#20 Query Corner: ‘MARTIANS, EXES, AND REBELS’

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

[MARTIANS, EXES, AND REBELS] is an SF romance.

Working with his ex is the only way for Jack to stop the Martian rebels from destroying the colony. Now, if only he could find her.

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:

This sounds like a fun, adventure romp! I love the politics and exes.
– You’re falling into the standard habit of summarizing all the action high-points
– Remember to give us the main character’s wants, goals, and obstacles

Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Agent Lastname],

Jack’s former lover Ellen walks back into his life seeking his help, not his heart. After they prevent delivery of an unregistered nuclear weapon to the Martian rebellion, Ellen disappears. To find her Jack must confront rebel assassins, Ellen’s new love interest, inexorable orbital mechanics and an AI programmed to stop him, hoping to rekindle their relationship and save the Martian settlement. [This reads like a blurb — a teaser. We need to give the main character a voice and motivations.]

[Summary]

[Bio]

 

Sincerely,

Q20


My Revision:

 Dear Ms/Mr Agent,

When Jack’s former lover Ellen shows up, he’s more than happy to help her prevent the delivery of an unregistered nuclear weapon to the Martian rebellion. But, then she disappears again.

As he searches for her, Jack confronts rebel assassins, Ellen’s new lover, and an AI programmed to stop him. If Jack can’t find her in time, not only will he be unable to rekindle their romance, but the rebels might destroy the Martian settlement, once and for all. [Here’s what’s at stake!]

TITLE is an X,000-word science-fiction romance that should appeal to fans of [Something] or [Other].

I write from [a place]. When not writing, you can find me [doing the thing] or [the other thing].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q20


Now we’ve got the inciting incident, the main character’s drive, and all the things that stand in his way. Let’s see if agents like the sound of it!

Best of luck to Q20!


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

 

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#19 Query Corner: ‘THE REAPER’S REDEMPTION’

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

THE REAPER’S REDEMPTION is a YA historical fiction.

When Chiara’s father, the general who led the Knights to victory in the Crusade, is murdered, it seems a Grim Reaper is to blame. If she can’t find the Reaper in time, all of Christendom is at stake.

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:

I’ve seen reapers and crusade stories, but not together. Great innovation and solid base to your query. There are a few things I’d tweak:
– There’s a lot of backstory
– The format is a little too casual
– Unless your self-published work has excellent sales, it’s typically best not to mention it

Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear xxxx,

How are you today? [Not needed.]

Deus Vult! In the year 1099, the Knights return victoriously from the 1ST crusade, but their anxiety is on the rise as their General’s soul has been abducted by the Grim Reaper himself. [Backstory] No Knight is brave enough to look into the murder of their general but his daughter, 16-year-old strong and independent Chiara, take up the responsibility.

Eventually, with the help of the 14-year-old chemist named Marlon Shellbeth and his shady allies, she discovers that the Reaper was none other than Silas Fatimid, the deposed King of Jerusalem who killed the general as an act of revenge on the Christian faith. He plans to end his revenge by killing the Pope but his attack is intercepted by the heroes at the last moment. [Nice!]

‘THE REAPER’S REDEMPTION’ is a ??,000-word YA historical fiction in an era of religious blindness where science was condemned as witchcraft. Inspired by the medieval European lore the book revolves around real-life characters and events of the first Crusade. It is a tale of betrayal, family and adventure, which I believe would be enjoyed by those loved Rick Riordan’s ‘Percy Jackson Series’, Jeri Westerson’s ‘Crispin Guest Series’ and BBC’s family drama ‘Merlin’.

I, [Q19], am a writer at [X, Y, and Z]. I self-published my crime thriller titled ‘[TITLE]’ at the age of 15 in the year 2017. I’d be honoured you would represent my book.

The sample pages continue below, Upon your command, I’m prepared to send you the full manuscript.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work for representation. Eagerly awaiting your response, {Name}

Good Fortune, 

Q19


My Revision:

Dear Ms/r Agent Name, 

When her father, the General, is murdered after returning from the first crusade, 16-year-old Chiara knows a Grim Reaper was responsible. With no Knight willing to investigate, Chiara coerces Marlon Shellbeth, an apprentice chemist into helping her.

Signs point to Silas Fatimid, the deposed King of Jerusalem, but that’s not all Chiara uncovers. If Chiara can’t stop Salas’s plot to murder the pope, all of Christendom may be sent into chaos.

‘THE REAPER’S REDEMPTION’ is a ??,000-word YA historical fiction in an era of religious blindness where science was condemned as witchcraft. Inspired by the medieval European lore the book revolves around real-life characters and events of the first Crusade. It is a tale of betrayal, family, and adventure, which I believe would be enjoyed by those loved Rick Riordan’s ‘Percy Jackson Series’, Jeri Westerson’s ‘Crispin Guest Series’ and BBC’s family drama ‘Merlin’.

I am a writer at [X, Y, and Z]. I self-published my crime thriller titled ‘A Teaspoon of Death’ [Cut this unless the sales did really well.]. I’d be honoured you would represent my book.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work for representation.

Good Fortune,

Q19

 


Another person took a go at Q19’s query — with more familiarity with the actual novel. Here’s their take.

Dear [Mr/Ms Agent],

When her father, General Troddenham, is murdered on the way home from the first crusade, 16-year-old Chiara knows a Grim Reaper is responsible. With no Knight willing to investigate the murder, Chiara takes it upon herself to discover the Reaper’s identity and bring her father back from the dead.

With the help of Marlon Shellbeth, a shady apprentice chemist, Chiara learns the Reaper was Silas Fatimid, the deposed King of Jerusalem. But that’s not all she uncovers. The Reaper’s quest for revenge is far from over, and if Chiara can’t stop him, not only will her father be lost forever, but Silas Fatimid will take his bloodthirsty vengeance all the way to the Pope.

‘THE REAPER’S REDEMPTION’ is a ??,000-word YA historical fiction set in an era of religious blindness where science was condemned as witchcraft. Inspired by medieval European lore, the book involves real-life characters and events of the first Crusade. It is a tale of betrayal, family and adventure, a YA parallel to Jeri Westerson’s ‘Crispin Guest Series’. It would appeal to fans of the BBC’s family drama ‘Merlin’.

I am a writer at [X, Y, and Z].

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work for representation.

Good Fortune,

Q19

Whose take did you like best? Any changes you’d make?

Best of luck to Q19!


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

#18 Query Corner: ‘ART GIRL’

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

ART GIRL is a YA contemporary novel.

Locally-acclaimed teen artist Lillie Kang must overcome her anxiety to create the painting that could win the scholarship to her dream university.

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:

Pretty solid query, and a good story. There are a few things I’d tweak:
– It’s a smidge long, but not much
– There’s a lot of backstory
– The timetable is a bit confused/rushed in the query.
– The actual story may be a little short for the genre. Look at the story and see if there’s anything you can add.

Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear_____,

Seventeen-year-old Korean-American artist Lillie Kang has one more painting to do for the high school’s art contest. The winner gets a cash prize, and their work displayed in an art gallery. Everyone in school expects the ‘Art Girl’ to be the winner, and at home, her parents have even higher expectations. But there’s one problem: all the pressure has made her so anxious she’s lost all inspiration to paint anything good. [this entire paragraph is backstory]

Until she meets Zevi, the boy who saved his cousin in a fire, leaving him with vivid scars to prove it. Despite her crippling social anxiety, she opens herself up to Zevi as he tries to coax her out from her comfort zone. In a desperate attempt, she tries to paint him but fails because she doesn’t know what she wants to convey.

With an unemployed stepdad and a pregnant mom, Lillie is determined to win the cash prize but her overactive mind pushes away her friends. Then, she finds out that the gallery opened a scholarship opportunity for one of the participants to her dream university in the city. To achieve her goals, Lillie must learn to paint the scarred boy, and in the process discover who she is beyond her label as ‘Art Girl.’ With two days left to the deadline, Lillie must finish a painting, or she loses all chance for her future. [You have 2 different ‘must’ sentences’ in a row]

Art Girl is a young adult contemporary novel at 50,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Starfish and Since you asked. [BIO here].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q18


My Revision:

Dear [Agent],

With an unemployed stepdad and a pregnant mom, seventeen-year-old Korean-American artist, Lillie Kang, is determined to win the high school’s art contest, with its prize gallery showing–and its cash. Everyone at school thinks she’ll win. There‘s only one problem: all the pressure has made her so anxious she’s lost her inspiration.

When she meets Zevi, the boy who saved his cousin in a fire, leaving him with vivid scars to prove it, he tries to coax her out of her shell. Despite her crippling social anxiety, she lets down her walls and allows Zevi to talk her into painting him. The painting is a disaster. 

Frustrated, Lillie pushes away her friends. But, two days before the deadline, she finds out that the gallery opened a scholarship opportunity for one of the participants to her dream university in the city. Lillie must paint the scarred boy, or allow her anxieties to take her art from her. 

Art Girl is a young adult contemporary novel at 50,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Starfish and Since You Asked. [Bio] 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely, 

Q18

 

I think we’re going in the right direction. Best of luck to querest #18!


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

#17 Query Corner: ‘I NEVER FORGOT YOU’

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

I NEVER FORGOT YOU is family saga, set in Ireland.

When Una’s childhood best friend, Cullen, puts an appeal out on TV to find her, she learns her sister is dying–and dating him. Only, Una never told anyone that Cullen is the father of the babe she bore out of wedlock.

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:

This queryest sent me her synopsis and let me build a query from scratch, and then shared an old query–with agent feedback. We went a few rounds each with this one.
The problem with building a query from a synopsis is it can veer too easily into having a synopsis feel and it’s sometimes harder to capture the voice of the narrator.

My Original, After Reading Synopsis:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear_____,

In 1983 rural Ireland, a pregnant Una runs away from home, before her mother can force her to give her baby up for adoption. Determined not to ruin her best friend’s future, Una disappears without telling Collin why.

In Dublin, the local vicar finds Una a home with the couple that runs the local leather shop. Meanwhile, Collin falls in love with Una’s little sister, Ellie. The engaged couple’s happiness is broken when Ellie is diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer. Desperate to introduce his best friend to the love-of-his-life before it’s too late, Collin’s television plea reaches Una. Una and Ellie reconnect, but Una skips the funeral, unable to face her mother.

When the sister-in-law of Una’s adoptive parents sues to take the shop away, Una turns to Collin for help. With his close proximity, Una breaks down and admits the truth to Collin. Collin must decide whether he can forgive Una for her lies, and what sort of relationship to build with his son.

[Insert stats/bio here]

Sincerely,

Q17


Her First Attempt With Agent Feedback:

Dear [Agent],

In 1983 Una Gallaher’s family told her she must give her unborn child to the nuns for adoption, so she ran away without letting the boy’s father, Cullen, know about her pregnancy. She didn’t want to ruin his life, and at seventeen, that rationale made perfect sense. [REPHRASE THIS, sounds VERY AWKWARD]

Now, five years later, she’s found a new life for herself and her son up in Dublin, but the shop owners she found refuge with are facing eviction, and they might all be on the streets within weeks. [REWORK, to me, the stakes are zero, who cares?] And her son is asking about his dad.

Una must find a new place to live and give her son what he needs—his father—but to do so, she must become the one thing she fears the most. Vulnerable. And to top it off, Cullen, the man she’s never stopped loving, is dating her sister. [I am sure there is a great story here, but the stakes sound VERY LOW, and it reads generic…I get dozens of queries a day with these kind of stakes..dig more into the heart of the story!]

Sincerely,

Q17

 


I wasn’t happy with my first draft, and I slept on it. And the next day, I came back with this.

My Second Version

Dear [Agent],

When seventeen-year-old Una Gallaher’s mother demands she give her unborn shame to the nuns, Una refuses. Determined not to ruin two lives, she runs away to Dublin, without telling Cullen, the child’s father.

Now, five year’s later, the life Una’s built is at risk. The shop owners who took her in are being threatened with eviction. If she can’t find a way to stop the eviction, she’s going to lose her home, her job, and her new family.

Cullen was angry and confused when his best-friend left town without saying a word. Years later, he reconnects with Una’s little sister, Ellie, and they bond over more than just memories of Una. Their happiness is destroyed when Ellie is diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer. Cullen reaches out to the local television station, putting out a heart-felt plea so that his love can say goodbye to her sister, before it’s too late.

Beginning in 1983, rural Ireland, TITLE is complete at X,000 words. [Bio]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q17


And with a few tweaks of their own, the queryest made it their own:

Dear Agent,

In 1983 in rural Ireland, Una Gallaher’s mam demanded that she give her unborn child up to the nuns for adoption. So she ran away, without telling the boy’s father, Cullen, about her pregnancy, because she didn’t want to ruin his life.

Now, five years later, the new life Una’s built in Dublin is at risk. The shop owners who took her in are facing an eviction, and if she can’t find a way to stop it, she’ll lose her home, her job, and her new family.

Cullen was, and still is, angry and confused about his best friend leaving town without a word; but years later, he reconnected with Una’s younger sister, Ellie, and fell hopelessly in love. Their happiness and future plans, however, are almost destroyed when Ellie is diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer.

Cullen sends out a heartfelt plea on Ireland’s main TV station so that the girl he adores can say goodbye to her older sister before it’s too late. But Una has spent five years running from Cullen, and now that life is crashing down around her, she’s not sure she knows how to stop.

I NEVER FORGOT YOU is a family saga, complete at X words. The Almost Sisters meets The Secret Life of Bees in this family saga of sacrifice, courage, and the tragedy of pride that follows three people tied by blood but driven apart by secrets and a life-threatening illness.

[Bio]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q17

Well? What did you think of the revisions? Better or worse each time?


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

#16 Query Corner: ‘BASIC CABLE’

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

BASIC CABLE is near-future SF novel.

When Nina, an earnest junior reporter, is offered an interview by the pope, her boss’s plan to fire her is thwarted. Nina must make a choice when the scutwork she’s assigned starts to reveal secrets that might destroy the very business Nina’s trying to make a name in.

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:

This querest has a strong query, although the word count is a bit It’s pretty strong, although your word count is a bit high for a debut (although, still in the acceptable range for SF). It does seem to strike almost too close to home, but I feel the stakes say that for them, without having to spell it out for the agent. (although, great for blurb text)
A few things I might change:
 – It’s a smidge long, but not ridiculous
– There’s a lot of scene setting, the query needs to focus on the emotional stakes

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear_____,

When Nina Constantinos was a kid in small-town Wisconsin, she dreamed of going to space – but now she’s a 26 year-old reporter who knows better. Life in 2034 consists of overpriced BubbleCoffee, retro doo-wop music, and internet so expensive that Netflix is a luxury for the rich. [Maybe better in a book blurb?]

Hired as a junior correspondent by Washington-based WWN, Nina moves to the city and jumps head first into the world of 24-hour cable news. Her “just the facts” reporting soon draws the scorn of ideologue editor-in-chief Priscilla Davis, who resolves to both fire and blacklist her. However, a chance meeting lands Nina the break of the century: an exclusive, sit-down interview with the newly elected pope.

Instead of getting fired, Nina becomes an overnight celebrity, and sets off a newsroom war for control of the interview. As she decides how much idealism she will compromise to keep her TV dreams alive, Nina inadvertently draws closer to information that could kill more careers than just her own. The continued dominance of cable television rests on a secret buried deep in WWN’s files, and one whistleblower could take the entire industry off-air.

Complete at 111,000 words, BASIC CABLE is my reaction to the D.C.’s pressure-cooker and what happens to the people stuck inside. Having worked around Capitol Hill politics for the last nine years, I’ve personally learned most of those lessons the hard way.

BASIC CABLE is a TV-inspired, futuristic spin on Grey’s Anatomy-style workplace-relationship dramas.  The narrative is bult for readers of contemporary office dramedies, like Camille Perri’s The Assistants, but also for fans of near-futures in the vein of John Scalzi’s Lock In. With a cast of twentysomethings who would theoretically be young children today, [unneeded] BASIC CABLE uses common TV tropes to build a future that feels lived-in – and maybe a bit too close for comfort.  

Sincerely,

Q16


The Querest’s Revisions:

Dear [Ms/Mr. Agent Person!],

Junior correspondent, Nina Constantinos’s “just the facts” reporting draws the scorn of WWN’s ideologue editor-in-chief Priscilla Davis. Yet, before Priscilla can carry out her threats to both fire and blacklist Nina, Nina gets the break of the century: an exclusive, sit-down interview with the newly elected pope.

With Nina an overnight celebrity, a bitter Priscilla overloads Nina’s task list, but Priscilla can’t be rid of her that easily. An old task, forgotten on the backlog, leads Nina to a secret buried deep in WWN’s files. Now, Nina must decide if maintaining her reporter-integrity is worth destroying her own career, and, very possibly, the entire cable industry.

Set in 2034, the science-fiction novel BASIC CABLE is complete at 111,000 words. BASIC CABLE should appeal to fans of both Camille Perri’s contemporary The Assistants, and John Scalzi’s near-future Lock In.

I write from the DC metro area. Having worked around Capitol Hill politics for the last nine years, I’m familiar with the many ways people respond to the pressure.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

<p>[Q16] 

With a sinister mix of politics and cable news, this story may be almost TOO topical.

Best of luck to Q16!


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