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens to find herself driving down a four-lane highway. (Awesome! You have my interest right here.)

Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time. As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But The truth is even crazier.

Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life by a creature known only as a Changeling.(This is great. Typically changelings are just replacing babies. The fact that one could take your life as an adult is creepy as hell!) This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul.

To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity.

Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike, the girl is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death. She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield. But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings (capitalize) really are. If she fails, she will remain nameless forever. (It also seems like her town in under attack so how about something about preventing this fate to befall on others or something like that.)

THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Emily J
I love this premise. I'm ready to read it now. Good luck with this!

Emily J
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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by Emily J » April 5th, 2010, 12:19 pm

First off, thanks to everyone who commented I found all the suggestions extremely helpful! (Especially Erica75, plus you made me laugh :) )

I feel like the query is almost there, but it just isn't making the story as clear as I would like. I should probably explain that there are other Nameless people in Batesfield, (the title refers to all of them) living on the streets, stripped of identity and also that the Changeling is in fact living Erica's life once she gives up her name. The other Nameless people are in a similar situation with their own Changelings, forced to let someone else live their lives. I should probably explain about the Changeling epidemic and that saving others is part of Erica's motivation. The Changelings are more than just monsters, but I'm not sure how much about their motivations or what they really are I need to go into in the query. And giving up her name is a ritual that breaks the link to the Changeling but as an unfortunate side-effect makes her unrecognizable as Erica Dawson to anyone who's ever known her, because it was her name that the Changeling had "bewitched." There is a lot of plot to condense into this query and strangely enough the struggle is actually a lot like a custody battle :)

Also, "sigils" is a word, in the dictionary and everything I swear. As an avid fantasy reader I was always familiar with it but am starting to realize it is not as common as I thought. Still, the word is the perfect description for the structure of magic in my story. Erica learns to draw sigils using markers, chalk, blood, or even on occassion Bacardi 151 and a lighter. The magic system I devised involves names and sigils in a related manner.

I think most of the elements are here, just perhaps not connected in a way that is comprehensible (except to me). I am going to take a tough look at my query and see if I can incorporate the feedback and make it better.

Thanks again!

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by mrpluckey » April 5th, 2010, 4:49 pm

I guess this shows my lack of ability to critique but I really like this letter. I was hooked from the first sentence. Someone said it reminded them of something. The Host maybe? That's what I thought of as I read it. Maybe a mix of The Host and Dollhouse. Sounds cool! Let me know when you sell this cuz I want to read it!

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by bookwatcher » April 5th, 2010, 5:50 pm

I had no problem understanding what was going on at the beginning. But I live for things like this, and my query letter got ripped to shreds, so what do I know! ha! I think you did a great job of hooking the reader and also explaining the premise of the story.
My only advice isn't anything new. I think you need leave out or explain "Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death."
And also, "She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils to fight back..." What's a sigil?

Like I said before, I think this is great. Some of these comments come from great people. My advice to you is to take their advice!!! :)

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by arielswan » April 5th, 2010, 6:18 pm

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens to find herself driving down a four-lane highway. Is the name of the town central to the plot? Is it needed in the Query. I know I have one in mine too - and that is a question I have asked myself- and I came up with yes - so I am just wondering. If it is not central to the story - then why include it? I think this is an intersting hook. I want to know why she is now driving a car.

Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time. As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But the truth is even crazier. There is a disconnect between the first paragraph and the second. Maybe connect with something like this is another one of the inexplicable blackouts that have plagued her for some time now... "The truth is even crazier" stopped me for some reason. I get it as a diving board - but it doesn't sound right.

Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life by a creature known only as a Changeling. This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul. This is interesting. I think this is a saleable plot (though I am totally unqualified to say so) - the name part is a little confusing. Is it her first and last name? Does this bewitch everyone with the name Erica? Is it like a possession thing? How is it solely based on name?

To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity. How are name and identity connected? Is there nothing else to ones identify? Is there a secret magic way to renounce ones name or does she just go to the social security office and change it? (half kidding there)

Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike, as with a previous comment - why has her family forgotten her? It seems letting go of a name wouldn't be enough? Is there some other magic happening here? Does she become invisible or start to fade away and they magically begin to forget her?the girl is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death. I love that. I want to know badly what the matches and the sharpie can do. I am already imagining things.She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils What are sigils? This stops me.to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield. Where do the changelings come from? Is this like a fairytale and they are just everywhere and we all need to beware of them? How does she learn about them?But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings really are. And how will she do this? Is there a journey invovled here? Is this archetypal or high concept? Are there other magical creatures that can help her? If so say that.If she fails, she will remain nameless forever. The name thing definitelty needs clarification

I think this is a unique story and one I would like to read. arielswan@blogspot.com
THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 5th, 2010, 7:42 pm

Emily J wrote:First off, thanks to everyone who commented I found all the suggestions extremely helpful! (Especially Erica75, plus you made me laugh :) )

I feel like the query is almost there, but it just isn't making the story as clear as I would like. I should probably explain that there are other Nameless people in Batesfield, (the title refers to all of them) living on the streets, stripped of identity and also that the Changeling is in fact living Erica's life once she gives up her name. The other Nameless people are in a similar situation with their own Changelings, forced to let someone else live their lives. I should probably explain about the Changeling epidemic and that saving others is part of Erica's motivation. The Changelings are more than just monsters, but I'm not sure how much about their motivations or what they really are I need to go into in the query. And giving up her name is a ritual that breaks the link to the Changeling but as an unfortunate side-effect makes her unrecognizable as Erica Dawson to anyone who's ever known her, because it was her name that the Changeling had "bewitched." There is a lot of plot to condense into this query and strangely enough the struggle is actually a lot like a custody battle :)

Also, "sigils" is a word, in the dictionary and everything I swear. As an avid fantasy reader I was always familiar with it but am starting to realize it is not as common as I thought. Still, the word is the perfect description for the structure of magic in my story. Erica learns to draw sigils using markers, chalk, blood, or even on occassion Bacardi 151 and a lighter. The magic system I devised involves names and sigils in a related manner.

I think most of the elements are here, just perhaps not connected in a way that is comprehensible (except to me). I am going to take a tough look at my query and see if I can incorporate the feedback and make it better.

Thanks again!
As others have said, I'm not an expert query writer either. But based on your query and the information you posted there, I feel there's a compelling story that you're really really close to fitting into the query.

You said you're not sure how much to put into the query about the Changelings. I think that... if you can state the reason they're attacking her in a simple sentence or phrase, you should go for it. But if it requires more complex explanation or involves explaining other sub-stories or convoluted details, it probably isn't necessary.

Personally, I felt the query losing some steam once it swayed away from Erica's perspective. She's your main character, and if you follow the story through her in the query, it should feel a little more natural what information is needed, and what can wait for when they read the manuscript. Basically that means follow the protagonist's main actions and discovers:

a) she wakes up one day to find herself driving in the four-lane highway, then her blackouts worsen;
b) she (somehow) discovers a creature called a Changeling stealing her soul;
c) she loses her identity, then begins to fade from the memory of her loved ones;
d) she discovers she's not the only one, there's even more at stake;
e) she starts learning magic to fight back and reclaim her identity (and give a taste of the sort of magic she'll use here);
f) in the end, if she doesn't defeat these dark forces, both her and the rest of her town (or just the victims, or whatever) will be nameless forever;

I think those bullet points highlight the heart of the story. But you know the heart of the story better than I do. At the very least, maybe it will give you an idea of what, and how much, information you need.

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Re: QUERY - THE NAMELESS

Post by Yoshima » April 21st, 2010, 5:51 pm

Emily J wrote:Below is the query for my YA fantasy novel. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, be honest, be brutal! Will do. :)

Dear Agent:

Eighteen-year-old Erica Ann Dawson falls asleep in her bed in Batesfield, Connecticut and awakens to find herself driving down a four-lane highway. Great hook!

Plagued by inexplicable blackouts, she begins losing hours, even days, with no memory of what transpired in the intervening time. As the blackouts worsen, she starts to doubt her own sanity. But the truth is even crazier. (I didn't really think there was a problem with the transition, but I think with some tinkering it could be better. Maybe even just rearranging the first sentence of this paragraph; for some reason, it makes it clearer to me that the highway thing is a blackout if you start the sentence with a subject like "she" or "her." I'm not sure why, but maybe that could be something to consider instead of a complete overhaul.)

Erica is slowly being replaced from her own life (cut "from her own life" ?)by a creature known only as a Changeling. This doppelganger has bewitched Erica’s name and is using it to steal away her memories, her life - her very soul. Interesting...

To save herself from being completely consumed, Erica is forced to make a terrible sacrifice; she gives up her name, and with it, relinquishes all rights to her own identity. Ah, so names are a sort of magical thing connected with the identity or the soul, I'm guessing? That's a cool concept.

Now, nameless and forgotten by friends and family alike, the girl (I understand that you mean Erica, but it sounds awkward after all this time to call her "the girl") is plunged into a world of magic where a Sharpie and a book of matches could mean the difference between life and death. (I'm imagining Charmed and the funky circle star thing they drew on the wall right now, lol.) She must learn to harness the power of names and sigils (personally not familiar with this word, but an agent who reps fantasy will be fine with it, I'm sure) to fight back against the Changelings and the dark force invading Batesfield. But if Erica stands a chance at reclaiming her former life, she will need to discover the truth behind what the changelings (capitalize changlings?) really are. If she fails, she will remain nameless (and soulless? I think you need to hammer home why remaining nameless is so terrifying) forever.

I didn't have a problem following the query, but then again, I read your explanation beforehand and that might have something to do with it. I think if you can find a way to explain the changeling concept a little more (are they invading aliens, or freak experiments, or what? how did they get to earth?), even if it's just a sentence, I think that would probably help, without adding too much to the length of your query. I'm of the opinion that if your query is so brief it leaves the agent with the wrong unanswered questions (which I'm worried not explaining the changelings does), how is that better than having one that's over 250 words? I'm not an agent, but as a reader, if the teaser summary of a book confuses me, I put it down; whereas if it's kind of a long summary but a solid one, I keep looking at it. Plus, it's an interesting part of your book, so why not show it off just a teensy bit? All this is meant to be taken with a sizable grain of salt, of course. I'm definitely no query expert (as you have seen :) ). Hope this helps. Good luck!

THE NAMELESS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 60,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. [Why I picked Agent X]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Emily J

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