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Thread: Query letter

  1. #1
    Flora Mukavec

    Query letter


    I, too, am new at this. After reading some of the threads here, I see that this community is very helpful. I appreciate feedback from any and all.

    Dear :

    What would you do if, at sixteen, you found out you were a god?

    Being a teenager is trying enough with “normal” problems like dealing with a sibling’s illness, trying to be invisible when your mom is a pop megastar, grappling with the associative guilt of killing your father, and betraying your girlfriend. Imagine dealing with these issues and then finding out that you’re part of the “trinity”- triplet gods who must give up their “regular” lives to save the parents they didn’t know they had from an evil god, who happens to be their uncle. Not only do Winter, Violet, and Jack have to learn how to use their newfound powers, they also undergo a journey to self-actualization.

    I wrote this story because I wanted to share it with young people. I am a high school teacher with a Masters in English, so I combined my love for kids with my love for the novel to create a work that allows them to escape to a place far away from their lives. Yet, I wanted to also create a work that would give my students something to identify with. I have met too many young people who have had to struggle with painful issues. They feel so passionately. When they love, they give all. When they hurt, they want to strike back. I’ve felt their hurt and celebrated their successes. It’s true that the novel is set (at times) in a magical world, but the characters’ real issues are resolved without having to use their powers. It holds a lesson that is uplifting- no matter the traumas, tragedies, and trials that are associated with growing up, every tool that one needs to get through tough times is inside one’s self. Teens don’t need magic to make it through adolescence.

    If you are interested, I will gladly send you a complete manuscript (91,500 word YA/fantasy). Thank you in advance for considering my manuscript.

  2. #2
    Cindy Kay

    Re: Query letter


    First may I say thanks for offering something with more interesting twists -- the pop star mother, guilt over killed one's own father -- than most of the fantasy stuff.

    My main criticism would be your graph about yourself and why you wrote. You don't really say anything worth saying here. Sorry to be so blunt. But all novels offer escape and provide a character to identify with. Why waste words? Of course teens are passionate creatures, ready to love and revenge. Aren't we all? It makes you seem out of touch to be telling an agent something so common, almost as if you've just "discovered" this trueism. We want to read stories from minds that are a step ahead, not just catching on.

    The next bit, about the characters not actually using their magicial powers, this could be intriguing. It feel different to me. But please don't frame it in terms of uplifting lessons. It's school marmish. You're a teacher, so you need to shun any of the common teacher-turned-writer sterotypes. Don't mention morals or lessons or anything of the kind. Show off how in touch you are with the kids by being hip (like the pop star mom) and insightful (like, gasp, a character finding that his "magic" is only mastering his own character strengths).

    If you can trim this graph down to the sweet and bare essentials, you'll have room to really drive your plot home, which I'm thinking is your strength here. If feels different.

    But you're not getting everything you can from it. You have a singular teenager who has all these shocking things in his/her life, but then we surmise that these are actually the issues for three teens, and then we think they must be siblings or related somehow. You've taken a potential gem and turded it up. Give us more plot, more character, and work in this notion that woo-woo magic doesn't save them but the ordinary magic of understanding and mastering the good stuff you got in your character mix.

    Personal pet peeve: question hooks. Just feel lazy to me.

    I'm not saying you should say you're a teacher or the master's degree. That's good, just try to come across as a novelist-teacher rather than a teacher-novelist. It makes a huge difference. One is a dime a dozen, the other is alluring.

    Hope some of this make sense and that it helps. Keep posting your drafts. Queries are hard. Also spend a great deal of effort researching the right agents. It's a cesspool out there and no agent is better than a crappy one. Know who you want, and go for them. Look for agents who represent books like yours and book you like. Don't be afraid to mention by author or title in your query.

    Oh, and don't thank an agent for considering your manuscript when they haven't. They've only considered your query by the time they get to the last line.

  3. #3
    Greg Kosson

    Re: Query letter

    I'm going to focus on the first paragraph. You may go on to say too much about yourself for the traditional query, but I think with some editing it works. Traditional queries are so often rejected for being too traditional that something more genuine may do the trick.

    Don't use quotes unl;ess you're referring to the word itself in the sentence. Doing so betrays the fact that you're not comfortable using the word in that spot, but couldn't think of a better one. It's a little like people who turn on their flashers when they double park or drive 40 MPH on the freeway. Using the flashers doesn't make either OK.

    What about the associative guilt of killing your father? Boy, that's not a familiar concept to most readers! Good thing, too or fewer people would have kids. I had no idea what this meant. A lack of clarity is usually more frustrating than intriguing.

    Shoving the reader into imagining himself in the character's shoes is a little intrusive. It feels pushy when you say "Imagine dealing with these issues and then finding out that you’re part of the “trinity”- triplet gods who must give up their “regular” lives to save the parents they didn’t know they had from an evil god, who happens to be their uncle."

    I really can't imagine any of that.

    You say that they solve their problems without gimmicks, but your query also suggests they have to learn to use their gimmicks, so that's a little confusing.

    What is self actualization, really?

    I think you should go through line by line and make the plot sound fascinating to a person who doesn't know anything about the story. It's difficult, but you're throwing far too much foreign material at the reader.

    But pass the salt. I'm no fan of fantasy either.

  4. #4

    Re: Query letter

    The third (personal) paragraph is completely irrelevant. Focus on your story.

  5. #5
    Flora M

    Re: Query letter

    Thanks, that was very helpful. I'll try again.

  6. #6
    Susan Molina

    Re: Query letter

    Again, if the first sentence or paragraph contains writing errors, it is going to turn off any reader of your query letter. How can you approach with an entire manuscript when you cannot complete the first sentence of your query letter without making errors?

  7. #7
    Flora M

    Re: Query letter

    I appreciate all of your help. I thought that the bio paragraph was a bit long. Truth be told, I was trying to inject some passion in it, but I think that I went overboard. My brother-in-law (he's directing his first film) said my first query was boring, and that it had absolutely zero passion. He suggested that I talk a bit about why I created this project. I suspected that it was too romantic, but I am glad for all of the feedback. I really want to learn how to do this right. It seems to me that this site is a wonderful place to get thoughtful insight.

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