#34 Query Corner – Emilia Afloat

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

When a sorcerer steals her father away, Emilia cobbles together a crew from her siblings to escape her home island and rescue her papá.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

Your story definitely draws me in, and I love the world building is immediately evident. With Ownvoices being actively sought, hopefully your hard-earned perspective can help someone else know that they’re not alone.

  1. Try to start closer to the inciting incident, the query needs to show stakes — not background.
  2. The “I’m sure you have many submissions…” is a bit apologetic. Don’t be sorry for querying — it’s an expected part of the process. I suggest the more standard, but equally gracious. “Thank you for your time and consideration.”

Queryist’s Original:


Dear Mx. __

Fifteen-year-old Emilia Marcela Noble is known as the abuelita of the island. She dedicates her days to chores she hates: delivering magical plants, fixing shirts, and cooking meals for her siblings. At least she has sailing lessons with her papá and a plan to someday leave aboard the ship he wrecked against the Aolan shore seventeen years ago.

Then soldiers arrive from far-off lands, capture her papa, and set sail for the other end of the world. Emilia cobbles together a rescue crew from siblings who don’t know a binnacle from a barnacle and Milo, the biggest nuisance on the island. As she captains The Urchin across great oceans, stories exchanged on starry nights and kidnapped children from island ports paint a picture of the power-hungry sorcerer who took their papá and is after even more. Between navigating storms, negotiating with pirates, and knitting terrible sweaters, Emilia will have to decide just what she’s willing to give up to bring her papá home.

Emilia Afloat is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. This 80,000 word story merges the fierce family ties of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire with the magical twists of Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King Duology.

I attended [SCHOOL], where I completed a semester of research sailing on a tall ship. My own asexual identity and five years of teaching middle school students inspire me to tell stories with queer heroes.

I am sure you have many submissions to review, and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to consider Emilia Afloat.  

Best regards,

Q34


The query was clearly very close – it has all the component parts and the story was clear. My main mission was to streamline it a touch — lightening the backstory without losing the context.

My Revision:

Dear Mx…..

When foreign soldiers steal away her papa, fifteen-year-old Emilia Marcela Noble’s quiet life as the island abuelita ends. She hated delivering magical plants, fixing shirts, and cooking meals for her siblings, but had always planned to leave someday on her own terms — aboard the ship her papa wrecked against the Aolan shore seventeen years ago.

With a crew cobbled together from siblings who don’t know a binnacle from a barnacle and Milo, the biggest nuisance on the island, Emilia knows it’s up to them to rescue papa. As she captains The Urchin across great oceans, stories grow about the power-hungry sorcerer who took their papá and is after even more. Between navigating storms, negotiating with pirates, and knitting terrible sweaters, Emilia will have to decide just what she’s willing to give up to bring her papá home.

Emilia Afloat is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. This 80,000-word story merges the fierce family ties of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire with the magical twists of Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King Duology.

I attended [SCHOOL], where I completed a semester of research sailing on a tall ship. My own asexual identity and five years of teaching middle school students inspire me to tell stories with queer heroes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Q34


While this tweaked query didn’t get Q34 the mentor they were querying, it did get them a request for more pages — which is exactly what a good query should do. The pages themselves have to get you the rest of the way there.

Best of luck to Q34! That mentor might have said “no”, because the story was already there.


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

The Grind versus The Hustle: Comparing Office Work and Creative Work

9-to-5 jobs get a bad rap. But, just as there are tons of benefits to working on your own projects, there are obvious benefits to the 9-to-5, even beyond a capitalist society.

Now, clearly there are companies where these 6 benefits aren’t in play — and in that case? Your company is probably not a healthy one to work for. Polish your resume and see if you can get out. Or? You’re not actually working a 9-5 job.

6 Benefits Of The Daily Grind

  1. Health Insurance
    If you live outside the United States, this might not be such a big deal, but working a full-time (36+ hours a week) in the states means that your company subsidizes your health insurance. Buying your own insurance on the open market starts at $500 a month and only covers catastrophic health issues…

    When you’re a creative — or otherwise self-employed, that insurance comes out of your own pocket — or you find a spouse and get on their insurance.
  2. Regular paychecks
    You know when payday is, it comes regularly, and you know how much you’re going to get. Plus? Taxes are already taken out of it and you only have to file at the end of the tax year.

    When you’re a creative — or otherwise self-employed, that paycheck comes when you have a contract, and complete and deliver your product. Assuming you can get your client to pay up what they owe you, when you bill them. Sometimes, that can be a challenge.
  3. Known Tasking
    At a 9-to-5, you know you’re doing the right thing – or at least the thing your boss wants you to do. If you’re at a good company, you know what they want and how they want it.

    In my 9-to-5, I write code, and I’m told what to code and what language to code in.

    But if you’re not working the grind, you’ve got to be hustling. You’re either out there trying to convince someone to buy what you’re making, or you’re looking for someone who needs your skills and using them on whatever projects they’re willing to pay for.
  4. Objectives
    When given a task at a 9-to-5 job, assuming it’s run properly, you know what the task is for and what it needs to do/look like.

    At my 9-to-5, when I get a task, I am given requirements, things my code must do and things it should not allow.
  5. Set Endpoints
    At a 9-to-5, you know when you’ve finished a task. Either your boss stops asking for you to fix it, you hit the deadline, or it’s a regular task you do, but you know when it’s been accomplished

    For me, I have due dates and I have tests my code must pass. Once it passes those tests and/or that deadline? I’m done and need to move on to the next task.

    When you’re a creative, you work on something until you think you have it, or you can’t stand to work on it any more, then you try to sell it. Or have someone else take a look. Some people get into the trap of eternal revision, or re-painting, tweaking their projects for eternity and never finishing.
  6. Done when you go home
    The biggest change for me after I graduated college was, once I left work, I was done. There was no homework.

    Now, there are jobs that have people on call, and companies with poor work/life balance, but for a standard 9-to-5, when you’re done, you’re done until you walk through that door again in the morning.

    When you’re a creative — or otherwise self-employed, your day is never done. You’re always working, or thinking about working, or thinking you should be working on your project. Your life and your work bleed together.

Now, that said, clearly I wouldn’t be here blogging if I thought the 9-to-5 life was the end-all and be-all of the working world.

Benefits Of Being A Creative

  1. Answer to yourself
    No one else is telling you what to do, when to do it, and what time to show up.
  2. Work on what you love
    Most of us who are creatives or otherwise self-employed are working on a passion project, something we want to see in this world and hope we’re the right person to make it work.

    We’re clearly doing it for something other than the money.
  3. Decide on your own tasking
    At a 9-to-5, you might get to pick between project A and project B, or even propose project C and have the company decide to go for it. But usually? They tell you to jump and you ask, “how high.”

    When you’re in charge, you can decide project A is boring and switch to project B. And if that gets stuck, take a break and work on project C.

    You’re the creative spark, the final say on what your finished project: your art, your story, your product — whatever you’re working on looks like. You get to decide when it’s done.
  4. Deadlines are what you make of them
    (Well, until you’re under contract. But even then, sometimes they can be flexible.) If you’re not happy with your work, you can pull it apart and start new.
  5. Set your own hours
    Plus? You get to work when you feel you’re most productive.

    Okay, this is often a lie. You get to work when you can fit it in around life. But if you’re doing this INSTEAD of a 9-to-5, instead of alongside it, your schedule can be more flexible.
  6. The successes are all yours
    When/if you hit it big, all the profit/fame/whatever is yours. You’ll know that you made it on your own and all the external validation belongs to you.

Now, I do have a soft-spot for predictability and stability, I’m a bit of a homebody. But, that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to take chances.

These days? I’m working both gigs: one by day for pay, and by night to write. But, I’m never going to be the one to say that the 9-to-5 is the wrong choice for you.


Do you work a 9-to-5, a creative/self-employment job, both, or neither?

Do you think bad management gives 9-to-5 a harsher rap than it deserves?

How One Writer Uses Trello To Track Her Creative Progress

At some point in any creative’s life, they realize they can’t keep track of it all in their heads.

There are a lot of tools out there; from handwritten bullet journals to Scrivener to post-it notes, there is a plethora of choice. Because every person works differently, so different tools are going to be helpful to different people. Plus, even if a tool was useful at an earlier stage, doesn’t mean it’ll be the right tool for you right now.

If you’ve been following me, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve got a ton of balls in the air, so to speak.

  1. Revising a YA fantasy
  2. Sent my MG contemp-fantasy out for feedback
  3. Reworking some short stories
  4. Querying my short stories
  5. Revising other people’s queries – and posting some for my Query Corners
  6. Interviewing authors and posting Author Spotlights
  7. My weekly blogpost
  8. My weekly vlogpost
  9. Other #authortube activities – write-ins, short updates, etc.
  10. Volunteering for conventions – working on Balticon’s programming staff
  11. Assistant editor for Oddville – an online quarterly fiction magazine
  12. Applying to be a panelist at conventions
  13. Attending conventions (either as an attendee or presenter)
  14. Beta-reading for friends and family

I could probably think of a few more things I’m trying to do this month alone, but my list is getting a bit long. At some point, probably after some betas nudged me 3 months late, I realized I couldn’t keep tracking this in my head.

As I’ve discussed before, I love being able to check things off, I love keeping up productivity streak, I love feeling like I’m making progress.

To Do lists are always a good thing for me. But? I needed an online one. I needed to be able to check my list no matter where I was. I didn’t want a journal — I don’t carry a purse, just a phone-wallet.

There were a lot of post-it note or list style to-do lists, but my day job had introduced me to some project management tools. I’m a coder by day, and I’d worked with GitLabs, which has project milestones, and epic tasks broken down into 1-2 day chunks. So, I looked around to see if there was anything similar that I could use at home. Preferably free. And didn’t look like it came out of the 90s.

I saw ads for a few others – Monday.com kept being shown while I was trying to binge Brooklyn 99 on the cheap Hulu. But? It seemed aimed at teams and collaboration — not something that was a major concern for me. I thought it might be far too heavy-weight for what I was looking for. The first thing I saw and tried was a tool called Trello. And I liked it.

I fell off the bandwagon back in November or so, but with my New Year’s resolutions, I set it back up, and I’m really liking it. It helps me visualize, prioritize, and make sure I don’t forget things with less immediate deadlines.

Anyway, enough preamble. Pictures are worth 1,000 words. (Or more. Because I’m pretty sure I could get super wordy if I tried to describe an image in excruciating detail.)

Trello Boards

In Trello, you can have one or more “boards”. As this is intended for project managing a team, you can have multiple boards for multiple projects. This year, I’ve split mine boards by 3-month-chunks, rather than splitting it up by writing-project. This way? All of my active stuff in one place, but I’m keeping the board itself from getting too cluttered.

When I first tried it out last year, I just had one for what I was writing and one for what I was reading (books, beta-reading, etc). But, it kept getting busier and more cluttered and I felt overwhelmed.

Trello offers lots of templates, so when I created a new board for this year, I looked through them and set one up. But, after careful consideration, decided it wasn’t quite what I wanted, so created ANOTHER new a board for this quarter.

My Actual Trello Board

My Trello Board for 1st Quarter 2020

In the upper right corner, you’ll see a menu drop-down. That’s where you can change the background color, search for cards, add stickers, and more. I like a nice mellow blue, but if I was managing multiple boards, I’d likely use a different color per board. (Spring might be green…)

Lists

As you can see on the right, there’s a button to ‘Add another list’. The lists are the large columns. I’ve labeled mine:

  • Backlog
  • To Do
  • Awaiting Feedback/Queried
  • Doing
  • Done

And each list contains a number of ‘cards’ that I’ve added to it. As a card moves through my process, I can click and drag it from one column to the next — forward, backwards, or skipping around.

Cards

These are my task items. I try to break them down into small chunks. Bite-sized tasks that could be completed in just a few days, nothing huge and epic.

Clearly, you can split your items anyway you want, but half of my reason for using this tool is the sense of progress I get as I check things off. I’d rather check off 7 sub-tasks a week, than wait 2 months to check the parent-task off. I’ll STILL be thrilled when I move that card into the ‘Done’ list, but this way, I get to celebrate the little achievements that help me on my way.

Cards hold a LOT of information and a bevy of attributes.

  • Titles
  • Labels (for different types of tasks)
  • Members (if other people are collaborating, you can assign them)
  • Due dates (you can schedule reminders!)
  • Check-lists (where it tracks percentage done!)
  • Attachments! (if you need access to outside files)
  • Descriptions
  • And more!

When you add a new card, whatever you enter into the box becomes your title. Once created, you can click on the title to edit the full card, or you select the pencil icon to quick-edit a single attribute.

Labels

I have a bunch of labels I use, to keep track of the different types of tasking I do. You can just leave them as color options, or you can edit them and add a word to the label.

  • Conventions
  • Beta-Reading
  • Housekeeping
  • Revising
  • Author spotlight\Query Corners (requires outside input)
  • Blog\Vlog (just me)
  • Meetups
  • Oddville (I’m an editor/slush reader)

The color-blind option adds the symbols to the left edge of the label. I know in a glance, when I look at my board, which things are get me closer to publication, which are supporting the community, and which are for my social media platform.

Check-Lists

When I first saw that the items had check-lists inside them, I thought I was using Trello wrong. Then, I realized the truth. I could use those to break down the sub-tasks and watch my progress on a given task.

And the best part? I can use a pre-existing list as a template -> Just copy it on over to my new card.

Then again, it’s also one of the few annoyances I’ve found. It shows each and every instance of every checklist, rather than selecting from 1 instance of each checklist.

But still, watching the “Percent Complete” go up? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Under housekeeping (my yellow label), I even made a task to make sure that I reviewed my board and updated all the tasks. The promise of watching that percent bar goes up almost guarantees I won’t miss a week.

Due Dates and Attachments

You’re familiar with the concept. I’m just taking a moment to show the screenshots for you. The Due Date lets you set reminders. The attachments lets you find stuff on many common hosting sites.

Deleting Boards

When you finish a project, you can always archive its board. But sometimes, you just don’t want the board to exist any longer. In those cases, you can delete it permanently.

Deleting a board

  1. Select settings
  2. Select more…
  3. Select Close board (this means no one can make updates to it)
  4. Confirm at the pop up
  5. Select ‘Delete’

Now, Trello has plenty of other features, from the automated Butler and more. But? For a solo creator, just trying to manage her workload? This is all I need.


Do you use any project management tools for your personal projects?

Which ones and why?

Let me know if you use Trello, too.

#33 Query Corner – THE WITCH IN THE ENVELOPE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

THE WITCH IN THE ENVELOPE, is a dark twist on the legend of St. Nick, Nick and his Watchers aren’t here to leave toys — they’re here to keep Mara, the vengeful witch, from kidnapping children to fuel her magic.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

In keeping with my love of retold fairy-tales, this one hits the mark for me. The story sounds like a lovely festive romp – with dark vibes. The origin story comes through strongly, but there are some things we can do to make Q33’s query stronger.

  1. Queries should fit onto one page. Your query is about two pages long so we need to trim it down.
  2. The query needs to introduce the Main Character and their Goals and Stakes. It’s tempting to give all the context in the query letter, but this isn’t the place for backstory.
  3. ALWAYS, always, always sell one book at a time. This book NEEDS to have been written to stand alone, but it’s fine to say that it has “series potential.”
  4. Be specific. Stories have patterns and themes — that’s how the marketers can make a business case. But? When querying agents? Specificity is how you stand out.
  5. The query should not talk about the process or why you wrote the book. (NOTE: Unless your chronic illness is part of an #ownVoices thing, I would leave it out until I’ve enticed an agent, and then bring it up.)

Queryist’s Original:



Dear Agent,

The Witch in the Envelope is a not so Always Merry and Bright twist on the legend of St. Nick, his elves, and the North Pole. With hints of dark, paranormal fantasy and notes of swoon-worthy romance, Watchers aren’t here to leave toys, but to save children from the vengeful witch, Mara, and restore their home, Cristes Adventus.

Liddy Erickson has had a very special bond, that might seem strange on a human level, with Will Jamison from the moment they met. Soon after he moved in down the street, Liddy was plagued by vicious nightmares. She stopped believing they were just dreams when one morning she fought to wake. Dripping in sweat, a scratch on her chest from the witch’s claws barely missing in their attempt to rip her heart out, was raw and very much real. The only person she ever told was her best friend Will who disappeared along with his family shortly after. Her nightmares immediately vanished, but so too did her memories of Will.

Eight years later, it’s now 1998 and seventeen-year-old Liddy is self-conscious about the radical changes her body went through over the summer. Previously, she enjoyed blending in. Now, she garners the attention of just about everyone. Luckily, no one has mentioned the transformation of her eye color from blue to bright violet. Thankfully her great group of girl friends help her to feel more like she belongs instead of the outsider she feels she is. Dedicated to her education and future career, nothing will stop her from moving out of the Chicago suburbs; something she has always felt called to do. However, the new transfer student is stirring up past heartbreak and strong desires, a palpable and familiar connection tempting Liddy to rethink her plans.

As her memories begin to resurface, Nick, a mysterious stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher and, hopefully, the Princess of the realm Cristes Adventus. His claims of secretly protecting Liddy from a witch—who seeks to kidnap children to strengthen her magic and torture Watchers— are suspect when evidence implicates him as the enemy. Can Nick be trusted or is he actually the one behind the disappearances and threats to her life? When Liddy finds a loved one in mortal danger at the hands of her nemesis, she must decide if she will disobey a direct order and trust her gut if she is to save them from a fate far worse than death.

Currently I am a disabled stay at home mom. Previously, I was a high school teacher and diagnostic cardiac sonographer. I have an invisible, chronic illness that came on suddenly in 2017. Reading (and any other visual motion stimulation) causes me great pain amongst other debilitating vestibular dysfunction symptoms. However, with the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I have not let that get in the way of pursuing my dreams of becoming a traditionally published author. I work hard and I am looking forward to partnering with you.

The Witch in the Envelope is a YA, historical (1990s), low fantasy novel complete at 112,180 words. This is the first in an intended series and will appeal to fans of: a literary version of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper and Seeker by Kim Chance, and a splash of nostalgic childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

I am so thankful for this opportunity,

Q33

000.000.0000
IG, FB, Twitter: @[q33Handle]

My Revision:


         Dear Agent,

The Witch in the Envelope is a not so Always Merry and Bright twist on the legend of St. Nick, his elves, and the North Pole. With hints of dark, paranormal fantasy and notes of swoon-worthy romance, Watchers aren’t here to leave toys, but to save children from the vengeful witch, Mara, and restore their home, Cristes Adventus. [This should be combined with the stats paragraph.]

Liddy Erickson has had a very special bond, that might seem strange on a human level, with Will Jamison from the moment they met. Soon after he moved in down the street, Liddy was plagued by vicious nightmares. She stopped believing they were just dreams when one morning she fought to wake. Dripping in sweat, a scratch on her chest from the witch’s claws barely missing in their attempt to rip her heart out, was raw and very much real. The only person she ever told was her best friend Will who disappeared along with his family shortly after. Her nightmares immediately vanished, but so too did her memories of Will. [Backstory? Or phase 1 of the novel?]

Eight years later, it’s now 1998 and seventeen-year-old Liddy is self-conscious about the radical changes her body went through over the summer. Previously, she enjoyed blending in. Now, she garners the attention of just about everyone. Luckily, no one has mentioned the transformation of her eye color from blue to bright violet. Thankfully her great group of girl friends help her to feel more like she belongs instead of the outsider she feels she is. Dedicated to her education and future career, nothing will stop her from moving out of the Chicago suburbs; something she has always felt called to do. However, the new transfer student is stirring up past heartbreak and strong desires, a palpable and familiar connection tempting Liddy to rethink her plans. [Is this the real start?]

As her memories begin to resurface, Nick, a mysterious stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher and, hopefully, the Princess of the realm Cristes Adventus. His claims of secretly protecting Liddy from a witch—who seeks to kidnap children to strengthen her magic and torture Watchers— are suspect when evidence implicates him as the enemy. Can Nick be trusted or is he actually the one behind the disappearances and threats to her life? When Liddy finds a loved one in mortal danger at the hands of her nemesis, she must decide if she will disobey a direct order and trust her gut if she is to save them from a fate far worse than death. [Solid tale, but so much detail, it reads closer to a synopsis.]

Currently I am a disabled stay at home mom. Previously, I was a high school teacher and diagnostic cardiac sonographer. I have an invisible, chronic illness that came on suddenly in 2017. Reading (and any other visual motion stimulation) causes me great pain amongst other debilitating vestibular dysfunction symptoms. However, with the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I have not let that get in the way of pursuing my dreams of becoming a traditionally published author. I work hard and I am looking forward to partnering with you. [Chronic illness is rough and you’ve clearly worked hard to get where you are. However, unless this is #ownvoices, you may want to wait for agent interest before disclosing this.]

The Witch in the Envelope is a YA, historical (1990s), low fantasy novel complete at 112,180 words. [Round to nearest 1,000] This is the first in an intended series and will appeal to fans of: a literary version of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper and Seeker by Kim Chance, and a splash of nostalgic childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl. [Good job having a recent comp mixed in here.]

I am so thankful for this opportunity, [This sounds like you don’t think you’re deserving, and you are!]

Q33

XXX.XXX.XXXX
IG, FB, Twitter: @[Q33_handle]


There was a lot to unpack. The query showed there was a great story — but had a lot of synopsis and background that could be trimmed to let the story shine. I trimmed it down a lot, just to show Q33 what it might look like. To give Q33 a framework to flesh out.


My Re-write:


Dear [Agent],

17-year-old Liddy Erickson plans to keep her head down and escape the Chicago suburbs gets sidetracked with the arrival of a cute, new transfer student — who reminds her of a childhood friend. That’s when Nick, a stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher and, hopefully, the Princess of the realm Cristes Adventus.

Nick claims he’s secretly protecting Liddy from a witch—who kidnaps children to strengthen her magic and torture Watchers— but evidence implicates him as the enemy. As Christmas draws near [a hint at the santa theme], Liddy finds [her brother/new crush/whatever] in mortal danger at the hands of [the witch]. Faced with a fate far worse than death, Liddy must decide if she can trust [Nick]’s orders to save [whoever] or disobey [Nick’s] a direct order and trust her gut.

Currently I am a disabled stay at home mom. Previously, I was a high school teacher and diagnostic cardiac sonographer.

In this dark and witchy twist on the myth of Santa Claus, The Witch in the Envelope is a YA low fantasy novel complete at 112,000 words. With series potential, this should appeal to fans of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper and Seeker by Kim Chance, with a splash of nostalgic childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q33


And then, after a few rounds of revisions, Q33’s final (for now) query draft.


Dear [Agent],

A not so Merry and Bright twist on the legend of St. Nick, Nick and his Watchers aren’t here to leave toys — they’re here to keep Mara, the vengeful witch, from kidnapping children to fuel her magic.

Seventeen-year-old Liddy is self-conscious about how much she changed over the summer, but at least no one mentioned the transformation of her eyes to glowing violet. Dedicated to her education, nothing will stop Liddy from moving out of Chicago’s suburbs, except maybe the cute new transfer student, who rouses a familiar sense of connection in Liddy.

That’s when Nick, a stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher that can help save Cristes. As Christmas draws near, Liddy finds her friend near death at the hands of Mara. Liddy must decide if she can trust Nick’s order or risk it all by trusting her gut to save her friend.

The Witch in the Envelope is a YA, fantasy romance novel complete at 112,000 words. With series potential, this should appeal to fans of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper by Kim Chance, and the childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q33


We’re almost there, and hopefully, Q33 will find the right agent to take them all the way to publication.


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

They Want What? The Difference Between Blurbs, Queries, and Synopses!

All industries have their own specialized terms, and even inside an industry, different people can want things done different ways. In the publishing world, you hear a lot about blurbs, queries, synopses, and more.

Now, I can’t tell you what ALL agents, publishers, and readers are looking for, but I can point you in the right direction.

High Level Distinctions

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the big picture.

For the most part, blurbs are what you find on the back cover of a novel. (Or want to, what’s with this trend of bigger-name-author quote on enjoying the book, without saying ANYTHING about the book, not even the genre??) What you see in the Facebook ad as you scroll past.

Queries, if you’ve been to my blog before, you should know, are what you send a literary agent (someone who helps you find and negotiate with your publisher).

And synopses? Those are for agents or publishers, to find out how the plot progresses.

Three different tools, for three different tasks, all describing the same story. But, they all go about it in very different ways.

The Blurb

Blurbs are your seasoning, without much substance. Blurbs push the secretive, trying to give away only enough to entice the reader to pick up the novel.

This is where you’re going to see all the cliches pop out, “a man on the run”, “a woman with a deadly secret”, “will it come back to bite them?”

Rhetorical questions are perfectly fine, here. In moderation. All things in moderation.

Blurbs spark interest, but shouldn’t give anything away.

The Query

Queries are nicely seasoned but have definite substance to them.

As I may have mentioned here once or twice, queries should be told in 3rd person, present tense. They should be about two paragraphs, maybe as many as four if you have multiple protagonists.

And? They should take the agent to the first major plot point, setting up the rest of the story.

They do NOT give away the ending.

How is this different from the blurb? In a query, the agent wants specifics. Readers are looking for ways your book is like things they’ve already read, agents are looking for ways your book differs from others in the same genre.

How is this different from the synopsis? A query is focused on the main character(s) – who they are, what they want, and what stands in the way. The stakes are the entire point of the query.

Some agents like a query that starts off with a logline/pitch. A single sentence (try to keep it to 2 lines or less), that almost summarize the story. These overlap a lot with so-called elevator pitches and work best with “high concept” novels. “Alice in Wonderland meets The Jungle Book” (good luck!). These are what you can tweet during twitter pitch parties or say when someone asks you “what you write?” during a party.

Other agents prefer you skip the logline, get right to the story, and then give a brief stats paragraph (genre, wordcount rounded to the nearest 1,000, any novels/writers you’d compare your work to), plus, your brief bio.

Your bio should be shorter than the story part of the query. If you have no publishing credits, do what I do: brief and simple. “I write from my lair in the DC metro area.” Occasionally, I add a hobby or so, if my reading of the agent shows they have similar interests, or if the hobby is something displayed in the novel.

Just remember who the query is for and what it’s supposed to do, and you’ll be in good shape.

The Synopsis

Synopses have substance, but are light on the seasoning.

The synopsis is all business. WHO does what, WHERE. You can give motivations, you can add a little description. But you need to detail the major plot points and completely give away the ending.

Different agents/publishers ask for different length synopsis. Anything over 1-page is single-spaced. (Hence my insistence that 2-page synopsis don’t exist. They’re just double-spaced 1-page synopsis)

I’ve seen agents ask for 1-page synopses, 3-page synopses, or a full-synopses. So? I have 3 versions. My long one is 5 pages.

To write my synopses, I often just build my query up — adding the ending/etc, for the 1 page synopsis (plus, caplocking the first mention of any proper noun — person or place). For my full synopsis, I write a 1-3 sentence description of what happens in each chapter, then edit it for clarity and flow. My 3-page synopsis is my 1-page combined with my 5-page edited down, until they meet in the middle. This is usually the synopsis I like the best and what I’ll send unless otherwise specified.

The synopsis shows your plot and pacing, often delving into character development as well. It needs to be coherent and clear, more than it needs a strong narrative voice and descriptive imagery. If you can do both, more power to you.

If your query is strong enough, the agent or publisher is going to want to look at your synopsis to learn more.


By keeping in mind exactly what each is for, you’ll soon find that you too, can keep blurbs, queries, and synopses straight in your head.


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