Query Critique

Original Query:

Dear (Agent),

Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, Tristan Storey has been accused of a murder he didn’t commit. And is going to hang for it.

With a rope squeezed tightly around his neck, Tristan knows it’s the end, but just as his consciousness flickers, lightning tears down from the sky. It smashes the gallows, freeing the thief. Eager to cheat death, Tristan attempts his escape in the midst of the chaos, but instead of freedom, he is accidentally sucked into another dimension.

After smashing into the grassy plain on the other side of the portal, Tristan realizes someone else was pulled through: Vespa, the daughter of the man he “murdered.” Trapped in a foreign world, they have no choice but to work together, despite Vespa’s stubbornness and Tristan’s habit of saying the wrong thing—all the time.

This new world is ruled by an evil god who desperately desires the eternal soul dwelling within Vespa. And when his henchman fails to capture the girl, the man instead steals her memories.

Robbed of her past, Vespa’s future suddenly falls in the hands of Tristan who reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover her memories. Memories which hold the truth about Vespa and her true mother: the god of Earth.

The Eldritch Tales is YA fantasy, complete at 84,000 words and was a finalist in Critique My Novel‘s 2012 annual writing competition. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

The Critique:

Dear Ms. (Agent),

Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, Tristan Storey has been accused of a murder he didn’t commit. And is going to hang for it. (How old is he? We find out it’s YA at the end, but you want to ground the reader (agent) in what kind of book you’ve written up-front. That can be fixed easily by adding: Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, seventeen-year-old…etc. Also! You can tighten this and make it more present by moving a few words around. Ex: Seventeen-year-old small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, Tristan Storey, is about to hang for a murder he didn’t commit.)

With a rope squeezed tightly around his neck, Tristan knows it’s the end, but just as his consciousness flickers, lightning tears down from the sky. It smashes the gallows, freeing the thief. (This can also be condensed a bit for more impact. It’s a wordy way of continuing to talk about Tristan’s hanging when the reader should be thrust into the action/conflict faster. So far we’ve read a lot about the stuff that happens BEFORE the action. Since most of the conflict occurs after this, flesh that out more.) Eager to cheat death, Tristan attempts his escape in the midst of the chaos, but instead of freedom, he is accidentally sucked into another dimension.

After smashing into the grassy plain (this is unnecessary) On the other side of the portal, Tristan realizes someone else was pulled through: Vespa, the daughter of the man he “murdered.” Trapped in a foreign world (since they were sucked through a portal, the “foreign world” part is assumed. You can cut this extra info so you have more wordage to add to the conflict and obstacles) they have no choice but to work together (by saying “they are forced to work together” it conveys the same message and chops extraneous words), despite Vespa’s stubbornness and Tristan’s habit of saying the wrong thing—all the time.

This new world is ruled by an evil god who desperately desires the eternal soul dwelling within Vespa. And When his henchman fails to capture the girl, the man instead steals her memories. (Who steals her memories? The henchman or the evil god? It’s a little unclear. A fast way to fix that is like this: When a henchman fails to capture the girl, he steals her memories instead. Or better yet, do we need to know the henchman steals her memories? It might be best to remove that element completely to avoid character soup.)

Robbed of her past, Vespa’s future suddenly falls in the hands of Tristan who reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover her memories. Memories which hold the truth about Vespa and her true mother: the god(dess) of Earth. (What conflict does that pose for the evil god? We need a little something here about why the evil god wants her and what the consequence will be if he succeeds. What are the stakes or choices? Will capturing her soul destroy their world?)

The Eldritch Tales is YA fantasy, complete at 84,000 words and was a finalist in Critique My Novel‘s 2012 annual writing competition. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy. (Good ending. One minor tweak; I would say that it’s a stand alone with series potential.)

Thank you for your time and consideration. (Perfect!)

Your Name

Phone Number

Email

Other Contact Info/Website/Etc.

A couple of nitpick-y things: Be aware of using too many words that end in “ly”, there are quite a few that are “telling” instead of showing. I.e. Tightly, accidentally, desperately, suddenly, reluctantly, etc. It’s okay to use some – just know that for a short blurb they start to stand out when they aren’t necessary.

The Aftermath:

Dear Ms. Agent,

Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, seventeen-year-old Tristan Storey, is about to hang for a murder he didn’t commit.

Just as his consciousness flickers, lightning tears down from the sky, smashing the gallows and freeing him. While attempting escape in the midst of the chaos, he’s accidentally sucked into another dimension.

On the other side of the portal, Tristan realizes someone else was pulled through: Vespa, the daughter of the man he “murdered.” Trapped, they are forced to work together despite Vespa’s stubbornness and Tristan’s habit of saying the wrong thing—all the time.

This new world is ruled by an evil god who desires the eternal soul dwelling within Vespa. When his plan of capturing the girl fails, he steals her memories instead. Robbed of her past, Vespa’s future falls in the hands of Tristan who reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover her memories. Memories which hold the truth about Vespa and her true mother: the goddess of Earth.

The Eldritch Tales is YA fantasy, complete at 84,000 words and was a finalist in Critique My Novel‘s 2012 annual writing competition. It’s a stand alone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Your Name

Okay…so with this condensed version, you now have extra word space to flesh out the conflict and choices the characters face once they are in the other world MORE. Don’t be afraid to lay the stakes out there for the agent. 

Thanks so much for sharing your query and for letting me dig my little fingers in. Your book sounds like a really fun read, and the query has a great voice!

Do you know how incredible you are?

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s something I firmly believe in. If you are querying, or are out on submission, or doing anything where you’re receiving rejections, celebrate them. Want to know why? You are actively DOING something. You decided to go for your dreams, you didn’t just talk about it – you sat down and wrote and revised and then you bravely put yourself out there. You are incredible!

Seriously, you are. How many people do you know that are brave enough to wear their heart so openly on their sleeves?

I wrote five books and queried them for over two years, before I signed with my agent on my SIXTH novel. As you can imagine, I racked up A LOT of rejections. Some were form letters, others were personalized, and a decent amount were encouraging enough for me to keep going.

Sure there are days where you feel like giving up, or question your sanity, but that stuff will pass. Really. It will.

If you’re feeling particularly down, allow yourself a day or two to regroup. Do something – ANYTHING – other than writing or querying. Go for a walk. Make a fancy dessert. Rent a bunch of movies and laugh until you cry. Watch a baseball game. But whatever you do, stay away from your computer.

Do not check your email. 

Do not touch your project for 24 solid hours. 

Read that book you keep putting off.

Meditate. 

By the end of the day you’ll start to feel something. You know what that is? It’s hope blossoming in the pit of your stomach. That’s also passion for your work. An entire day away from it is hard. You miss it. How can you even think of giving it up now, after you’ve come so far?

Now take that query letter back out and see what you can do to improve it. Do the same with your manuscript. Then get back out there and try all over again.

You know why I used to celebrate my rejections? Because I always believed that better things were in store for me. I just couldn’t always see it at the time, but I had faith it would all work out. I am a firm believer in the saying, when one door closes a better one opens.

Keep knocking and your door will open.

What’s even more impressive is this: you are learning so much about yourself. Look at how strong you are. You fell down, but you got back up again. I bet you didn’t know you had that kind of inner strength before.

Thank you for being incredible. 

25 Things Writers Worry About

Dear Writers & Creative People,

Did you notice all the “What If’s” and “Maybes” in there?

You’re not alone in your doubts, every creative person feels the same way at one point or another. I promise you’re going to be fine. You have so many stories to tell, creativity will flow out of your pores for the remainder of your life.

Please don’t worry about all those ‘what if’s’ – they’re just trying to hold you back. Keep reading, keep revising, tell the story only you can tell, and trust your gut. And most importantly, keep writing, writing, writing. With all that hard work, you’re bound to see results.

Go out there and do amazing things, I know you can.

Love,

Your future projects