Query: Defender of the Crown v4

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gilesth
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Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by gilesth » January 12th, 2010, 7:47 am

I've been revising this over the holidays, and with Nathan's post yesterday, I realize that this needs to be really eye-catching if it's going to make it through the slush pile of any agent this time of year. Any and all help is appreciated :) Thanks

Dear [agent],

Thirteen year old Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy because he is prone to magical outbursts that start uncontrollable fires and create deadly blizzards. Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter, is also a student at the academy, and she happens to share a teacher with him. Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another fit of magic, nearly burns the two of them alive, and then passes out. While he’s unconscious, he has a vision of a group of rebels who plan on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, who is to be elected in less than a year, won’t have to share his power with the Queen. Even though he’s plagued with similar visions throughout the year, he doesn’t become concerned until he learns that Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s personal bodyguard also plan to kill the Queen in order to prevent the election all together.

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason, Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. When he finally succeeds, however, he discovers that the Queen’s bodyguard has lured him into a trap so that he can use the boy’s dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. In a fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country.

DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.

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taylormillgirl
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by taylormillgirl » January 12th, 2010, 9:04 am

Okay, I'm horrible at critiquing query letters. Horrible. It's the main reason I stay away from this particular board. But I'm going to do my best to advise you. :-)

What works: Your story premise is way cool! I'd buy this book. And you described it clearly- I didn't make my WTH? face while reading your letter, which is a good thing.

What could use improvement: I'd try to "jazz it up" a little. You tell us what to expect from your novel, but I'd like to see your unique voice come through a little more. As it is now, it reads a tiny bit like a book report.

I wish I could write pages and pages of helpful suggestions like the other folks here, but that's all I've got. I hope that helped just a little.
Author of hot & humorous romances, debut novel coming in 2012 from Sourcebooks!
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gilesth
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by gilesth » January 12th, 2010, 9:27 am

taylormillgirl wrote: I wish I could write pages and pages of helpful suggestions like the other folks here, but that's all I've got. I hope that helped just a little.
That's actually some of the most helpful advise I've gotten! This process is SOO full of discouraging reminders of how difficult the business is that any positive feedback (even taken with a grain of salt) is appreciated. Thank you for letting me know that I'm moving in the right direction. I still want to hear some more feedback, if anyone can help me, just to make sure I'm not missing anything :)

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » January 12th, 2010, 9:53 am

I'll agree with taylormillgirl. This is solid. Strong, clear writing, and you show the story well. What's at stake, the conflict, the rising action. Nicely handled, I think. But I also agree, if it needs anything, that it could use a little flash of something. A bit of voice, of character, something to set it apart and give the reader a feeling for the tone and style of the story. And I don't think you have to go overboard or anything. You don't need to whack the reader in the face. But a couple interesting details or turns of phrase... if you can slip in that bit of colour without losing the clarity and flow of what you already have here, well, I think the query will be pretty sharp.

Hope that helps,

Ink/Bryan
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

Yoshima
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by Yoshima » January 12th, 2010, 11:13 am

Agree with Ink--it's a solid query, but if you're looking to stand out a little flair wouldn't hurt. These are all just suggestions. Hope they help!
gilesth wrote:I've been revising this over the holidays, and with Nathan's post yesterday, I realize that this needs to be really eye-catching if it's going to make it through the slush pile of any agent this time of year. Any and all help is appreciated :) Thanks

Dear [agent],

Thirteen year old Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy (cool!) because he is prone to magical outbursts that start uncontrollable fires and create deadly blizzards (This is a good sentence, but to be honest "because" makes it seem, like taylormillgirl said, like a book report. Maybe begin with his explosive powers and then tell us he's enrolling in the Magi Academy to control them? This might also be a good place for a detail--did he kill anyone with his powers? Burn the house down? Freeze hell over?). Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter, is also a student at the academy, and she happens to share a teacher (the phrase "share a teacher" seems weird to me; maybe "sits next to him in ___ class" or whatever the case may be) with him. Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another fit of magic, nearly burns the two of them alive, and then passes out. While he’s unconscious, he has a vision of a group of rebels who plan on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, who is to be elected in less than a year, won’t have to share his power with the Queen. Even though he’s plagued with similar visions throughout the year, he doesn’t become concerned until he learns that Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s personal bodyguard also plan to kill the Queen in order to prevent the election all together. (Really good progression of plot here. It's very clear and it makes me want to read more.)

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason, Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. When he finally succeeds, however, he discovers that the Queen’s bodyguard (question: are they doing all this at the academy or are they visiting the palace, too? It seems strange that they're learning about intimate political motivations if they're always in the academy.) has lured him into a trap so that he can use the boy’s (I would say Nicholas's here) dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. (Both previous sentences start with "when." Not really a problem, but maybe something to polish up. :) ) In a fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country. (You set up the stakes very well! I feel like I have a clear picture of your story, and that's really hard to do in a query. Great work!)


DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.

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Dankrubis
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by Dankrubis » January 12th, 2010, 8:16 pm

Dear [agent],

Thirteen year old Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy because he is prone to magical outbursts that start uncontrollable fires and create deadly blizzards. Totally agree with Yoshima here- start off with the fires and blizzards problem. It's a great issue for a character to have and it'll help give a little flair to your writing. Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter, is also a student at the academy, and she happens to share a teacher with him. Again, agree with Yoshima. How about share a class? Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another fit of magic, nearly burns the two of them alive, and then passes out. I think you can add some tension in your writing just by making the sentences shorter and ending on hard notes. Ex- Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another fit of magic- nearly burning the two alive. Well... now that I read it, my way is a little melodramatic, but you get the idea. While he’s unconscious, he has a vision of a group of rebels who plan on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, who is to be elected in less than a year, won’t have to share his power with the Queen. Even though he’s plagued with similar visions throughout the year, he doesn’t become concerned until he learns that Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s personal bodyguard also plan to kill the Queen in order to prevent the election all together. The happenings with the Queen and the Prime Minister and the Uncle is odd to me. Just to get it straight- Nicholas has visions that a group of rebels, led by the Prime Minister, plan to assassinate the Queen. He keeps having these visions and they don't concern him. Then he learns, through ways unknown, that the Queen's brother and personal bodyguard plan to assassinate her as well. Then he becomes concerned. The reason I'm repeating all this is because I'm having trouble following the logic. Why don't the original visions concern him? Why does he suddenly become concerned when he learns that someone else wants to murder the Queen? Is it because it was something overheard vs. a vision? I don't think these are enticing questions for the reader- I think the answers to these questions would add to your query.

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason, Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. When he finally succeeds, however, he discovers that the Queen’s bodyguard has lured him into a trap so that he can use the boy’s dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. In a fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country. Sweet.

DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.

Pretty good query! I'm just gonna echo what most everybody else has said. Description of what's going on is pretty tight, but it could use a little more voice. I do suggest paying some attention to the end of that first paragraph.

gilesth
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by gilesth » January 13th, 2010, 8:41 am

Alright, how's this? Some of the changes are small and subtle, but I think they make a big difference...what do you think?

Dear [Agent],

After accidentally creating a lightning storm that killed a boy from his school, thirteen year old Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy to learn how to get his magical outbursts of unquenchable fires and deadly blizzards under control. Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter, is also a student at the academy, and she shares her classes with him. Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another magical fit, nearly burns the two of them alive, and then he passes out. While he’s unconscious, he sees a vision of a small group of anti-royalist rebels intent on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, who is to be elected in less than a year, won’t have to share his power with the Queen. Even though he’s plagued with similar visions throughout the year, Nicholas only starts paying attention to them after he overhears a conversation between Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s bodyguard who also plan on killing the Queen in order to prevent the election all together.

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason, Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. He succeeds only to discover that the Queen’s bodyguard intentionally lured him to the palace to use Nicholas’s dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. In a fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country.

DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.

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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by charity_bradford » January 13th, 2010, 1:34 pm

Dear [Agent],

After accidentally creating a lightning storm that killed a boy from his school, thirteen year old Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy to learn how to get his magical outbursts of unquenchable fires and deadly blizzards under control.This feels really wordy to me, I almost liked it better the original way. How about something like, "Thirteen year old Nicholas Benson struggles to control his magical powers, creating unquenchable fires and deadly blizzards. After accidentally creating a lightning storm that results in a death, he enrolls in the Magi Academy to learn how to control this gift." Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter, is also a student at the academy, and she shares her classes with him. Maybe "when he meets her in class" instead of "and she shares..." it still doesn't flow for me.Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another magical fit, nearly burns the two of them alive, and then he passes out. While he’s (I think you can drop "he's")unconscious, he sees a vision of a small group of anti-royalist rebels intent on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that drop "that" the Prime Minister, who is to be elected in less than a year, You might be able to drop "who is to be elected in less than a year". Even if the time frame is important for the story, the most important point here seems to be that he does not want to share power. So that last sentence would read "While unconscious, he sees a vision of a small group of anti-royalist rebels intent on assassinating Joselyn's mother so the Prime Minister does not have to share power with the Queen.won’t have to share his power with the Queen. Even though he’s plagued with similar visions throughout the year, Nicholas only starts paying attention to them after he overhears a conversation between Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s bodyguard who also plan on killing the Queen in order to prevent the election all together.

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason, Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. He succeeds only to discover that the Queen’s bodyguard intentionally lured him to the palace to use Nicholas’s dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. In a fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country.


DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.
I think your story sounds great and you are definitely on the right track with your query letter. I think it is just nit picky things left to work out, and I apologize if I was super nit picky. :) All in all, good job!
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gilesth
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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by gilesth » January 13th, 2010, 6:36 pm

I gotta say, you guys ROCK! I think I'm pretty much set..although I'll DEFINITELY consider any more advise you guys provide :D

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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by saskia » January 14th, 2010, 3:01 pm

Hi gilesth,

I think your query has all the right stuff but it is on the clunky side. I think it needs some streamlining and less info more style or voice. Instead of doing some inline ideas I have re-wrote it using your words but basically cutting and re-arranging. This is just to give you some ideas. Hope it will be of some help – good luck:


Nicholas Benson created a lightning storm that killed a boy from his school, but not on purpose. Thirteen year old Nicholas thinks it’s time to learn how to control his magical outbursts of fire and storm.

At the Magi Academy Nicholas meets Joselyn the Queens’s daughter but being friends with Nicholas has its drawbacks. Nicholas has another magical fit, nearly burns the two of them alive. Unconscious after the fit he sees a vision of a small group of anti-royalist rebels intent on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, won’t have to share power with the Queen. At first Nicholas doesn’t pay attention to the vision but as more visions follow and he overhears a conversation between Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s bodyguard who plan on killing the Queen he realizes he must act.

Joselyn refuses to believe her uncle’s treason and Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. On the verge of success he discovers that the Queen’s bodyguard intentionally lured him to the palace to use his dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. Now he must fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for. Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country.

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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by Ghost in the Machine » January 26th, 2010, 12:56 pm

Hi Giles,

These long paragraphs are hard to digest. I would recommend a good infusion of white space. Let’s see what we can do:

Dear [Agent],

It takes something pretty serious to be kicked out of school. Creating a lightening storm that kills another student? That’ll do it.

After this horrifying mistake, only one school will accept thirteen-year-old Nicholas Benson—the Magi Academy. Here Nicholas should learn how to control his magical outbursts of unquenchable fires and deadly blizzards.

Nicholas adapts to his new school quickly, especially with the help of a new friend, the Queen’s daughter Joselyn. Friendship with Nicholas does not come without a price. During an uncontrollable magical fit, Nicholas nearly burns himself and Joselyn to death. Overwhelmed, Nicholas loses consciousness and experiences a vision—the assassination of the Queen.

This vision is the first of many which gradually reveal a terrible plot. Anti-royalist rebels seek the Queen’s death so that the new Prime Minister won’t have to share his power with the monarchy. Feeling helpless, Nicholas ignores these visions until he overhears a damning conversation between Joselyn’s uncle and a Queen’s bodyguard. Nicholas tells Joselyn, but she refuses to believe him. Hurt, Nicholas is determined to prove Joselyn wrong and save her mother.

Nicholas’s bravado may be his undoing. The Queen’s bodyguard plans to use the boy’s dangerous powers to plunge the kingdom into civil war. Can Nicholas master his powers in time? Or will he sacrifice himself for Joselyn, the Queen, and the country?

DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.

I see some similarities between my suggestions and Saskia’s. I hope this helps.

Best of luck.

Ghost in the Machine

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Re: Query: Defender of the Crown v4

Post by Yoshima » January 27th, 2010, 10:04 am

gilesth wrote:Alright, how's this? (gettin' better! :) )Some of the changes are small and subtle, but I think they make a big difference...what do you think?

Dear [Agent],

After accidentally creating a lightning storm that killed a boy from his school, thirteen year old (hyphenate age?) Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy to learn how to get his magical outbursts of unquenchable fires and deadly blizzards under control. Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter, is also a student at the academy, (no comma) and she shares her classes with him. Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another magical fit, nearly burns the two of them alive, and then he passes out. While he’s unconscious, he sees a vision of a small group of anti-royalist rebels intent on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, who is to be elected in less than a year, won’t have to share his power with the Queen. ("so that" sounds amateurish to me. Maybe link up the rebels and the PM directly? Or maybe you could even leave them out and focus on the PM, since he's the head honcho.) Even though he’s plagued with similar visions throughout the year, Nicholas only starts paying attention to them after he overhears a conversation between Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s bodyguard who also plan on killing the Queen in order to prevent the election all together.

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason (end sentence), Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong, if only to save her life and the life of her mother. He succeeds only to discover that the Queen’s bodyguard intentionally lured him to the palace to use Nicholas’s dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. In a fight to save his life and the lives of the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice himself for the good of the country. (Great ending! This last paragraph was my favorite. :) )

DEFENDER OF THE CROWN is a Young Adult fantasy novel, 81,000 words long.
This is getting better! I think, though, that you should cut down your "who" and "when" clauses. It'll make your query sound tighter and more concise. Hope this helps! Good luck with revisions!

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