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Author Topic: Thoughts on Query  (Read 8317 times)
LeeThompson
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« on: February 13, 2010, 06:30:07 AM »

I need some fresh eyes for this query. I had two friends help edit my MS and I'm grateful, but neither one has ever written a query. And I want to start looking for an agent.
Thanks! Lee

Mr. Lazar,
 
I am seeking representation for Before Leonora Wakes, a 45,000 word YA novel and the first in a series. I enjoyed reading your interviews on Agentquery.com and Writer Unboxed. I loved your sense of humor, work ethic, and character and thought we would be a good fit.

 
Thirteen-year-old Red Piccirilli never planned on being a hero. Nothing much ever happens in Kingston, Michigan. But tomorrow is the last day of school and his summer plans are disrupted when he and his imaginary friend, Pig, see the man in the blue coat. The tall man walks across the street and waves of lightning trail in his wake over the road. When they follow him home, Mr. Blue goes out to his shed while Red and Pig hide beneath a hedgerow. Mr. Blue opens the door and they catch a glimpse of a pale girl in what looks like a dog cage. They run home in the falling dusk and realize hours have passed in what felt like ten minutes.

That night Mr. Blue shows up at Red’s house to return his backpack. Red knows that his mother isn’t seeing the same man that he sees—this stranger with a buzz-saw voice, silver teeth, and shadows swirling in his hands. As Red’s mom makes coffee in the kitchen, Mr. Blue tells Red, “You and your friend need to stay away.” Red agrees because he’s frightened. But when the girl he likes is kidnapped the next day, it thrusts Red and Pig on a course that will unearth secrets about their town and each other that might destroy everything they love.
 
I have had stories in several 2009/2010 issues of Morpheus Tales. In my spare time I read submissions for Dark Recesses and the Stoker-nominated Horror Library anthology series. I also write book reviews for Dark Recesses magazine.

I have the complete manuscript ready to send at your request. 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Best wishes,
Lee Thompson
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delboy
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2010, 07:10:56 AM »

Lee, I'm no expert, and I think this is pretty good. It's nice and concise and sets out the gambit well. But a couple of things jumped out at me.

Firstly, in this paragraph changing the words that represent the man in blue serves to confuse, rather than to demonstrate anything positive. I've highlighted them in bold. I reckon you should just stick to 'the man', once you've mentioned him the first time. Also the tense appears to change (planned / happens). You also use planned/plan twice in quick succession. I'm also not sure what "waves of lightning" are. The final sentence feels redundant, too.

Thirteen-year-old Red Piccirilli never planned on being a hero. Nothing much ever happens in Kingston, Michigan. But tomorrow is the last day of school and his summer plans are disrupted when he and his imaginary friend, Pig, see the man in the blue coat. The tall man walks across the street and waves of lightning trail in his wake over the road. When they follow him home, Mr. Blue goes out to his shed while Red and Pig hide beneath a hedgerow. Mr. Blue opens the door and they catch a glimpse of a pale girl in what looks like a dog cage. They run home in the falling dusk and realize hours have passed in what felt like ten minutes.

I haven't solved the tense issue, but I reckon something like this would be better:

Thirteen-year-old Red Piccirilli never intended on being a hero. Nothing much ever happens in Kingston, Michigan. But tomorrow is the last day of school and Red's summer plans are disrupted when he and his imaginary friend, Pig, see a mysterious man in a blue coat walking across the street with what looks like lightning trailing in his wake. Intrigued, they follow him home.  Watching from beneath a hedgerow they see the man open the door to his shed and they catch a glimpse of a pale girl locked in a dog cage. Fleeing in fright, Red loses his backpack.

Similarly modified:

That night the man shows up at Red’s house to return the backpack. Red realises that his mother isn’t seeing the same man that he sees—this stranger with a buzz-saw voice, silver teeth, and shadows swirling in his hands. As Red’s mom makes coffee in the kitchen, the man tells Red, “You and your friend need to stay away.” But when a girl Red likes is kidnapped the next day, it thrusts Red and Pig on a course that will unearth secrets about their town and each other that might destroy everything they love.

Finally you can make more of your 'reading' for Dark Recesses and Horror Library. Instead of saying in your spare time you read submissions simply call yourself a submissions editor. I wouldn't mention spare time:

I have had stories in several 2009/2010 issues of Morpheus Tales. I'm a submissions editor for Dark Recesses and the Stoker-nominated Horror Library anthology series. I also write book reviews for Dark Recesses magazine.

As I say, I'm no expert - Lord knows I've never written a successful query yet - but these ideas, combined with what others suggest may help. Good luck with the novel. In a few months time (or maybe a couple of seasons time) I'll hopefully be at the same stage.

Kind regards,

Derek

« Last Edit: February 13, 2010, 07:15:26 AM by delboy » Logged

"If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it."
 
Robert B. Parker
delph_ambi
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2010, 08:07:54 AM »

I wouldn't include a synopsis at all. Send that when asked. For a query letter, write a blurb instead. Sell your book. Don't give all those plot details. Genre and feel are more important at this stage. Say who you think your readership would be.
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LeeThompson
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2010, 12:13:21 PM »

Excellent! Thanks a lot!
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Ed
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2010, 02:08:32 PM »

I wouldn't be as detailed as you are about the plot. I'd mention the key challenges (in broad terms) that your MC faces and sum up the whole story in one phrase, like the lines you used to see on movie posters, or the blurb on the back of a pulp novel. Other than that, I think it's a good letter. I like that you've mentioned how you came across her name, etc. It gives you some kind of connection. Nice one afro
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LeeThompson
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2010, 07:05:20 PM »

Cool.
Thanks, Ed!
So you think vague would be better?
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Pharosian
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2010, 02:30:11 AM »

Lee, I wouldn't think "vague" is a word you'd ever want associated with one of your query letters.   bleh

Ed and delph are both saying the same thing, which is that you should present a blurb, which is less specific than what you have now. So take out details such as mom going to the kitchen to make coffee and go with more general information. Mention what makes Red special, why he is the only one who sees Mr. Blue's true form. Talk about the main conflict and the challenges Red comes up against, both internal and external.

Maybe you should review a few blurbs from books you've read and whose stories you're familiar with. See the difference between a synopsis and a blurb (your last sentence in the "synopsis" part is very blurb-like).

Also, check the Writers' Guide to see what Mr. Lazar expects in terms of a submission package (if you don't have the current issue, you can probably find one at the local library).
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Ed
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2010, 04:17:35 AM »

Yeah, as Pharosian says, vague isn't what anybody wants, really afro The word is 'succinct'. Tell the editor what's at stake for your characters, what the main challenges are for them and what they learn through the course of the story. They need to know what the story is 'about', not be left wondering from the minutia you're trying to tempt them with. Save that for later when they ask for a synopsis.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
LeeThompson
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2010, 05:15:11 AM »

Ah! I think I get what you're saying. I've looked at a few YA book covers and most of the blurbs give a nice feel for the characters and overall dilemma. Yeah, I'm gonna rewrite it. Thanks you guys!

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LeeThompson
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2010, 05:32:34 AM »

Something like this?

Red Piccirilli is not a popular kid and he doesn’t plan on being a hero.  Everyone still teases him for the time he brought his imaginary friend, Pig, to Show-N-Tell in elementary school. But at thirteen, Pig is still real to him and Red dreads the day that he can’t see him anymore, even though sometimes he thinks Pig would take his place in his dysfunctional family if he could. When they follow a mysterious man home and see the girl he has locked in a cage inside his shed, it thrusts them on a course that will test the bonds of their friendship and unearth secrets about a hidden world they never knew existed.
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Ed
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2010, 09:20:22 AM »

You're welcome. Show us the re-write as well afro

Up until a few years ago I never used to understand there's a difference between 'plot' and 'story' but this is a perfect example of the difference. Story is the meat of the meal (as long as you're not vegetarian, and then the simile falls down) - it's the reason we read a book or see a film - it's the 'what happened'. Plot is the order the story is told in. What the agent/editor wants to know first is what the story is about. The synopsis is more about plot and story detail.

Take your latest blurb. I'll highlight all the bits I would cut from it:

Quote
Red Piccirilli is not a popular kid and he doesn’t plan on being a hero.  Everyone still teases him for the time he brought his imaginary friend, Pig, to Show-N-Tell in elementary school. But at thirteen, Pig is still real to him and Red dreads the day that he can’t see him anymore, even though sometimes he thinks Pig would take his place in his dysfunctional family if he could. When they follow a mysterious man home and see the girl he has locked in a cage inside his shed, it thrusts them on a course that will test the bonds of their friendship and unearth secrets about a hidden world they never knew existed.

Even the bits I've left need paring down to something like:

Red Piccirilli is not a popular kid and doesn't even fully trust his imaginary friend, Pig, who seems real enough to threaten and perhaps take Red's place within his dysfunctional family. Their bond of friendship is tested when they attempt to free a trapped girl from a mysterious man and embark upon a journey into a hidden world full of secrets.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2010, 09:21:07 AM by Ed » Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
LeeThompson
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2010, 09:22:12 AM »

Damn, Ed. That's awesome! Great way to explain and demonstrate! I appreciate it!
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Ed
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2010, 07:20:09 PM »

Happy to help smiley It could still do with a bit of work, such as what Red learns by taking this journey, and I'm not completely happy with, "free a trapped girl from a mysterious man,"  which would probably make more sense as, "free a young girl held captive by a mysterious man..."
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2010, 08:58:47 PM »

Or '.....from her mysterious captor.'

DW Cheesy
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Ed
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2010, 02:43:55 AM »

Absolutely afro
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