Query letter critique (132 words)

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December88

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Hello, after ironing out my novel over the past few years i've decided to stop banging my head against it and give it a shot. So here's the 'meat' of my query letter without the personal details/introduction part.

Please critique!

I'm sort of worried about the grammar in the first paragraph. Also, is okay okay to say 'you' as I have in the first para? Thanks!


QUERY​


When a deranged madman warns you of imminent nuclear annihilation at the hands of an unknown enemy, and a million others call it a lie; whom are you supposed to believe? Why the madman of course - especially since he's your King and you've sworn to defend him.

But after Varrin Locke flees North to take refuge in the King's last remaining stronghold, he discovers that not only was the King's warning a twisted half-truth, but an intricate conspiracy to separate loyalists from dissenters and get rid of the latter majority in a gigantic fireball.

Turncoat Chimera is the story of a boy whose love and courage move him unwittingly through a game of chess which has already been rigged to see him reach the other side and bring down a Kingdom.
 
I would do: When a deranged madman warns Varrin Locke of imminent nuclear annihilation

Get the character name in there as soon as you can. Get rid of the 'you.' They're distancing and a wee bit pretentious.

I'm not entirely sure who the 'boy' is in the final para, and who he's loving.
 
'Whom' may be technically correct, but it reads poorly where you've used it. I think 'you' comes from a less formal register and the juxtaposition of the two doesn't help. Unless you are writing in a very particular voice, I'd go for 'who' and 'you' rather than 'whom' and 'one'.

The first 'you' is unnecessary and you can just delete it. I'd have thought a comma would be sufficient where you used the semicolon. As a direction north takes lower case, unlike the region, the North. I think king should be lower case every time you've used it, as should kingdom. Others might disagree.

The American usage requires 'that' for restrictive clauses rather than 'which', so either you need a comma after chess or to replace 'which'.
 
I would consider taking out the rhetorical questions in the first paragraph. Like Mouse has said, introduce your character straight off:

A deranged madman warns Varin Locke of imminent...

And consider shorter sentences in the second paragraph as right now the really long ones are making it slow reading eg:
Varrin flees North to take refuge in the King's last remaining stronghold. He discovers the King's warning to be a twisted half-truth; there is an intricate conspiracy to separate loyalists from dissenters and get rid of the latter majority in a gigantic fireball.

I like your last part is there anyway you can include your MCs name and make it your first sentence? Then just end with Turncoat Chimera is a (insert genre) of (word count).
 
Hi! Thanks for the quick responses. Much appreciated!

I changed it quite a bit but i fear that i've only managed to screw up the tenses and grammar even more. Does this work at all? I feel some of the lines read a little clumsy.



Query​

Varrin Locke believed in his king. Never mind that the rest of the city didn't. Never mind that they were marching on the palace demanding democracy. So when the king suddenly calls for the evacuation of the city in light of an imminent nuclear attack by an unknown enemy, millions call him a liar and stay, but Varrin runs anyway.

However after fleeing to the King's last remaining stronghold, Varrin's belief is shaken. For an enchanting girl convinces him that the king's warning was a twisted half truth meant to separate loyalists from dissenters, and get rid of the latter majority in the gigantic mushroom cloud rising on the horizon.

At 110,000 words, Turncoat Chimera is the story of how Varrin's courage moves him unwittingly across a dangerous chessboard that has already been rigged, by the girl he loves, to see him reach the other side and bring down a kingdom.



Thanks!
 
Protagonist, goal, obstacle, stakes. Make these 4 very clear to the reader. Right now I'm not sure what Varrin wants or what he's supposed to do. Is the king helping him or inhibiting him?

The last para is too vague, IMO. "Moves him uwittingly across a dangerous chessboard"... Is there a bomb ticking? Who wants to stop him from doing what? These are the answers we need. Also, you need to wrap up all the story part before the title (which is all caps).

"TURNCOAT CHIMERA is a 110,000 word fantasy. This is my first novel." That's all you really need. Although, 110k is a pretty steep word count for a first novel, if that's true.
 
110 k pages factors out usually aroung 300 pages or less so that's about average these days even for a debut novel.

I like the second one but it needs a bit more involvement of what the conflicts are and what the character's weaknesses are and what the character thinks and how they feel and the whole story should be laid out there because this is not a blurb. This is a query letter and there should be no mysteries no information withheld. you can even tell how the story will end because these people want the short version of whole thing and if it tweaks their interest they'll want a closer look at the 110 k.

Also the writing should reflect the style within the novel so they have a feel for how this whole piece will read.
 
I've tried to make the protag, goal, obstacle and stakes clearer in this re-write.

Does it work? :eek:

Any nitpicks on grammar/pov/tense are also appreciated :D

Query​


Varrin Locke loved his king, which was really saying something because barely anyone else in the city did. In fact they were just about to breach the palace gates and stick the king's head on a spike, when the king springs a surprise on them – a call to evacuate the city in light of an imminent nuclear attack by an unknown enemy. Not many believe the king, but Varrin does.

However after fleeing north to safety, Varrin begins to doubt the man he serves. For Simariel, an enchanting girl, manages to convince him that the king's warning was a twisted half truth meant to separate loyalists from dissenters, and get rid of the latter majority in the gigantic mushroom cloud rising on the horizon.

Determined to expose the conspiracy, Varrin sets out with Simariel to find and rescue any survivors before the king can tie up the 'loose ends'. It soon becomes apparent however, that Simariel isn't really helping him so much as she is leading him through a duplicitous game of chess, rigging his every move to have him reach the other side and topple not only the king, but the entire kingdom.

Turncoat Chimera is a story about finding the truth be it in love or war; and for Varrin Locke, especially love.





Thanks!
 
Ah, much better! I took the liberty of making some minor tweaks for brevity (and you don't need that last line.)

--------
Varrin Locke loves his king, which really says something, because hardly anyone does. In fact, people threaten to breach the palace and behead King ________, who suddenly calls for an evacuation under imminent nuclear attack by an unknown enemy. Few believe the threat, but Varrin does.

After fleeing, however, Varrin begins to doubt the man he serves when Simariel, an enchanting girl, convinces him that the warning, a twisted half-truth, was only meant to separate loyalists from dissenters. Soon, a giant mushroom cloud, rising on the horizon, proves her point.

Now determined to expose the conspiracy, Varrin returns with Simariel to rescue survivors before the king ties up any 'loose ends'. But during their mission, Varrin discovers that Simariel has her own motivations, and has rigged his every move to topple, not only the king, but the entire kingdom. But should he trust her?

----------
(Maybe I've changed the story too much, but faster and more punch is always better with queries.)
 
:confused: i spent hours wracking my brain to come up with something halfway decent and you manage to snip and clip everything together without any effort! Thanks SciFrac!!

I'll definitely be borrowing heavily from your edited version before I send it off :D
 
Take all you want! It's your query, I'm just glad I could help. And if you get any takers, come back and report to us. :D

Good luck!
 
Sorry to be a kill joy - never end a query on a question. Agents hate it.

Actually a big problem I have with this query is that it seems more about the king and Simariel than varrin, which makes him feel passive.

On another note 110k is okay for a debut novel, but don't feel you have to reach the dizzy heights of a number count - anything from 80k up is acceptable for a debut. (Although beyond about 130k presents its own challenges.)

So, who is your protagonist (and if he's a young adult, give his age)

What does he wish to achieve

What obstacles stand in his way

The stakes if he fails.

Varrin wants to believe in his king. He has to, he risked his reputation supporting the king when the rest of the city rose up against him. But when Simariel, an enchanting girl (not keen on that, actually - enchanting as in magic, or comely?), reveals a side to the king he hadn't known before, Varrin begins to doubt his loyalty.

Whether the king is lying, or Simariel, Varrin needs to find the truth. And with the city threatened from the outside, and the king intent on tying up loose ends such as Simariel, he needs to do so fast.

That's off the top of my head and obviously needs work but protagonist - hopes to achieve - obstacles - cliffhanger.
 
Ah, good points, Springs. Decemmber88, heed these warnings. The woman knows her stuff.
 
Before i change this up to make Varrin's role more prominent i wanted to post this half query/halfsynopsis/half i don't know what just to throw some light on the plot because its sort of complicated and i wanted to clarify whats actually going on.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sixteen year old Varrin Locke believed in his king. He even lied about his age to sign up with the palace guard and defend it from the thousands of people screaming for king Therwin's head. But when the guard is swarmed by bloodthirsty rioters, Varrin's own prospects for survival look grim. That's when the king plays the last card up his sleeve, calling for citywide evacuation to escape an imminent nuclear attack by a foreign country.

Varrin and the few who believe the king escape north in the ensuing confusion. However, millions are convinced that the warning is a ruse – an attempt to use fear of a foreign enemy to scare them back under the king's control. They stay, and later, as Varrin looks at the giant mushroom cloud rising on the horizon, Simariel, a mysterious girl whom he falls in love with, reveals that the king's warning was a twisted half truth meant to separate loyalists from dissenters and get rid of the latter majority by nuking them himself. There is no enemy.

Determined to expose the conspiracy, Varrin makes it his mission to rescue survivors before the king ties up any 'loose ends'. But it soon becomes apparent that Simariel has her own agenda, and has rigged Varrin's every move to topple, not only the king, but the entire kingdom. To find the truth in war, Varrin must first find it in love.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

So basically (if I still haven't been able to present it clearly) -

- varrin is part of the king's youth guard
- there is a revolution in the capital (for democracy) and the revolutionaries take over the city and march on the palace to lynch the king
- at the last minute the king says, 'hey! everyone needs to evacuate because an enemy country is about to nuke this city'

- no one believes the king because they're too clever for their own good and are convinced he's trying to use fear tactics to control them again (they believe he is inventing the enemy and the nuke)

- the few that do believe him (who are still loyal to him) manage to escape along with him to a city up north.

- in the north varrin falls in love with Simariel and when the nuke falls on the capital, killing all those who stayed, she convinces Varrin that the king had made a calculated gamble - knowing that his rivals in the capital wouldn't believe the warning about the nuke, while those who did, and fled, were still loyal to them. With all of his dissenters in one place (the capital) the king then proceeds to nuke the capital, making it seem to his loyalists that the enemy country he had spoken of were the ones to do it.

the story then goes on from there, but the above is what im really trying to express in the query and its just so complicated that i feel im completely missing the point.

I was hoping that the 3rd version of the query i had posted (post no. 8) came somewhat close to what im trying to explain but gosh, i dont't know now :(
 
The query isn't there to explain the story - it's there to entice someone to want to read it. Think of some of most complicated books. Gone with the wind:

When war comes to Tara, Scarlett's life must change forever. Salvation lies with the retrobate Rhett Butler. But Scarlett may be too headstrong to see that truth and find happiness.

The lord of the rings:

Frodo must return the One Ring to Mount Doom or see his beloved Shire destroyed. But others want the ring for their own purposes, and will stop at nothing to seize it.

What I'm trying to say is forget the details. Tell us, in a few sentences, what your story's about:

16 yo Varrin was so loyal to his king, he lied about his age to join the Royal guard. But when his king appears to have his own agenda, Varrin is forced to fight for the truth. Aided by Simariel, a (what is she, make it exciting if you can), he unravels the conspiracy and realises the stakes are higher than he ever imagined: an impending nuclear strike on the city will risk the lives of all he loves, and only he can stop it.

Do, um, forget the details, they're for the synopsis.

Ps thanks Scifrac. Not at all sure that's true. ;)
 
Yes do listen. Thanks to people here tweaking my synopsis and query letter my story went from getting standard replies to personal ones which indicated agents were reading my story. It did not get picked up but the comments were extremely positive.

Each one you are doing is getting better and don't worry about letting someone else trim it. It is far easy to write queries and synopsis for someone else when you don't have the baggage of the story. And I want to read the last one you wrote and Springs' shorter version.
 
This is entitled how to find a real literary agent.

HOW TO FIND A (REAL!) LITERARY AGENT | SFWA

The second half gives some really good advice about writing both synopsis and query letters and it also gives reasonable guidance about what rejections of the query letter might mean and how to identify form rejections which basically mean nothing.

Based on this a query letter might look like this.

White Matter:Capture the Queen By Tinker Dan is a Science Fiction Fantasy targeting the broader definition of Young Adult. The Completed Manuscript is 125,000 words and bears strong resemblance to the Juvenile Science Fiction novels of Robert Heinlein.


While working as contract labor for the colonial military Darma Tustin is assigned to the newly acquired world of Terminus Orkin where a troublesome species of man size ant-like creatures are wreaking havoc. Landing in the center of a major conflict; she is sequestered below the planet's surface waiting for specimens to examine; a task made difficult by their natural defense of suiciding when captured. Drawing on the ant-like similarities and what little is known about the creatures Darma has an express desire to capture a queen for examination. Events eventually lead to the acquisition of a creature that appears to have stunted growth. Keeping the creature alive is a huge task and soon Darma discovers she has bitten off more than she can chew when the creature breaks loose to terrorize the facility and the forces outside become more aggressive until they break through. Darma is forced into an uneasy alliance with this strange and uncontrollable creature that proves to be quite intelligent and begins to reveal troublesome things about Darma's own military's objectives on this world. When the time comes and Darma captures her queen she has to decide if she should betray her world or betray her new ally. Her decision takes her to a whole new level and brands her as an outcast.

White Matter:Capture the Queen my debut novel is complete along with the next White Matter:pawn to Queen and I am currently working on the third novel with the working title White Matter:Queen's Gambit.

Thank you Mr. Hauser for taking time to consider my query and I'm looking forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Tinker Dan

SASE included.
 
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Difficult to say as you have not stated the genre, intended audience, etc.

Have you tried reading the back cover of most novels, they usually have a brief overview of the book, and you could check your wording against how the pros do it. Might give you an idea of the points you perhaps should be highlighting.

I recently went out and purchased the top 50 best selling books of 2014, according to the NY Times that is, and they wording and the flow is different.
 
There is a vast difference between a query letter and the blurb on the back of a book.

Difficult to say as you have not stated the genre, intended audience, etc.

Have you tried reading the back cover of most novels, they usually have a brief overview of the book, and you could check your wording against how the pros do it. Might give you an idea of the points you perhaps should be highlighting.

I recently went out and purchased the top 50 best selling books of 2014, according to the NY Times that is, and they wording and the flow is different.

It would be unwise to forget that and try to use one to write the other.
For instance a blurb might actually end in a question.
Doing that in a query letter or a summary would just be plainly annoying.
 
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