Queries

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  • #2982

    Jenn
    Participant

    Inspired by WriteOnCon’s Query Critique thread! I thought it would help those of us who haven’t posted there yet. And for those who have, feel free to re-post your query here for the ladies to take a crack at!

    #4385

    Jenn
    Participant

    So okay, going first, I guess.

    Dear Agent:

    Prince Calder departs to rescue the kidnapped Princess Arianna. He expects dangers. But there is one thing he does not expect: the narrator.

    ‪Fed up with the author’s cliché plot, Pennington orders Calder to ignore the kidnapped princess. He will create a more engaging story. Calder doesn’t believe him and, determined to be a hero, refuses.

    Then Pennington completely rewrites Calder’s backstory. Suddenly Crown Prince Calder…isn’t. He’s lost his inheritance and the confidence that he’s not a storybook character in one sentence.

    Now Calder’s story is no longer what it seems. Does Arianna still need to be rescued? Is he surrounded by friends or by enemies? Is he the Crown Prince or the youngest son?

    Losing his sense of identity, he clings to his quest, determined – at all costs – to beat the narrator and end his story, his way.

    THE NARRATOR is an 80,000* word young adult fantasy told from multiple points of view.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,
    Jenn Johnson

    #4386

    jessicafriday
    Participant

    I absolutely love the premise. It sounds like there’ll be a lot of quirky, humorous, conflict-creating interactions between Calder and the narrator.

    Bless you for having the guts to throw this out there. Queries are the worst — so much info in so few words. But I assume you’re putting it out there for suggestions!

    This sentence, to me, seems slightly vague: “Now Calder’s story is no longer what it seems.” Is Calder’s role in the story no longer certain? Is the story not what it seemed before? Very nitpicky here, though.

    The only other thing that hung me up was when ‘Pennington’ jumps in. I get from context that he’s the narrator, but since ‘author’ is thrown in there, I reread it a few times before it sank into my brain. This could very possibly just be me.

    But all-in-all a great query sample. I especially loved the last sentence (“Losing his sense of…”). Very strong — and this is a book I would be very interested in reading, btw.

    #4387

    lyrwriter
    Participant

    @Jenn—I love it! What a fun, unique premise! A couple little notes:

    1. As Jessica also noted: can you attach the name “Pennington” to the word “narrator” in your first paragraph so that when we get to the second paragraph it’s instantly clear to us who Pennington is? It’s not super-confusing or anything, but it does take us a moment to go, “Pennington? Who is Pennington? I don’t think he’s been mention–oh, he must be the narrator.” The more you can streamline that, the better.

    2. I would make the “Losing his sense of identity…” paragraph part of the previous one.

    Otherwise, awesome job. If I were an agent, I’d be all over this. 🙂

    #4388

    lyrwriter
    Participant

    Well, I suppose I’ll go for it too. This is the newest draft of my query letter. I’m still not very happy with it, so please critique away!

    Dear Agent,

    Sixteen-year-old Albert Woodler knows there’s nothing weird about magic. Albert and his best friend Julia have been doing spells since they were kids, and spelling is predictable, straightforward, scientific. But when a wild-eyed gunman tries to kill Julia in the middle of a spelling competition — and ends up trapping her in the body of an African grey parrot instead — magic gets pretty damn weird.

    It’s not that Julia is gone. She’s still there inside that little feathered body, but her transformation defies the laws of spelling. Plus, Albert has no idea who would want her dead. The only concrete clues seem to lie with an enigmatic young man who deals in the same illicit magic used in the attack on Julia. When the young spellers reluctantly delve into the mysteries of illegal “non-loc” magic and find themselves snatched away to a parallel universe far beyond their own, Albert discovers he’s way out of his depth: his years of spelling training are useless in a world where people use non-loc with impunity. But if he can’t find the answers they’re looking for, Julia’s humanity is lost forever. And that’s assuming her attacker doesn’t find them and end both their spelling careers — permanently.

    UNFAMILIAR SPELLINGS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

    #4389

    Jenn
    Participant

    Thanks guys! I’ll fix Pennington’s “intro.” You’re not the only ones to find it jarring – thanks for pointing it out!

    @Jessica: The answer to your question is yes. Calder’s role and the story as a whole are no longer what they seem. It was the best I could do to encompass everything. Any suggestions for a less-vague way to say it?

    @lyr: I was trying to follow Janet Reid’s 3-sentence paragraph rule as closely as I could, which is why that sentence is it’s own paragraph. And I’ll get to your query during my lunch break!

    #4390

    Tracy Rohlfing
    Participant

    @jenn I’m really curious to see how this reads. It sounds really interesting. I keep imagining the bugs bunny cartoon where daffyduck is arguing w/ the artist and the artist gradually starts erasing his feet, replacing them w/ stems then draws a flower around his head, making him a flower that walks on all fours.
    I didn’t make the pennington connection w/ the narrator at first either.

    @lyrwriter Your first paragraph is so clear and smooth but then something with your second doesn’t flow. It might be that I’ve been up since 4:30.
    It feels like a lot is going on in the 2nd paragraph, lots of info. It’s like it needs a break. I’m no expert ( no where near). But maybe you can break it down into 2 paragraphs? All I know is I had to read it twice to absorb everything – but I got it after that. It sounds like a great story, I love all things magic. Oh and I know your word is “spelling” but when I got to “spelling training” it read a little clunky.
    I hope this was helpful. If not, disreguard. 🙂
    Is this middle grade or YA?

    #4391

    Jenn
    Participant

    @lyrwriter: I like the premise! I’m a sucker for transformative magic and parallel universes. I like the play on words with “spelling,” but I agree with Tracy, it can get a bit clunky sometimes. Especially in cases where it’s a play on established phrases like “spelling competition” – I get what you’re trying to do, and enjoy it, but I did have to reread to make sure I understood.

    #4392

    Jenn
    Participant

    Here’s a revised version in case you ladies have any further suggestions before I post it on WriteOnCon:

    Dear Agent:

    Prince Calder departs to rescue the kidnapped Princess Arianna. He expects dangers. But there is one thing he does not expect: the narrator.

    Refusing to narrate even one more boring quest plot, Pennington orders Calder to ignore the kidnapped princess. He will create a more engaging story. Calder doesn’t believe him and, determined to be a hero, refuses.

    Then Pennington completely rewrites Calder’s backstory. Suddenly Crown Prince Calder…isn’t. He’s lost his inheritance and the confidence that he’s not a storybook character in one sentence.

    Now Calder’s story is no longer as straightforward as he thinks. Does Arianna still need to be rescued? Is he surrounded by friends or by enemies? Is he the Crown Prince or the youngest son?

    Losing his sense of identity, he clings to his quest, determined – at all costs – to beat the narrator and end his story, his way.

    THE NARRATOR is an 80,000* word young adult fantasy told from multiple points of view.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Jenn Johnson

    #4393

    jessicafriday
    Participant

    @jenn – “Now Calder’s story is no longer what it seems.” — I think I understand now why it threw me off. We can basically infer this from the previous paragraph: things have changed.

    “Now Calder’s destiny is uncertain.”

    “Filled with uncertainty, Calder must find his new calling.”

    “With his fate in limbo, Calder must discover his place in a new story.”

    “Now Calder has lost his place in the story.”

    Just some quick brainstorming. Keep in mind, it might have been just me that stumbled on that line. The “things are no longer as they seem” phrase has been seen in countless queries/jacket copy, I’m sure. And it has certainly worked for those folks. I want to read it, regardless.

    @lyrwriter – I agree that your second para needs a break somewhere, possibly at the fourth sentence. I also agree that spelling training is a bit of a tongue-twister, but there don’t seem to be any good synonyms for training.

    Overall, I got a pretty good grasp of what the story is, but I feel it could use a bit of trimming/tightening? Example: Could “far beyond their own” be snipped from P2S5? Perhaps take the spelling out of “spelling training” altogether? We can infer, I think, that since they are spellers, that’s what his training would be focused on.

    Also: I get a good sense of mystery, despite that much of what happens is told. Why is this guy out to kill Julia? Does she still talk as a parrot? How will Albert overcome his lack of training?

    That’s all for now!

    #4394

    Tracy Rohlfing
    Participant

    @jenn

    I liked the 2nd paragraph from your 1st query you listed. And the 4th paragraph from the you 2nd query you listed.

    This is just me ~ but what do you think this about for your 1st paragraph’s last sentence.

    “But there is one thing he does not expect: the narrator, Pennington.”

    or

    “But there is one thing he does not expect:Pennington, the narrator.”

    If that’s not what you had in mind I completely understand.

    then I think it would flow better w/ your 2nd paragraph from the 1st query you listed.

    Prince Calder departs to rescue the kidnapped Princess Arianna. He expects dangers. But there is one thing he does not expect: Pennington, the narrator.
    ‪Fed up with the author’s cliché plot, Pennington orders Calder to ignore the kidnapped princess. He will create a more engaging story. Calder doesn’t believe him and, determined to be a hero, refuses.
    Then Pennington completely rewrites Calder’s backstory. Suddenly Crown Prince Calder…isn’t. He’s lost his inheritance and the confidence that he’s not a storybook character in one sentence.
    Now Calder’s story is no longer as straightforward as he thinks. Does Arianna still need to be rescued? Is he surrounded by friends or by enemies? Is he the Crown Prince or the youngest son?
    Losing his sense of identity, he clings to his quest, determined – at all costs – to beat the narrator and end his story, his way.

    Also I think your first sentence could be more of a grabber. I think it should maybe start out with something about the narrator because that’s what differnt about your story. ~ I wish I would have thought to say that before I read both your queries 20 x. 🙂

    Hope that was helpful??? If not, disreguard.

    #4395

    Ladonna
    Participant

    @Jen
    You are so brave to do this. Ah, the blasted query letter. How I loathe you. I’ll put brackets around my comments again my opinion.

    Dear Agent:

    Prince Calder departs(This is great but maybe a stronger verb here) to rescue the kidnapped Princess Arianna. He expects dangers. But there is one thing he does not expect: the narrator(I like that and makes me want to know more).

    ‪Fed up with the author’s cliché plot, Pennington orders Calder to ignore the kidnapped princess. He will create a more engaging story. Calder doesn’t believe him(That he’ll give a more engaging story? i wasn’t sure.) and, determined to be a hero, refuses.

    Then Pennington completely rewrites Calder’s backstory. Suddenly Crown Prince Calder…isn’t. He’s lost his inheritance and the confidence that he’s not a storybook character in one sentence.

    Now Calder’s story is no longer what it seems. Does Arianna still need to be rescued? Is he surrounded by friends or by enemies? Is he the Crown Prince or the youngest son?(Here I might lose the questions. Susan Dennard has a great link to query letters. http://susandennard.com/2010/11/29/how-i-got-my-agent-part-1-the-prep/ . She also sent me something called Writing a query letter from the ground up. if you want it, just send me an email, so I can give you the attachment)

    Losing his sense of identity, he clings to his quest, determined – at all costs – to beat the narrator and end his story, his way.(Nice. I think you can make this bang a little sweeter. Since someone is changing his life.)

    THE NARRATOR is an 80,000* word young adult fantasy told from multiple points of view.
    I hope something helps. Again, my opinion. Like–keep. don’t like–delete.
    Thank you for your time and

    #4396

    lyrwriter
    Participant

    Thank you for all of your feedback, guys! I really appreciate it. Here’s a revised version — thoughts?

    Dear Agent,

    Sixteen-year-old Albert Woodler knows there’s nothing weird about magic. Albert and his best friend Julia have been doing spells since they were kids, and spelling is predictable, straightforward, scientific. But when a wild-eyed gunman tries to kill Julia in the middle of a spelling competition — and ends up trapping her in the body of an African grey parrot instead — magic gets pretty damn weird.

    It’s not that Julia is gone. She’s still conscious and snarking away from inside that little feathered body, but her transformation defies the laws of spelling — plus, Albert has no idea who would want her dead. Worst of all, the only concrete clues seem to lie with an enigmatic young man who deals in the same illicit magic used in the attack on Julia.

    Delving into the mysteries of illegal “non-loc” magic, the young spellers find themselves snatched away to a parallel universe, and Albert discovers he’s way out of his depth. His years of training are useless out here where people use non-loc with impunity, but if he can’t find the answers they’re looking for, Julia’s humanity is lost forever. And that’s assuming her attacker doesn’t find them and end both their spelling careers — permanently.

    UNFAMILIAR SPELLINGS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

    #4397

    Tracy Rohlfing
    Participant

    @lyrwriter I think it’s great! I think breaking up that big 2nd paragraph really helped . It flows so much better.

    Best of luck!!!! 🙂

    I think it was Suzie Townsends (Lit agent for those that don’t know) tweet that I read yesterday. She’d had 350 queries in one week. Just queries alone. She didn’t even mention how many partials or fulls she had to read. We need to make sure our queries stand out amongst all that info.

    #4398

    Jenn
    Participant

    @ladonna: Thanks! I went to Susan’s site, and that was really helpful! Most of my query info comes from Janet Reid, the Query Shark.

    @lyrwriter: I like your revised version! It flows much better!
    (oh hey, that’s what Tracy said, hahaha)

    I’ve revised mine again based on comments here and at WriteOnCon:

    Dear Agent:

    Prince Calder departs the kingdom to rescue a princess from her classically evil captors. He expects dangers, but there is one thing he does not expect: his story’s narrator.

    Refusing to narrate even one more boring quest plot, Pennington materializes and orders Calder to ignore the kidnapped princess. He will create a more engaging story, one that a truly great narrator deserves. Calder doesn’t believe his claim to be the narrator and, determined to be a hero, refuses.

    Then Pennington completely rewrites Calder’s backstory. Suddenly Crown Prince Calder…isn’t. He’s lost his inheritance and the confidence that he is a real person in one sentence.

    Calder’s story is no longer as straightforward as he thinks. Does the princess still need to be rescued? Is he surrounded by friends or by enemies? Is he the Crown Prince or the youngest son? If he continues to defy Pennington, will he even recognize himself?

    Losing his sense of identity and reality, he clings to his quest, determined – at all costs – to beat the narrator and end his story, his way.

    THE NARRATOR is an 80,000* word young adult fantasy told from multiple points of view.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Jenn Johnson

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