Monday, April 16, 2012

In which I attempt a Query Shark-like chomp....

For those who don't know about Query Shark, I highly recommend it (especially the archives!) if you want to buck up your query. It provides immensely useful insight into what makes a query work and why.

In a contest I entered (run by the Query Shark herself), it was said the majority of our queries were crap. I believe it--the form rejections I've gotten so far are proof my query could definitely use some tweaking.

Another entrant had the notion of posting all failed contest queries to a blog for critique...and I immediately jumped at the idea--the more us aspiring writers can help each other out, the better.

Soon after I got an email with the subject heading "Query Ripe for Attacking." While I'm definitely no query expert, I hope my critique will be useful to this fellow aspiring writer. (And maybe I'll learn something in the process.)

Below is the query with my notes in red:  

Dear Fabulous Agent,

(Information about why I chose the agency).  I am seeking representation for my young adult novel, ENCHANTER, complete at 113,000 words. This is good--gets right to the point. Word count might be a bit high for some of the pickier agents out there. I've heard the range for YA fantasy is 50,000-100,000 words.

Nim is in a race to outwit her mother’s killer.  The only catch?  He’s an enchanter. I'd combine to make this flow a bit more--"Nim is in a race to outwit her mother's killer--a deadly (or some other adjective) enchanter.

When Nim breaks the cardinal rule of the Muirardue household, she has no idea this single act of rebellion will be the impetus behind her mother’s death, or that it will plunge her into the enchanting world: a world where ravens are spies and fire glows blue. Great inciting event--but a lot of words to process all at once. I'd condense: "When Nim breaks the cardinal rule of the Muirardue household, she is plunged into a world where..." The "impetus behind her mother's death" part can be saved until the end as a hook or omitted outright.

After her mother is murdered, Nim is deposited on the doorstep of a mysterious aunt she’s never met, in an east-coast magical enclave called the Quarter.  Once there, Nim discovers that her mother left behind a powerful secret, and it’s her job to find it.  Unfortunately, she’s not the only one seeking it.  She soon sets out on the road with three teens from the Quarter, in a race to discover the truth before the enchanter (a reminder of who the enchanter is--the murdering enchanter, the enchanter who murdered her mother, etc.--might help here) does.  When two boys vie for her affection along the way, she finds her life, and her heart, on the line. Good hook here, but needs more specifics--why is her life and her heart on the line? What does she have to risk?

Attorney and recovering philosopher, I have a B.A. in Philosophy and a Juris Doctor in Law.  I have no prior publications, but as a staff attorney in one of the state’s highest courts, I essentially ghost-write published nonfiction in the form of legal opinions. Good bio.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Hope this helps some of you fellow queriers out there!   

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