Thursday, May 10, 2012

Query Letter Critique: A Retry


As promised, for your reading enjoyment, the recipe query letter, Round 2….


For those who are interested, here is the first attempt.


Original Query Letter

Dear [Literary Agent],

Superpowers had not changed the one thing Jimmy Ranfaz hated; he was still average.

Jimmy, a daydreaming teenager from Earth, has always been ordinary at everything. When the tree-descendant super-powered people from Ulfitron pick him to be their new saviour, he believes he finally has a chance to be special. Apparently being the doppelganger of their previous hero makes him powerful enough to stop a returning nemesis, Enshreto, who wants to annihilate the Ulfitronians.

He begins training in psionic abilities only to discover that he is average at handling them as well. As his frustration mounts, an attack wipes out almost everyone he knows on the planet. Only Juvall Spelding remains. A powerful Ulfitronian, his disdain of Jimmy's limited abilities is only outstripped by his determination to save his people.

When they learn of an even bigger invasion looming, their only hope of saving Ulfitron lies in tracking down the legendary trees which hold unlimited knowledge. But within the journey lies a deep deception. One which betrays everything that Jimmy has been told about the previous battle and also reveals his own true origins. With time running out, Jimmy must decide where his priorities lie; the heroism in attempting to save countless people or choosing to pursue limitless power to finally rise above mediocrity.

EVOLUTION: THREADS OF CONTROL is a 90,000 word YA high fantasy novel with a scientific flavour and is stand-alone with series potential.

The complete manuscript is available on request. [I have attached the first five pages for your perusal.]

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

(Name redacted)

Query Letter After I Got My Grubby Paws On It

Dear [Literary Agent],

Superpowers had not <I’d stick with all present tense, personally changed the one thing Jimmy Ranfaz hated; he was still average. Pretty solid opener. Now nitpick time. I would actually do a colon over a semicolon, and an em dash over both of those.

Jimmy, a daydreaming teenager from Earth, has always been ordinary at everything. When the tree-descendant super-powered people from Ulfitron pick him to be their new saviour, he believes he finally has a chance to be special. Apparently being the doppelganger of their previous hero makes him powerful enough to stop a returning nemesis, Enshreto, who wants to annihilate the Ulfitronians. This is really good!

He begins training in psionic abilities only to discover that he is average at handling them as well. As his frustration mounts, an attack wipes out almost everyone he knows on the planet. Only Juvall Spelding remains. A powerful Ulfitronian, his disdain of Jimmy's limited abilities is only outstripped by his determination to save his people. I might reconsider naming so many characters in your query letter, especially when those names are confusing and hard to pronounce/remember. You don’t want the agent getting stuck on names when it’s really not the most important thing. On another note, I think Jimmy’s motives are starting to become unclear beginning in this paragraph. Jimmy was originally from Earth, correct? So that would mean all of his family and friends died in this attack, which to me would be a catastrophic life event. That doesn’t come across here. Especially not with the ‘even bigger invasion looming’ sentence that follows. Why does Jimmy care more about Ulfitron? I think some sort of clarifying sentence or two to say that he’s devastated, but has to overcome his emotion because of the threat to more lives (or whatever his motivation is), would make this much stronger.

When they learn of an even bigger invasion looming, their only hope of saving Ulfitron lies in tracking down the legendary trees comma which hold unlimited knowledge. Knowledge of what? How would this knowledge help them? I think that’s a bit unclear. But within the journey lies a deep deception. One which betrays everything that Jimmy has been told about the previous battle and also reveals his own true origins.<I can see what you’re trying to do here, but I’m afraid this sort of vagueness is frowned upon as it’s confusing and doesn’t have the effect you’re probably aiming for, which is to intrigue the reader. I would delete it, but again, it’s totally up to you. With time running out, Jimmy must decide where his priorities lie; the heroism in attempting to save countless people lives at the risk of his own, or choosing to pursueing limitless power to finally rise above mediocrity. Sorry. Got a little snip-happy there. With regards to the last sentence, I’m assuming the limitless power is as a result of what they discovered from the trees. If that’s the case (which I hope it is because that’s a fun idea, especially with the whole ‘it pains him to be average’ thing), then I think you need a sentence between the first one, and the last, replacing the one I cut, to state that clearly, without any vagueness. You and others are welcome to disagree.

EVOLUTION: THREADS OF CONTROL is a 90,000 word YA high fantasy novel with a scientific flavour and is stand-alone with series potential.

The complete manuscript is available on request. [I have attached the first five pages for your perusal.] <I hope you don’t plan on attaching documents with your query letter! Big no-no. Agents automatically delete emails with attachments unless they’ve been specifically requested. If you’d like to include a sample, do so by pasting the pages directly into the email below the query letter.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you. All good here!

Kind Regards,

(Name redacted)

Author, I cannot tell you enough how much of an improvement this query is over the recipe one. In the last attempt, the format was the focus, whereas your story is the focus in this one. I’m so happy you decided to give it another go, and even happier you decided to share it with me and my readers. Good luck, and thank you! 




17 comments:

  1. congrats to the author on such improvement!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember that first query, and this is much, much better.
    Michelle really know what she's talking about. :-)
    Author, good luck with version number 3.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, this is a huge improvement! Great critique, Michelle. You're very perceptive and thorough with your critiques--you notice things that I never would have picked up on, but they are things that would most definitely improve the query.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read the original recipe query letter, and I'd have to agree with the other posters that this is a huge improvement. Congrats to the the writer for being a gracious receiver of constructive criticism and for having the guts to post a new attempt. I had been hoping to see the new query. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Author here. Thank you people, for pointing out that I am finally heading in the right direction. And many more thanks to Michelle (in addition to the chocolate I owe her) for actually reviewing and posting the query letter while not being well.

    Just a small clarification on the second para - He was training on Ulfitron and only the people he knows there die, not his family on Earth. I'll twist it to sound like that but I hope that clears out Jimmy's priorities. He's on Ulfitron because of a sense of heroism (don't I love the word)and more so, because he wants to be the special guy he is apparently destined to be.

    Michelle, you are bang on the fact that the trees hold the source to unlimited knowledge of everything in the universe (read creation of universe, life and almost everything imaginable. I know the last para gets vague but someone pointed out that without mentioning the deception (which shakes Jimmy's loyalties), it would be hard to see saving people v. not being average as a valid choice.

    Do let me know of what you think on this as well and thanks again for all the cheese!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome, Jimmy! Your clarification really, er, clears things up, for lack of a thesaurus. Work that into the query and you should be golden :)

      Delete
  6. Dude....WAY more improved! I don't unfortunately have time to add in my 2 cents but I am so impressed with the way you turned this around. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a million times improved over the original! Way to go, author. Impressive.

    Couldn't agree more with Michelle's crit. A few tweaks and you're good to go.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I remember this query and agree it is much, much better this time around. Just tidy up a few things, namely that bit of confusion about Jimmy's motives, and it'll be in pretty neat shape.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks all on behalf of the author! How nice of everyone to chime in with encouragement. We all know how sucky it is to write a query letter over numerous times.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You mention to the author of this cquery critique that you do not need to send sample attachments of your work with the query letter - although most agents websites ask for these? Am I being thick?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're confusing an attachment with a sample--rarely if ever does an agent request an attachement with a query letter. To submit a sample of your writing (whatever the agent requests, be it 5 or ten pages), paste it into the body of the email below the query letter.

      And no, you're not being thick! I'm glad you asked. Wouldn't want to see your query deleted unread.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the heads up....and the unbeliveably prompt reply! Wow! That's service!

      Delete