Query help - Revised

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
J.Jessamyn
Posts: 27
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: Southern Tier of New York
Contact:

Query help - Revised

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 7th, 2009, 5:26 pm

*I've posted a revised version a few posts down, and yet another one on the 2nd page. I'll quit posting revisions after that, I promise ;-)*

Hello all!

First of all, I've been on several forums and for whatever odd reason, I'm rather nervous. Must be because this is a bit more personal... maybe. I dunno.

I've only queried a couple agents for my novel - Nathan was the first - and I figured I may as well get some pointers on it now before I waste my time on using a bad query (and before it ends up as an example of a horrible query on someone's blog).

Here it is:
Dear [agent],

[paragraph that's agent-specific, why I queried them, etc.]

Roatians were a tribe of people that were mistakenly persecuted as witches in the early seventeenth century. Namara is the sole surviver of the tribe, and is now nearly four hundred years old – immortality being just one of her Roatian abilities. She has been successfully living a normal life when an attempted school shooting forces her to reveal her true self. Sawyer, a classmate and shape-shifter, approaches her and offers for her to come live with him and his “family” of supernaturals. Namara accepts, and is doing well with adjusting to life with others instead of among them when a betrayal within the family causes her to panic and return to her former lifestyle - leaving her friendships and romance with Sawyer behind.

EASIER TO RUN is a 72,000-word work that includes elements of fantasy, romance, and action to tell the story of one woman's journey to the realization that leaving your past behind means nothing when you can't leave behind your past self. The novel has the potential for a sequel that I am currently working on.

I have the full manuscript completed if you would like to see it. Thank you for your time in reading my submission.

Sincerely,
[me]

And I normally do add a bit more to the closing, depending on the agent's requirements (such as, "the first X pages are pasted below" or something like that).

A few things I'm going to change in light of reading another post asking for a query review:
- change up the order, like putting the story first and agent stuff later.
- more specifics with the story? I was afraid of it getting too long, but I should probably be thinking quality not quantity, huh? :-P
- and it doesn't show here, but I probably went overboard with the agent specifics (I know I did with Nathan's... because I poke around here quite a bit). I wasn't trying to suck up, honest!

Any other tips would be great. Be honest, but be gentle... please.

Thanks!
J. Jessamyn
Last edited by J.Jessamyn on December 11th, 2009, 11:57 am, edited 3 times in total.
~J. Jessamyn~

User avatar
Mira
Posts: 1354
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 9:59 am
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by Mira » December 7th, 2009, 5:41 pm

J. -

I completely understand why you'd be nervous. But I think Nathan's bunch are a pretty respectful and helpful group. :)

I like the title, and I really like the underlying story of someone trying to choose between a safe life in isolation, or all the difficult emotions that come with human connection. Good theme!

In terms of the query......I'm not an expert by any means, but I think you may be falling into a very common problem where you describe the story, rather than telling it. But you're a storyteller, right? :) So, tell the story.

I might imagine I was talking to a group of 12 year olds. I don't know why, your audience may be adult, but somehow that feels like the right age. How would you tell a group of 12 year olds your story? (Goodness, please ignore this if it doesn't feel helpful. and I'm not accusing agents of being 12, either. Just somehow that's a good story telling age. So, write it out for 12 year olds, and then age it for adult agents. Hope that makes sense.)

For example: Namara is alone, and has been alone for 400 years. She is the only survivor of her tribe of immortals. She hides....

Hope that's helpful! Best of luck to you. And congrats for being brave. :)

J.Jessamyn
Posts: 27
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: Southern Tier of New York
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 7th, 2009, 5:51 pm

Good point about about describing vs. telling. I fall into the trap of trying to "sound professional" too easily and end up stifling the "writer" part of me. It's hard for me to strike a balance (curse college and paper writing!). I'll work on that... Thanks!
~J. Jessamyn~

katiemac
Posts: 4
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 3:39 pm
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by katiemac » December 7th, 2009, 5:56 pm

Hi J --

Let's see what we've got.
J.Jessamyn wrote:
Here it is:
Dear [agent],

[paragraph that's agent-specific, why I queried them, etc.]

Roatians were a tribe of people that were mistakenly persecuted as witches in the early seventeenth century Try opening with your protagonist, and frame this idea--the persecution--around how this is a problem for her. Namara is the sole surviver of the tribe, and is now nearly four hundred years old – immortality being just one of her Roatian abilities. She has been successfully living a normal life when an attempted school shooting forces her to reveal her true self Does she go to school, then? Essentially she's living like a teenager? Her age isn't apparent.. Sawyer, a classmate and shape-shifter, approaches her and offers for her to come live with him and his “family” of supernaturals. Namara accepts, and is doing well with adjusting to life with others instead of among them when a betrayal within the family causes her to panic and return to her former lifestyle - leaving her friendships and romance with Sawyer behind.

EASIER TO RUN is a 72,000-word work I'm of the mind that if you've written a novel, you should cowboy up and say so. ;) Call it a novel and not a 'work.' that includes elements of fantasy, romance, and action to tell the story of one woman's journey to the realization that leaving your past behind means nothing when you can't leave behind your past self. The novel has the potential for a sequel that I am currently working on.

I have the full manuscript completed if you would like to see it. Thank you for your time in reading my submission.

Sincerely,
[me]
J, there's not a whole lot here in terms of plot that I can see. What is novel's main conflict? Sounds like this character's journey will be mostly internal and emotional. But I want to throw these questions out at you-- What does Namara want? (a family? friends? love?) What does she have to do to get it? (obviously her immortality is a problem.. but what else? what does she specifically have to do?) and What happens if she can't get what she wants (the stakes)? You set this up that she ends up leaving the family behind. That sounds like tension, but I don't think you're setting it up well enough to give us the punch you want. Yes, leaving the family is bad--but only if it's clear that the family was everything she's always wanted. What is she losing by leaving the family, and why, specifically, is leaving the family A Really Bad Thing?

Think about your main conflict and what her emotional journey is --where is she emotionally to start, and where does she want to be by the story's end?

And remember voice, which will come out more if you show and not tell.

User avatar
Lorelei Armstrong
Posts: 65
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:42 pm
Location: Kauai, Hawaii
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » December 7th, 2009, 5:58 pm

I shall wade in! Kudos for being brave enough to go first.

So, to begin, immortals in high school. Where have I heard that one? Oh, wait, I know... But a problem with generic non-ordinary-humans-but-not-vampires is explaining who and what we're dealing with. Hard to do in a query letter, but is immortality her only power? This is the problem with speculative fiction— laying down the rules of the game. More so with a group of supernaturals. It turns into a Twilight/X-Men mash-up. I'd focus more on your main character for purposes of the query.

Then you need a plot. What is your book about? What happens and what does your main character do about it? Is it about an interpersonal betrayal? Is that it? Is it about the kid who almost shot up the school? Is there a government conspiracy? Alien invasion? Asteroid? What? This reads as though you forgot to tell us the plot. Because, frankly, you did.

All the talk about the past and past selves? That tells us nothing. Plot is who does what to whom, and why. Give us concrete actions performed by active characters. Right now your main character is passive. Things happen to her. What does she do?

If you are running out of time in your letter, lose the bit about why you picked a certain agent. It's so much less important than telling your story I can't even tell you. But you should be able to tell the heart of the story in a few sentences. Here's how you do a log line for a screenplay. It should work for this:

TITLE is a GENRE about a MAIN CHARACTER who must GOAL or the ANTAGONIST will cause HORRIBLE DISASTER to occur.

And as a personal aside, if I become immortal and go back to high school, someone please destroy me.

J.Jessamyn
Posts: 27
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: Southern Tier of New York
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 7th, 2009, 6:09 pm

Yikes!

I have to admit that I'm really feeling like an idiot right now... hm.

I'm thinking maybe I was better off just writing the query off-the-cuff, because my first ones that I thought were horrible were closer to what everyone's describing...

OK, I'm off to stare at my query some more and ponder how to sum it up without making it as long as the book itself.
~J. Jessamyn~

User avatar
shadow
Posts: 302
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: The moon
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by shadow » December 7th, 2009, 6:49 pm

i am not giving any more tips because all that were given should help. Also trust me, I am going through the query letter and it's probably tougher than writing your novel, so I wish you luck! If you post a new one I will critique it :)
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

ImageImageImageImage

J.Jessamyn
Posts: 27
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: Southern Tier of New York
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 7th, 2009, 6:54 pm

OK, this is really rough still, but is this better???

Namara is good at being alone and avoiding... well, everything. After all, she's only been alone for nearly four hundred years – the sole survivor of the Roatians, when the rest of her tribe were mistakenly persecuted as witches because of their “talents.” Her “actual” age being in her early twenties, she starts out pretending to be a high schooler wherever she goes. Although she occasionally has nightmares from her past, Namara claims she has completely let it all go – it doesn't bother her anymore.

Her life is seemingly on repeat, until an attempted school shooting changes everything. Namara uses her Roatian abilities to save the lives of her classmates, but now everyone knows her secret. Before she can flee she meets Sawyer, a classmate and shape-shifter, who invites her to come live with him and his supernatural family. She accepts, and surprises herself by finding the companionship that her life has been lacking since she was a child, when her Roatian tribe still existed.

But once again, disaster changes everything. A betrayal within her new family sends her into a panic and she defaults to her normal method of operating: isolation and avoidance. She runs away, leaving her friends and romance with Sawyer behind her, and now has the rest of forever to feel guilty for doing so – or consider going back. She discovers that the one thing she's been avoiding for centuries – attachments – is the same thing she really needed.

EASIER TO RUN is a 72,000-word novel that includes elements of fantasy, romance, and action to tell the story of one woman's journey to the realization that leaving your past behind means nothing when you can't leave behind your past self. The novel has the potential for a sequel that I am currently working on.


I need to tweak some verbage here and there I think, but am I at least on the right track??? Maybe?

Oh, semi-random side-note: I was afraid someone was going to compare this to Twilight... *sigh* I love the books, but I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing when people notice similarities...
~J. Jessamyn~

User avatar
Nathan Bransford
Posts: 1381
Joined: December 4th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Location: New York, NY
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 7:17 pm

I think the new version has better organization, but I found some of the writing a tad on the unpolished side: "well, everything," "her actual age being in her early twenties."

I also don't know that the plot description needs to be three paragraphs - are all of these details and plot elements necessary?

katiemac
Posts: 4
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 3:39 pm
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by katiemac » December 7th, 2009, 7:50 pm

I agree with Nathan that there is more organization here. But you also don't need much of your first paragraph, which is backstory. Her problems don't really start until the school shooting, right? How about you try opening with that? Then you'll have more room in the later paragraphs to expand on the main conflict and why it's hard.

Be very specific about what Namara actually has to do to fix her problems.

J.Jessamyn
Posts: 27
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: Southern Tier of New York
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 7th, 2009, 8:13 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:I think the new version has better organization, but I found some of the writing a tad on the unpolished side: "well, everything," "her actual age being in her early twenties."

I also don't know that the plot description needs to be three paragraphs - are all of these details and plot elements necessary?
Yeah, I said it was on the rough side. I just typed it in about ten minutes...

So, polishing (obviously), and shorter. Gotcha.
katiemac wrote:I agree with Nathan that there is more organization here. But you also don't need much of your first paragraph, which is backstory. Her problems don't really start until the school shooting, right? How about you try opening with that? Then you'll have more room in the later paragraphs to expand on the main conflict and why it's hard.

Be very specific about what Namara actually has to do to fix her problems.
Hmmm... I see what you mean, but it's hard to explain without everyone knowing the whole story. The back-story is what sets the stage for the internal struggles - you need to know where she's coming from to understand where she's going. But I probably could sum it up a bit better, I'm sure that all isn't necessary.

The school shooting is actually a very minor event. But it's what forces Namara to reveal herself as more-than-human so that Sawyer is spurred to approach her. It's what gets the ball rolling, but doesn't have any lasting effects. With that being said, it's probably something I shouldn't put too much weight on in the query - it seems to be misleading everyone into thinking it's more important than it really is. So, point taken... although no one really directly said it. Hm.

I'm so tempted just to string this out and keep posting my revised partial-query, but someone is bound to get annoyed and I'm bound to fry my brain even more (I couldn't sleep last night and I subbed a class of rowdy 5th graders today. Oi.). So I think I shall sleep on it and take another look at it tomorrow, after another day with said 5th graders... be praying for me and my sanity.
~J. Jessamyn~

User avatar
ElisabethMoore
Posts: 36
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 2:25 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by ElisabethMoore » December 7th, 2009, 9:46 pm

J.Jessamyn wrote: But once again, disaster changes everything. A betrayal within her new family sends her into a panic and she defaults to her normal method of operating: isolation and avoidance. She runs away, leaving her friends and romance with Sawyer behind her, and now has the rest of forever to feel guilty for doing so – or consider going back. She discovers that the one thing she's been avoiding for centuries – attachments – is the same thing she really needed.
First of all, let me commend you for your bravery in posting your query here. I have not written anything I even let my crit partner read.

I agree with previous posters comments about back story and polish. I tried to frame this in terms of "WHO needs to do WHAT or BAD THING happens" and wondered if the story didn't really start with the second sentence of the paragraph quoted above. This gives us: PROTAGONIST has run away from problems and must learn ANOTHER WAY OF COPING or FEEL GUILTY/BE ALONE forever. Without seeing the novel, it's hard to tell if that is what the story is really about, but it's something to consider when re-writing your query.

ErinGayle
Posts: 16
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:30 am
Contact:

Re: Query help Christian thriller

Post by ErinGayle » December 7th, 2009, 10:51 pm

Moved to new home.
Last edited by ErinGayle on December 8th, 2009, 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
BransfordGroupie
Posts: 98
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 6:10 pm
Location: Australia
Contact:

Re: Query help Christian thriller

Post by BransfordGroupie » December 8th, 2009, 1:24 am

ErinGayle wrote:Dear Nathan,

Wrote a novel 25 yrs. ago (I'm an old boiler hen) and Danny B. (Robert Ludlam's agent, then) asked to read it. Said it was terrific writing but too below the belt
and setting unrealistic.
'Below the belt' referred to terrorism targeting children, 'unrealistic setting,' Australia ('the Lucky Country').
Another problem was strong Christian content ~ wrath of God / slide into Armageddon / proxy God-power delegated to group of religious (but not Bible-
bashing ) people.
Mothballed novel because I had gut-feeling that Christian content might 'phoo-phoo' it with agents.
THEN : Beslan Massacre
THEN: Australia becomes a more likely terrorist target.
AND THEN: Praise the saints and Alleluia , I read in a Q & A site ( forget which ~ Alzheimer's excuse) that you like Christian content !

Should I revamp 'Terror Australis' or leave it in my knickers' draw?
Terror Australis in your knickers' draw??? Got another title suggestion for you: Terror Down-Under ;-)
Seriously though, I'm no expert (just an aspiring author), but sounds like one I would read.
Image
REVELATION: The Book of Angel - First draft complete :-)
Facebook

Rhonda
Posts: 21
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:57 pm
Contact:

Re: Query help

Post by Rhonda » December 8th, 2009, 2:40 pm

Not sure if this is at all helpful to your query, but I couldn't stop thinking that it seems like it was pretty easy to wipe out a tribe of immortals. It made me want to read about that story actually. On the positive side, your second query was so much better at drawing me into the story than the first. Good job taking and applying opinions.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest