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Monday, September 8, 2008

Query Letter Take 1: Wherein one sad little author channels Miss Snark and tries to draft a better query.

Okay... I did my homework. I wrote up my first ever draft of a query for Demands of Justice. Granted, I'm only comfortable with the first four chapters at the moment and have a long way to go before I can query, but I've written a query letter!

The thing is, I'm not at all thrilled with it. So unthrilled that I actually started take two. But, as a learning experience I thought I'd put the first-ever-draft up, critique it, and then let all of you have a go at.

*puts on Miss Snark Hat*

For those who don't know the Miss Snark Hat is the one with a picture of George Clooney holding a dozen red roses and a bottle of gin. And if you don't get the joke you are reading the wrong blogs.

A thousand years ago everyone knew the world was flat. Five hundred years ago everyone knew monsters existed. Ten years ago everyone knew that was a myth. Tomorrow, everyone will find out how wrong they were…. Not bad, but what does this tell me about the story? That it takes place tomorrow? Not the best opening ever. Not be a long shot.

Demands of Justice, complete at 85,000 words, is the first novel of a projected series that explores the universe eight hundred years in the future in a galaxy where vampires and werewolves knock shoulders with cyborgs and space explorers. Okay... catch me if I'm wrong but 800 years in the future is not "tomorrow". This doesn't follow the first paragraph above and it tells me NOTHING about the story. Cut it! Except for the word count part. I can guess genre by the space ships, but you can include it in case someone is feeling picky or thinks you're writing romance.

Felinium enforcer Ice Rus knows what a bad day is like. As a homicide detective he’s seen the worst sides of the human race. Cliched! When drug addicts attack Ice and he leaves them in the hospital Ice’s boss decides he needs some time away from the violence. This has to be the world's worst run-on sentence. Ice is moved to the vice squad, given the belongings of an overdose victim, and told to find the next of kin. I'm still bored... three paragraphs in and I don't know what the point of the story is.

What Ice finds is a rumpled letter with his name on it. But before he can guess what the victim was writing him about Ice is sent to Elysium, an ocean-world controlled by shape shifters, To many names and details. All I need to know is that he's leaving home. to escort a scientist home. The scientist is waiting, but so are three new bodies. And another cryptic note telling Ice that another body is waiting for him. What's with the notes already? Doesn't anyone in the future have e-mail?

A simple hunt for a killer sets Ice in the middle of a werewolf war for dominance, one man’s bid for genocide, and the Imperial ambitions of a calculating Empress. Really? He got all that from a note? And... seriously? Werewolves? How far out in left field are you coming from?

Form Rejection

The major problem here is that, while the story starts with a rumpled note in a dead man's pocket this query isn't giving the agent any idea what the character is like or how they should care. I think it gets the fact that I'm plum crazy across, but I'm not sure that's actually what you want an agent to read.

So, in between edits, I will be trying to improve on the very low standard of query letter I've started here.



  1. Well, I've never seen anyone put on a Miss Snark hat and reject their own query letter before. Unique approach. :) But also a great exercise.

    Fun post.

  2. My first drafts are always terrible so I thought I might have some fun with it. :o)

    If I know what's wrong with it maybe I can figure out how to put it right...

  3. I'm also having trouble with the "how to make them care about my character" issue. Want to rip my query apart?

    I actually like your line about vampires and werewolves knocking shoulders with cyborgs and space explorers. Some world building needs to be shown in SF/F stories, and it keeps the reader from going "huh?" at the later werewolf reference.

    I do agree that the first paragraph needs to go, for all reasons you mentioned.

  4. If you want, Mary, you can post the query in the notes and I'
    ll put on my Miss Snark hat again.

    Maybe some of the other people can't give you ideas too. :o)

    And, yes, the first paragraph must go bye-bye. I probably need to drop the reference to the series too. Let's save that scary fact for later :o

  5. When Marian isn't helping her mother with her herbalist trade, she retreats to the forest. The woods hold a secret for her alone, a crying voice that echoes her own loneliness. When the forest is targeted for lumber, Marian is determined to find a way to stop it. Unbeknownst to her, however, the mythical Fey have their own reason for saving the forest. They take matters into their own hands and burn the village to protect the spirit of their banished goddess. Furious at the loss of her mother and home, Marian unleashes a magic she didn't know she had. Her magic becomes the one way she can have control in her life.

    The Fey seek the hope of their race, a woman of mixed blood who can initiate the return of their goddess before their magic dies. The Enchanters fear the Fey goddess and kill every female born with magic in order to prevent her return. Marian fits the description, but only wishes to study her magic in peace. Marian must choose to either save those who killed her mother or lose the magic that has defined her.

    Emergence of the Fey is a 95,000 word work of fantasy. I have been a moderator and fantasy newsletter editor for over two years on Writing.com.

  6. Hooray!

    Thanks you. I'll copy and review by tomorrow. Does that sound okay?

  7. I shall look forward to it. In the meantime, I'll be busy looking for a good emotional passage in my WIP...