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Re: Query Letter Help

Home / Forums / List of Forums / Young Adult / Query Letter Help / Re: Query Letter Help



Hey Matt,

This is better, definitely. πŸ™‚ It still could use some work, though. A few thoughts:

– Shorten and simplify your sentences. Believe me, I know this is tricky—it’s something I struggle with myself. However, right now we’re getting a bit lost in your turns of phrase. Stuff like this…

“Yet, strangely, that was part of the reason why he had come. After months of work related absence from his father, as well as unsettling news reports from the far off battlefields, he’s anxious to finally be reunited.”

…is much too wordy/convoluted. Agents devote very little time to each query they receive, and you don’t want to give them any excuse to stop reading your letter. Cut it down and simplify (e.g. something like, “But in spite of the danger, Will is anxious to see his father.”).

– As a more general note: to be honest, if I were an agent, seeing these kinds of sentences in a query would make me wonder about the manuscript itself. If you were writing lit-fic or something like that, it might not be cause for concern. But you’re writing YA fantasy with (by the sound of it) a lot of action mixed in, and if your action sequences are as wordy as this query, that could be a problem. I haven’t read your manuscript, so I won’t make any assumptions, but it might be wise to go back and make sure that your writing is as clear and concise as possible. πŸ™‚

– As I said before, the true function of a query is to entice an agent to read more. So because this is essentially your book’s teaser trailer, you don’t need to tell us nearly as much as you think you do. I know it’s difficult to pare your plot down to its bare bones, but that’s really what a query calls for. In very general terms, I would say that you need to be a lot less specific in your first paragraph (e.g. why is it important that we know Will goes to boarding school in London?) and a lot more specific in your last one (e.g. in what sense are they racing against time, and what happens when time runs out?).

– I still don’t have a sense of Will and his motivations. As I said, your query needs to show us what the character wants, what’s standing in the way of him getting that, and what the consequences are if he doesn’t get it. Just for a moment, forget about your query. Sit down, grab a pen, and in one sentence apiece, answer each of the four questions from my previous post. Go on, do it right now. I’ll wait. πŸ™‚

Got them? Good. Now look at those sentences, then start your query over using those sentences as the backbone. Tweak things and fill it in to make it flow, but use those basic facts to frame your query.

Finally: I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m really very serious when I say that you’ll do yourself a huge favor if you go to the Query Shark’s blog (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/) and read through her archives. You will learn so, so much about writing queries—I guarantee it. And honestly, most of what I’m saying here is stuff I learned from her, so you’ll save me a bit of typing if you go and get it from the original source (not that I begrudge you the time spent writing these crits or anything—I’m happy to help). πŸ™‚ A good place to start is with the list of queries that got to a “yes”; you can find them in the right-hand sidebar underneath the picture of the utensil-carrying shark.

Hope that helps! I look forward to reading a revised version.