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Monday, May 30, 2011

query anyone?

For my first week I thought we'd start with the all important query letter, that simple little letter that can either convince an agent to take a chance -or not. Charity has been kind enough to offer her query letter for her science fiction/fantasy novel, Sendek. My comments/suggestions are in purple and I hope you'll comment, too, but please remember to be kind and helpful. Thanks!

Dear _____,

Beneath a trio of moons, Talia Shannon dreams of scaled demons attacking, hunting, and burning her world. The prophetic dream leaves her body wasted, but the twin suns rise every day to heal her. Does Talia have the same dream? Is she actually injured in these dreams and carries these injuries over to her waking life? Do the suns actually heal her so there’s no proof? If so I might change this first paragraph to something like this: On the planet Sendek, Talia Shannon dreams of scaled demons attacking, hunting, and burning her world. These prophetic dreams leave her wounded and wasted, but each morning the twin suns rise to heal her and erase any evidence of her injuries. This makes it clear that these are more than dreams - or nightmares.

The planet Sendek no longer believes in magic but Talia knows people would kill to harness her abilities. (If the people don’t believe in magic then wouldn’t they simply think her crazy? Especially if there’s no evidence to back her up. I might cut the second sentence too and lead off with the third instead.) Determined to find a way to survive the future invasion without revealing her source of information, she searches for scientific proof of extraterrestrial life. Things are going well, (This is weak and ‘things’ is vague. I’d try to be more specific here, maybe share something Talia has discovered.) until a handsome Commander distracts her. Emotions run high (cliché) and he’s dangerously close to exposing her magical nature. How? Do intense emotions have an effect on her? I realize you can’t tell everything in the query but I might mention how he comes close to exposing her magical nature or what happens to precipitate the exposing.

Near one of the moons, the scaled demons from her nightmares prepare to attack. The Draguman, a human dragon hybrid created in Sendek’s past, have returned from exile. Smarter and stronger than ever, they plan to wipe out the humans their creators on Sendek and claim Sendek it for their own. (like the Cylons…?)

As a direct descendant of the mage who created the Draguman, Talia is the key to their destruction—if she can trust the magic coursing through her veins.

When science fails to protect her way of life, magic becomes the only hope. I like this.

SENDEK is a complete science fantasy novel of approximately 87,000 words. The complete manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


A last note, although I made some comments and suggestions that I think (and note I say think, not know - because ulitmately it's up to the author to decide what works and what doesn't) might improve this query I definitely found the premise interesting. If I found the first page engaging and well written I would probably buy this book because I love scifi and fantasy and this gives me both : )

Wednesday I'll be critting Huntress' query and for Friday, I'm hoping one of you will offer your query up. If so, email your query to: marcy@tidewater.net with 'unicorn bell query' in the subject line. Please provide the title of the manuscript, the genre, and - unless you wish to remain anonymous - your name and a link to your blog/website.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Cylons! And I always say shorter is better in a query letter.

Ellie Garratt said...

I've not yet written a query letter, but when I do I know who to ask for advice!

I was certainly intrigued by the query letter for Sendek, and I thought all your suggestions made sense.

Ellie Garratt

Brooke R. Busse said...

Query letters are going to be hard. I just know it. Maybe that should be one of my goals for this summer.

Huntress said...

Give me a re-write, a 5000-word manuscript to edit before creating another query.

They are unbelievably difficult. And slippery. Just when you think you have a handle on it, the thing slips away into mush.

Queries need that fresh eye. YOU know what your MS is about, so the query makes sense to you. It takes someone who has no knowledge of your MS to tell you the truth, whether your query tells an intriguing tale or not.

Amy said...

I haven't written a query letter yet, it's a scary process. You give great advice though mshatch! :)

E. Arroyo said...

Awesome crit and queries are hard. Not sure if you were looking for feedback but I think beginning the query with info on her dreams may be risky. This line actually held my attention: "Talia knows people would kill to harness her abilities."

I kinda like it as the hook. Leaves me questioning and wanting to know the answer. Good luck with this and thanks for sharing.

mshatch said...

thanks E. I DO want feedback from other folks - and I'm sure Charity would, too - since I don't claim to be an expert

Charity Bradford said...

Thanks Marcy! You have some excellent points here and its so helpful to see where the words lead other people.

I really like your suggestion for the first paragraph because it is multiple dreams and they do "wound" her physically. She is healed by the suns and that is the power others would kill to harness.

Your comments also helped me realize I need to say that Landry has gifts of his own that threaten to reveal Talia's. That would make a lot more sense than what I have. Should I be specific about his gift?

Thank you to everyone else for commenting as well!

Charity Bradford said...

E. You are so right. That would make a great hook. Having read some of the MS do you think it fits? I think it fits the beginning and maybe I should go with it?

Charity Bradford said...

Marcy, do you think I should take out this line:
"As a direct descendant of the mage who created the Draguman, Talia is the key to their destruction—if she can trust the magic coursing through her veins."

I'm working on the query right now and wonder how necessary that paragraph really is.