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  1. #1
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    Please critic my query letter

    Dear xxx, I am seeking representation of my novel, Warzone: Operation Wolf Hunt. It is a work of military science fiction; book one of two part series, 171,000 words: revised copyright submitted 2011. The sequel, Warzone: Unlikely Alliance is a work in progress.
    Found your website through http://agentquery.com
    Unpublished, first novel: wishing to become a full-time writer.

    Book overview
    “Let NASA go about the show of a public space race. While the eyes of the world are focused on this charade, I will be coordinating the real space race. By the end of the decade we will have an American post on every rock in the solar system. Before others go down in history of being the first to fly into space, I will be standing on Olympus Mons. Theirs is a ‘dog and pony’ show, while we will go about the real business of colonizing the solar system.” Dr. Jan Eichmann’s reply to an offer of a position as chief aerospace engineer at NASA

    When Twelve year old Navajo shepherd boy Ben discovers the crash site of an alien vessel in 1959, it launches a secret space race and war between the Soviets and the Americans. The story moves from the Navajo reservation to the American and Soviet conflict on Luna. Discover the real reason JFK was killed! Enter the main character, a young Seawolf HAL(3) helo pilot in Vietnam, who finds himself recruited and inducted into a secret military and sent to Mars to fight the Soviets there and becomes the narrative voice of the story. The story focuses on the clash of the American and Soviet commanders on Mars. This is a strong character driven story of loyalty, honor and duty.


    Biography of the author and helping editors
    Fifty-five years old married father of four. I work in data services for AT&T. The book grew out of a passion for playing an online game called Battlezone and my love for science fiction. I love military and science fiction. I especially love military science fiction and love to write creatively. My partners in editing this were SGT James L. Decker, retired U.S. Army and Desert Storm veteran, James Lambright, former U.S. Air Force and Robert Heitman, former U.S. Marine.


    Thank You,
    Morris Graham
    author Warzone: Operation Wolf Hunt



  2. #2
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    Hi Morris,

    Some things from me:
    1. Your QL format is a bit non-standard. Not that it's a bad thing but it has to be bloody good to work.
    2. You don't need to say you're seeking representation. The fact that you are sending them a QL is indicative of this. Save the valuable space for something of substance;
    3. Your word count is HUGE for a first timer. At least put it at the end if you're not willing to cull so you can rope your dream agent in before springing the bad news on them;
    4. You don't need cold sub heading in the QL
    5. You start with a quote but it's not clear how it ties into the rest of what you have (I like the voice BTW), you could throw it out and your QL wouldn't be any less without it IMO;
    6. Punctuation error on twelve-year-old, plus the 'T' should be lower case. IMO this is where your QL should start;
    7. The part about the boy doesn't seem necessary since he's not your Pro. No point wasting valuable QL space on a minor character;
    8. The rest seems like a bunch of random thoughts thrown together with no flow or logic to how it all comes together;
    9. You don't tell us your Pro's name just his job, IMO you need to get your agent to care about your character and he/she can't do that without a name;
    10. You don't give a sense of the stakes for your Pro--why does he care, what happens if he fails/wins, what's the conflict for him (not US vs. Russia, that's too broad).
    11. Apart from your first para it's all telling and no showing, you need a balance, right now it's very unbalanced;
    12. Unless you are miliatry or Nasa, I think your Bio can go in the bin

    Keep at it.

    DK

  3. #3
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    Here was the original part that started at book review and I cut it down a lot because I read somewhere it needs to be a one sentence hook and a paragraph...

    Book overview
    The story starts with a crash of a UFO on the Navajo Nations land in 1959. After the local Bureau of Indian Affairs agent negotiates its sale to the government, President Eisenhower has one of his army buddies take it to a secure facility for study. He tells no one in the intelligence agencies and when he leaves office, turning over the files and secret to JFK. JFK continues the secret and after enough material is recovered from a meteor shower to repair the disc, it is thought that there is more of the material on other planets and moons in the solar system. There is a leak in the test facility and traitors sell all the technology to the Soviets.

    Now the race is on! The Americans and Soviets engaged in a space race throughout the Solar system pursuing the technology an alien race and the material known only as alloy-x. Meanwhile, the Soviets believe that the American secret war will cease if JFK is killed. Kennedy is assassinated but the Americans had the forethought to become independent as an organization and the struggle continued after JFK’s death. The story changes to a first person narrative as the main character is injected into the story as a Seawolf HAL-3 attack helicopter pilot in Vietnam during the closing days of the VN War. He tells his story as he transitions from Helo pilot through the ranks as a pilot in a hover-tank squadron to the American post commander on the Mars circa 1985. Follow the story of the American secret military and the 3rd squadron from Mars as they struggle with their Soviet counterparts. Honor and courage forms the core of this character-driven series


    Now a further thought. The conflict of the main character is that he is drawn home to marry his beloved and retired while not being quite able to let go of his command. His personal destiny lies in his personal struggle with Soviet commander Yuri Tkachenko, his equal, known as The Ukrainian Wolf. I hesitated to identify the character's names because in the frontier post, all American pilots go by calls signs. I didn't know if my character would appear cheesy at first glance because his call sign is Kahless, after the Star Trek Klingon.

    Sorry, I spent 7 years writing this and other than the ppl who helped me edit it, I don't know the slang of writers. What Is Pro? you are referring to?

    Morris

  4. #4
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    Pro = protagonist. Your lead, central character.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protagonist

  5. #5
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    Book overview - Don't care

    Biography of the author and helping editors - who cares?

    wishing to become a full-time writer - You either is or you ain't!

    Writers write! Full, part, twice a month, once a year, once a decade. WHO CARES so long as it is a good story, no waffle and it stops me going to bed!

    What I think your Query might look like:

    The UFO crashed in 1959.
    Since then, Russia and the US have been visceral competitors for the grand prize, or is that “grand prizes”?

    Watch Commander MORRIS as he physically has to fight the bad tempered and ****ty livered Russian bear of a man, one eyed Dimitri. Morris can’t lose, he who claims the planet is irrelevant, he who claims the ripe mining spots and gets production going will win the solar system.

    Warzone: Operation Wolf Hunt is 171k words. This is military sci fi.



    Now, don't listen to me, I don't know what I am doing.
    I have been told that a QUERY must grab the agents attention. It has to make them ask for more pages so they can see what is happening, where it is going, and is the work as good as the query.

    The query MUST reflect how you write.
    From what I saw at the top, I felt it was a little boring, it looked like you might have a good idea but what that is, I couldn't fathom it.

    OH YEAH, you describe the Pro's job, but don't give his name and apparently he says 171,000 words. I would have thort he would demand his name be promoted, wouldn't you?

  6. #6
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    I wrote the original query based on a coaching letter on how to do it I pulled off one of the literary agent's website. Now I am a bit confused. My first problem with sending the first five or 10 pages is that the book starts out like a Tony Hillerman Navajo story, but moves away from that as soon as the first chapter is complete. I can't see how anyone asking for 5 or 10 pages is going to get the true feel of the book. Furthermore I am having a little trouble trying to write a punchy one or two liners that is relevant to the story. How to write a one-liner of a fairly long and layered book that has many elements?

    Morris

  7. #7
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    This is something I've struggled with as well. I've often heard people mention that being able to summarize a book in one sentence is vital and that if you can't do so, the manuscript might have too much fluff. I strongly disagree with this notion for complex stories or for those that occur over a significant time period. It's always possible to write a one sentence summary, but the issue is that you end up having to summarize at such a high-level that the story sounds like every other one in the genre.

    I think about writing a one sentence summary for some of my favorite books . . . books like One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Beautiful and Damned. You could do it, but you would fail to capture anything interesting about the book and leave the reader wondering why he or she would want to read it.

    I think it makes more sense to write a sentence that captures one interesting or unique part of your story as a hook rather than trying to cram the entire plot into a line or two, but this is certainly up for debate. I would suggest this only in the case where there really are so many layers and complexity that any one sentence based on plot falls flat.

  8. #8
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    Thank you Anath. I wrote my first query summary and sent it to about 30 agents. I am going to stop submitting queries altogether and wait until I am at peace with what I am sending out. I worked too hard to blow it now. It looks like there are a lot of opinions as to what works.

    Morris

  9. #9
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    So, what response did you get to your 30 letters?

  10. #10
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    Re: Please critic my query letter

    Morris,

    I'd spend several days reading through queries and responses on agent websites that critique queries. You seem to be just throwing information on a page rather than thinking critically about how that information works or doesn't work to entice your targeted agents. That's often the case when you only do skimming kinds of research rather that deep research. You pick up lists of query must-dos. Start with a one-sentence hook. Keep the plot description to a paragraph. Write a bio paragraph. With deeper research, you start to see that most of those must-dos are just elements that work for some writers for some books for some agents some of the time.

    You basically have one page on which you can write a mix of stuff about you, the agent, your story. That's really the only rule and even that one is slippery because queries occasionally go two pages. But for you and your book, consider the single page a rule. That's the only rule. The rest is about using what you've got to get the job done. Get the agent to request the manuscript.

    You want to create the impression that you've approached this whole writing thing in a professional manner? Well then put in your word count, title, genre and don't make formating, spelling, punctuation, grammar mistakes. But book stats and correct usage aren't rules.

    Once you've researched enough to ditch the faux rules, the first order of business is figuring out what about you, your reasons for approaching an agent, and your story is inherently most enticing to that particular agent. Figure out what an agent is looking for, what excites her, what she responds to. Figure out the intersections between what you've got and what she likes. Don't waste a single word of space on your single page with a single thing that doesn't speak to the intersections.

    Does knowing that this is the first of two books entice an agent? Does knowing you bothered to file a copyright yourself make an agent think, "Oh, this is a must-read."? Does knowing you're 55 and work in data processing make an agent think you're a promising first novelist? Does knowing the military titles of the friends who helped you edit? Does knowing that you needed so much help editing foster an impression that you could be a new talent on the scene?

    You see how you're just sticking information in the query without regard for the impression you're creating of yourself and your work in an agent's mind?

    The same strategic thinking applies when it comes to writing about your plot. You spend half your plot description space with a quote from a character who isn't even mentioned again. Decide on a few compelling elements in your story and focus on them in ways that keep your protagonist and the themes at the fore. You didn't do that and you knew you didn't. That's why you had to tag on, "This is a strong character driven story of loyalty, honor and duty." Nowhere in your query do you show character driven, loyalty, honor or duty; so you had to tell us.

    So you may decide that a Navajo boy discovering an alien space craft is one of your strongest images. Fine, but you need to link this image to your protagonist or the themes of the book. So you could say: In 1959, when a Navajo shepherd boy discovers a crashed alien vessel, Hal Brock is signing up at an Army recruiting office in Des Moines. (I'm not recommending this sentence whatsoever, just making an example.) See when you strip off telling us the boy's age and name, you de-emphasis him and signal the reader not to give him much attention; he's just part of an image. When you pair that image with the introduction of the protagonist of the story, you signal the reader to pay attention to Hal. You want to do this all the way through your plot description -- use your best stuff but keep it meaningful so that you show the character driven, loyalty, honor stuff.

    I'm going on. Hope something is helpful. Sounds like a promising story.

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