HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Posts
    8

    Query Letter/ The Warden

    Dear Unnamed Agent:

    Living in the shadow of a mountain prison, Devin Abernathy canít escape the watching eyes. The ever present Wardens serve as a constant reminder that her rural desert village holds many secrets, but Devin in running out of time for doubt. Just one month after her seventeenth birthday, she must choose a permanent work position and forsake the only thing that makes her truly happy.

    The rest of her classmates are excited to make the transition into adulthood, but Devin feels lost. Far from being an acceptable career, Devinís affinity for training horses only adds additional strain to the already fractured relationship with her powerful uncle.

    After using her unusual abilities to win a dangerous and forbidden horse race, Devin is sent to the impoverished city of Ipha to reflect on the life she will be forced to lead should the village council decide she is no longer a valuable asset. Matters are complicated further when she unwittingly stumbles on a closely guarded secret harbored by the Wardens.

    The more she uncovers, the less she understands, but there is one thing Devin knows for sure. The Wardens did not choose their profession and her comfortable village lifestyle comes at a great cost.

    With Captain Sighrus Bane as an unlikely ally, Devin embarks on a journey of discovery that promises to unravel the secrets of her nascent abilities. However, information can be dangerous, and Devin quickly learns that the village council will stop at nothing to keep the status quo alive.

    A story of friendship, love, betrayal, and politics, THE WARDEN is a 100,000 word YA novel with just a touch of fantasy. THE WARDEN has the potential to be expanded into a series, but is compelling as a stand-alone novel.

    Thank you for considering THE WARDEN for representation. I feel that it might be a good fit for your agency because blank has similar themes, and I know you are interested in young adult novels with blah blah blah. I look forward to communicating with you further, and a completed manuscript is available upon request.

    Best,
    Jessica Allison


    [Thanks for the read, everybody. I'm looking for suggestions, not validation, so fire away. Also, the last paragraph is clearly very rough. That is basically just a placeholder for a personalized note to the agent. Also, its pretty evident that all information about me has been removed. This is mostly because i'm torn on what to write.

    This is my first attempt at putting a novel out into the world, and I have no "credentials" that I feel are worth sharing. This is a YA novel, but i'm in my mid twenties. I have a few degrees (BA/MBA/MPP) but they are not related to writing. I'm still considering how to handle this issue, and suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks everyone!]



  2. #2
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688
    A few quick thoughts:

    Your initial paragraph doesn't grab me. Where does "doubt" fit in with Devan's situation? Why are things so rigid that she has to choose her position for the rest of her life (shades of "Divergent" to some extent)? What's the one thing that makes her happy? I get the sense you're trying to be intriguing and mysterious, but it come across as vague. You only have a few words to get me interested; you need more meat here to get things started.

    Your paragraphs are a bit short. Can you combine them together to get some flow and momentum?

    What are her "unusual abilities" and "nascent abilities"? Again, you need to tell us, or it looks like you've forgotten something. Remember, the query isn't the blurb on the back cover; it's the pitch to get yourself published. You can reveal your secrets here.

    Is Bane (a bit of a hokey name) a Warden? His relationship with the rest of the tale isn't clear. Why is he helping her? What are the consequences if she's not successful in whatever it is she's doing? Your description of her circumstances don't sound like a "comfortable village lifestyle". Frankly, it sounds a bit creepy.

    Don't tell the agent your story is compelling. That's for him/her to decide. Also, a completed manuscript darn well better be ready, or you're wasting everyone's time. There's no reason to state it here.

    In general, I like to make sure I cover the three C's in my queries:
    1) Character: Who is the main character and what's so special/interesting about him/her?
    2) Crisis: What is the situation that leads to the character getting involved in whatever is going on?
    3) Consequences: What will happen if the character fails?
    You've hinted at all three, but you're being a bit too coy. State the situation as briefly and clearly as you can, and then go back and expand on the critical points that make your story unique.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Posts
    8
    Thanks for your feedback. I thought I'd take the opportunity to post another draft so you/others can remark on the changes. You're right about the name, I've been meaning to change it for a while and i'm not sure why I haven't.

    I meant comfortable when compared to the extreme poverty of the city, but clearly that did not come across. I took a different approach with this query. I'm sure you all can relate to the challenges of summing up complicated plots in 300 words, haha.

    This is a fantasy novel, but the magical elements aren't really the star of the show. I'm trying to communicate them without loosing focus on Devin's relationship with the village. Hopefully that comes across. The plot is more a "coming of age" story than an epic fantasy. It feels like walking kind of a fine line.

    Anyway, enough chatter. Hopefully the changes will speak for themselves.
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    In Devin Abernathyís rural desert village, every living thing must work if it expects to eat. The end of leniency is fast approaching, and on her seventeenth birthday Devin must choose a permanent work position or be exiled.

    Crippled by doubt and indecision that she is not permitted to express, the only place Devin can find solace is with the village horses. Far from being an acceptable career, Devinís connection with animals marks her as different. The village has a history of making the different disappear.

    Devin sees the remnants of that dark history everywhere. She sees it in the unnecessarily large standing army, and in the Councilís blood red robes. She sees it in the judgmental gazes of her classmates. Most especially, Devin sees in the Wardens who guard the nearby underground prison.

    They too, are strange. Their eyes fade to a murky white, yet they seem to see everything. They are impossibly fast and strong yet completely subservient to the aging council. Wardens never speak to villagers, so Devin is shocked when their newest captain asks her for a bizarre favor.

    Closely guarded secrets unravel in the face of their tenuous friendship. However, information can be dangerous, and Devin quickly learns that the village council will stop at nothing to keep the status quo alive.

    A story of friendship, love, betrayal, and politics, THE WARDEN is a 100,000 word YA novel with just a touch of fantasy. I feel that it might be a good fit for your agency because blank has similar themes, and I know you are interested in young adult novels with blah blah blah. Thank you for considering THE WARDEN for representation, and I look forward to communicating with you further.
    Last edited by jessgallison; 03-08-2014 at 12:03 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688
    Writing a good query is arguably the hardest thing facing an author. How can you distill your 100k work into 300 words in a way that tempts someone to read further? The trick is to make every word count. This version is better, but it's not quite there yet.

    I've never encountered an urban desert, so "rural desert" seems redundant.

    Do the horses, cats and ants also have to work in order to eat? "Every living thing" is excessive; "every person" or "every man and woman over the age of seventeen" focuses on the important point. Incidentally, why is she under pressure to choose one month after her seventeenth birthday? Is there some deadline that she has to meet, or has she been dragging her heels for so long that "they" are getting impatient? And what's so bad about being exiled? It's starting to sound like that would be a better choice for her. Are all the desert villages like this, or is it just this one?

    Why is she not allowed to express her doubts? Does every other person know exactly what he or she is qualified to do, and are there enough jobs around for everyone? Why is working with horses such a bad thing? Someone has to take care of them, right? Who's disappeared, and what were the circumstances? How has this affected Devin personally?

    She's under pressure to choose now, she can't think of any marketable skills, and no one, not even her parents (assuming they're still around) seems to be helping. Is this normal here? Does the Council just arbitrarily hand out assignments if the person can't suggest something? There's always work to be done, and Devin is presumably an able body who, if nothing else, can be married off to have babies. If they're keeping the village numbers to a set maximum, they should be tossing the old folks out first to make room for the next generation.

    "Blood red robes" is clichť. Did the Council pick that deliberately for the menacing effect, or is that your choice? Why are her classmates judging her? Do they all have jobs now? Doesn't even one of them care enough about her to help out? Why is she so isolated in this village where, presumably, everyone has grown up together?

    Is the eye-fading thing something that happens over time, or is it a transient effect? What does "see everything" mean? Being fast and strong is a skill or a quality, being subservient is a role; these are not mutually exclusive. Who's in the prison? Not the exiles, I presume. The relationship between the Council, the Wardens, the village and the prison aren't coming across clearly.

    So here's what I come away with: Devin lives in a place with a lot of harsh rules. She's unable to obey those rules, apparently through no fault of her own, and her life is, presumably, in danger. Before that comes to a head, one of the Wardens inexplicably decides to involve her in some mysterious activity, so now she's in even more trouble. What I don't get is why any of this is happening to her, and what she has to do to resolve her situation.

    Can you describe the essence of your plot in a few pithy sentences, and then flesh it out to give the necessary color and emotion to sell it to an agent? You don't want the agent to be asking the same questions I've posed, or to come away with the same sort of reactions.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Posts
    8
    Thank you for taking the time to think about my query so thoroughly. Your suggestions really are appreciated. I have one more draft, if you have some time to read it. If not, that totally okay. Last draft, I promise (at least until I spend some time reading other peoples work). For anyone who is interested:
    -----------------------------

    In a village where everyone wears the same silks, eats from the same fields, and ages on the same day, Devin Abernathyís eerie ability to mentally connect with people and animals marks her as different. The desert village has a history of making the different disappear and Devin sees the remnants of that dark tradition everywhere. It soaks the Councilís ritualistic ceremonies and lingers in the unnecessarily large standing army. Most especially, Devin senses it in the Wardens who guard a nearby underground prison.

    Dressed all in black, their eyes fade to a murky white the longer they work beneath the earth. Their stony silence and cruelly hooked blades suggest a menacing capacity for violence, so Devin cannot understand why they watch her with thinly veiled suspicion. When Devin inadvertently answers a summons no normal villager is supposed to hear, their suspicion turns to outright awe as the Wardens discover that Devinís suppressed propensity for mental manipulation pushes even their definition of normal.

    After narrowly escaping the disastrous confrontation with help from Captain Sighrus Bane, Devin resolves on staying far away from both the intriguing young warden and his less intriguing colleagues. However, when Devinís best friend forsakes his budding career as a musician to join their ranks, she is forced to rethink her priorities.

    With Sighrus as an unlikely ally, Devin discovers that the village Council is far more dangerous than any warden, proving that great strength is not necessary for great cruelty. The Wardens are faster and stronger than any man, with the ability to heal wounds and manipulate reality, but they cannot break free from overwhelming prejudice. Only Devin, with her connection to both worlds, can hope to save them all from a life of servitude.

    A story of friendship, love, betrayal, and politics, THE WARDEN is a 100,000 word YA novel with just a touch of fantasy. I feel that it might be a good fit for your agency because blank has similar themes, and I know you are interested in young adult novels with blah blah blah. Thank you for considering THE WARDEN for representation, and I look forward to communicating with you further.

  6. #6
    Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    90
    When a writer over-modifies and over-elaborates like you do, the result can be a sing-songy blathery effect that creates mental fatigue in the reader--too many words, too many syllables, for whatever it is you're saying. The reader gets frustrated--the signal is buried, smothered, under all this blathery noise.

    Surely there's a simple, clean, clear, specific way of stating whatever it is you're saying. Why not use unadorned nouns--not phrases and word clusters--and specific verbs?

    Look at all these words, these modifiers--this stuff might be OK when you're coversing casually with a friend over coffee, but it makes for sludgy prose:

    ---1st parag:
    eerie ability
    mentally connect
    desert village
    dark tradition
    ritualistic ceremonies
    unnecessarily large
    standing army
    underground prison

    ---2nd parag:
    murky white
    stony silence
    cruelly hooked blades
    menacing capacity
    thinly veiled suspicion
    inadvertently answers
    normal villager
    outright awe
    suppressed propensity
    mental manipulation

    ---3rd parag:
    narrowly escaping
    disastrous confrontation
    far away
    intriguing young warden
    less intriguing colleagues
    budding career

    ---4th parag:
    unlikely ally
    great strength
    great cruelty
    faster and stronger
    overwhelming prejudice

    Does this characterize your prose in general?

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    That last draft is really long. You want it short and sweet and to the point.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    688
    Robin and Rogue are touching on one of the key aspects of successful query writing: every word must count for something. If you can leave a word out and still get your message across, do so. The remaining words must be strong and exciting. You want the agent to (1) read the entire thing, and (2) want more.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts