1. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,234
    Likes Received:
    1,802
    Location:
    Australia

    Query Letter Looking for reactions and effectiveness of query

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Selbbin, Apr 15, 2015.

    I've had a little help already, and this is only the description paragraph, not the intro or the bio.

    I'm mainly interested in initial reactions. How this impacts you and if it makes you interested in reading the work. Basically: is it effective? Grammatical suggestions welcome.


    The average age of a runaway girl who suffers sexual exploitation is only thirteen. Mykhaila is just another statistic, running away from her neglectful mother only to endure horrific abuse at the hands of a scheming junkie. Now physically and mentally scarred, she survives on the street by forming tense relationships with various characters including Dan, an overweight security guard who lets her sleep in the safety of a cemetery. Dan has his own agenda, but Mykhaila refuses to surrender her innate belief that people are not evil, just weak. Following a misguided admiration of Mother Teresa, she cares for the neglected and lonely souls in the poverty-ravaged neighbourhood dubbed Needle Town, secretly craving small moments of love and affection. Her fragile world suddenly falls apart when Dan commits a series of horrific acts, culminating in a gruesome suicide. Exhausted by relentless disappointment and consumed by despair, Mykhaila sees only one way to escape.
     
  2. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    I think it sounds interesting and the points you make draw you into the world and makes you want to know more about the MC. I just wonder if announcing Dan's suicide takes away from some of the suspense that is going to happen in the book?
     
    thelonelyauthorblog likes this.
  3. Ivana
    Offline

    Ivana Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2015
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    126
    Location:
    Far side of Unatsu
    To me, it feels like this query letter explains and reveals too much, without teasing enough, especially somewhere in the 5th and 6th sentence. I like the first two sentences and the way they introduce the story (although, wouldn't it be better to say 'drug addict' instead of 'junkie' in a query letter which you're going to send to agents? I'm not sure, just asking).
    Somewhere in the middle it starts to feel a bit weak to me. So basically, I like the first part, it's really engaging, but not so much the last 3 sentences. They don't feel as exciting and interesting as the couple of first ones.
     
  4. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    It's very well-written. I'm wondering though if the tone of the query doesn't need more personality? eg. that it should reflect more closely how you actually write in the manuscript? Just cus I heard the query is as much as taste of the style of your writing as it is about informing the agent of the story.

    I'd say if I were an agent, I would definitely read the sample chapters at least. Your description doesn't intrigue me. However, it's clear you're a very good writer and for that reason, I'd give the samples a go.
     
  5. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,623
    Likes Received:
    5,106
    I think I'm with Mckk - this is very clearly written, but feels almost like an article or something. There's no voice, no excitement, no sense that the reader will be drawn into the world emotionally rather than intellectually.

    Is it possible to get more of the voice from the book into this?
     
  6. Ivana
    Offline

    Ivana Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2015
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    126
    Location:
    Far side of Unatsu
    Also, the first line:
    "The average age of a runaway girl who suffers sexual exploitation is only thirteen. " - I'd lose the word "only". Since this is the statistical fact I think it should sound emotionless. I believe this way it would make more impact, it would sound more harsh and brutal.
    Also, the:
    "Dan has his own agenda, but Mykhaila refuses to surrender her innate belief that people are not evil, just weak" is a bit unclear to me.
     
  7. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,824
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I think it reads quite well Selbbin but it's missing something. This is why I hate writing queries or synopsis' it's hard to balance style with telling what the story is about.

    I like Ivana's suggestion of getting rid of only. Not sure about the following sentence because your book will prove Mykhalia isn't just another statistic or maybe you should exaggerate or draw attention to that contrast.

    I was at a workshop a few weeks back and they had people read aloud their queries for an agent. Who would then give advice. I was surprised that the agent wanted more stuff along the lines of the author describing, not so much the synopsis, but what the book was really about in a summery - as in this is a book about one girls survival - or something along those lines - one or two sentences that have a tagline feel to it.
     
    GingerCoffee and Ben414 like this.
  8. Lance Schukies
    Offline

    Lance Schukies Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2015
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    39
    I thought you could do it in two lines . "Exhausted by relentless disappointment and consumed by despair, Mykhaila sees only one way to escape." she embarks on.....
     
  9. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    I was going to post that the story seems generic, but that's unfair to the story. The problem is in the query letter. I think, perhaps, you are thinking of the query letter as just a box that you need to check on your way to getting this story published. What are three ways the reader will find interesting which diatinguishes this story from the archetypal "street girl faces her tormenter" story?
     
  10. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,234
    Likes Received:
    1,802
    Location:
    Australia
    Yes and no. The query letter only has one job. It only needs to do one thing: get the person reading it to start reading your sample chapters. It has no other function. So if this query is interesting enough for the reader to be curious, it's done it's job. If not, it needs work.
     
  11. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,234
    Likes Received:
    1,802
    Location:
    Australia
    New version:


    The average age of a homeless child falling victim to sexual exploitation is thirteen. Mykhaila is just another statistic, running away from her neglectful mother only to endure horrific abuse at the hands of a scheming junkie. Now physically and mentally scarred, she survives on the street by forming tense relationships with various characters including Dan, an overweight security guard who lets her sleep in the relative safety of a cemetery. Driven by an admiration of Mother Teresa, Mykhaila cares for the neglected and lonely souls in the poverty-ravaged neighbourhood dubbed Needle Town, obsessing with self-sacrifice while secretly craving small moments of love and affection. Her fragile world suddenly falls apart when Dan commits a series of horrific acts, culminating in a gruesome suicide. Exhausted by relentless disappointment and consumed by despair, Mykhaila sees only one way to escape.



    It IS missing something. My book is rather gritty, philosophical, chaotic and hopeful. It has some heavy, brutal scenes and also some moments of beauty.

    It's also missing what Peach suggested, by adding more 'what's it about' rather than 'what happens'
     
  12. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    It gives me the impression that you are writing more about a human interest issue than about a character's story. There are two main reasons:
    • The first sentence is about the issue. The value of verbal real estate drops off exponentially from beginning to end of a query, because with each sentence, the probability increases that the reader will read the next sentence. That means sentence #1 is the most important sentence. By eschewing the standard first sentence (which is to introduce a character) and by introducing the character in the second sentence as "just another statistic", you present the issue as the topic of your book and the character as a case study in the topic.
    • The references to secondary characters are faceless: "various characters" and "the neglected and lonely souls in the poverty-ravaged neighborhood". Emphasis on the poverty and neglect over who they are.
    I have read your excerpts in the workshop. They all hooked me with Mykhaila's diction and attitude and with the intrigue -- in each scene, there is an emotional monster just beneath the surface that I want to unearth out of morbid curiosity. Not because I care about sexual exploitation (concept) or urban poverty (concept), but because I want to know how the narrator (character) got that way.

    Also, the two sentences I mentioned -- "various characters" and "lonely souls" -- basically say the same thing. You can merge them and shorten the query. That would give you more room to drop subtle but specific hints about what her life is like right now in order to make the reader want to learn more about how she became like this.

    I do love the name "Needle Town". That is intriguing. Also intriguing is that Mykhaila sleeps in a cemetery.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2015
    Ivana likes this.
  13. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,234
    Likes Received:
    1,802
    Location:
    Australia
    I think it is more about human interest. Mykhaila is a vessel that helps us explore the nature of humanity, and the nature of greed, indulgence and exploitation. She's trying to understand how people can be capable of cruelty, while trying her best to believe that deep down everyone has some good inside them. She's innocence, abused by the selfish. An allegory for how people behave to each other, to animals, to the planet.
     
  14. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    This is what you quietly want the reader to get out of the story in the end; it is not what to lead with. Lead with: Mykhaila is an interesting character (I know this from what I read in the Workshop); she has just been thrown into a volatile situation; she has to fend for herself and make decisions that will impact her concretely (determining whether she survives and whether she satisfies her physical and emotional needs) and abstractly (determining whether she will grow up still having a reason to interact with people because she still sees the basic good in them).
     
  15. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    Why is that a 'no'?
     
  16. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,234
    Likes Received:
    1,802
    Location:
    Australia
    Because I don't see it as just a 'box to tick' and I'm acutely aware of the function the letter serves.
     
  17. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    Okay, thank you :)
     
  18. BookLover
    Offline

    BookLover Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2014
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    186
    Here is my advice, to use or ignore.

    I felt it was a little bogged down by the heavy use of adjectives. "Neglectful mother" "Horrific abuse" "Scheming junkie" "horrific acts" "gruesome suicide" I would take some of those out, with the exception of maybe "neglectful mother" since that actually tells you valuable information about the mother. A lot of the others seem like fluff and don't actually tell me much.

    I really liked the sentence in the middle about Mother Teresa. It piqued my interest. Although I liked it better before you added the part about obsessing with self-sacrifice. It flowed easier in the previous version.

    I disliked the last two sentences. I feel like they reveal too much and all that talk of her disappointment and despair sounds kind of melodramatic. I think you could end it more concisely and mysteriously by saying something like this: "Her fragile world is falling apart and Mykhaila sees only one way to escape."
     
  19. Phil Partington
    Offline

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    My feedback, and keep in mind--as you requested--these are initial reactions. I don't necessarily even have suggestions for you, only observations.

    First, a simple observation. You use "only" twice in the first two sentences and throw in a "just" in there, as well. A bit redundant. It's small potatoes, but I'd take out the first "only." I don't think it's needed--I think readers will get the severity of this statement/statistic by its own merit, rather than needing to quantify it with only. Most know that's young.

    Second, this is very well written and a great story concept. That alone may carry it. However...

    ...thirdly, and here's the kicker, you really don't get into your main character's conflict until the tail end of the synopsis. I'm not talking about her backstory, the conflicts of her past that's put her in the position she is now. I'm talking about the main conflict of the story--her main conflict of the story. That is, "the series of horrific act..." that drive her to want to "escape." Also, it's vague. I'm not getting a clear sense of what this main character is facing, and I fear that in an effort to add intrigue by making it vague, you may be losing the reader's interest. Again, I'm not sure about this, but it's something to stew on perhaps.

    "Exhausted by relentless disappointment and consumed by despair, Mykhaila sees only one way to escape." Disappointment in what? Caused by him leaving? More importantly, escape what? The life on the streets? The abuse? Something else? And what method of escape does she mean? If this isn't something you want to divulge, then I'd suggest writing it in a way that doesn't allude to that being the point, such as, "Mykhaila realizes she needs to escape, or..." (You need to tell us the stakes. What happens if she doesn't escape? She gets more depressed? It might be obvious to you, but to a reader who doesn't know a thing about it could assume many things. You need to tell the reader why he/she should care about this character. That she does good deeds isn't enough. We need to know more about how her minds works, because all we know is that she's got a misguided view about Mother Teresa, which is also vague. Are you suggesting that Mother Teresa wasn't as saintly as she's portrayed? That the MC thinks it's easier to help the poor than it is? Too much vagueness.

    Again, just observations/thoughts. If I'm an agent that's what I'm wondering. I see a great concept here, but I don't have much sense of the story itself which is what they're usually looking for. That's if I'm an agent. I'm not, so take my feedback for whatever it's worth. It is polished and a great story concept.

    Hope this helps. Best of luck.
     
    peachalulu and GingerCoffee like this.
  20. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,234
    Likes Received:
    1,802
    Location:
    Australia
    Cool, thanks. Some of your suggestions have already been acted upon, and there is an updated version further down the thread. Other observations are astute and things that I need to look at. It's hard though, to cover enough detail while keeping it brief.
     
  21. Phil Partington
    Offline

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    "It's hard though"
    A big understatement. I hate, hate, hate pitch writing--and honestly, I'm not that great at it. But I'm getting better and I have writer friends who've had success with it whom I trust. With that in mind, take what I say with a grain of salt :p.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    This ^ is better than the query paragraph. Consider inserting the content into your paragraph.

    Also this sentence, "forming tense relationships with various characters", doesn't work. "Various characters" gives no useful information. Every sentence should give useful information.
     
    Phil Partington likes this.
  23. Phil Partington
    Offline

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Ugh, can’t believe I reviewed the wrong version. Sorry about that.

    • As before, I’d cut down on the adjectives. I think we get that the abuse is bad; no need for ‘horrific.’ And ‘scheming’ tells me nothing since you don’t elaborate on it—and it’s unnecessary since your point of the sentence is that she’s abused, not that the junkie is scheming. I’d drop that too to tighten the writing.

    • Yep, ‘tense’ too. Doesn’t do anything for you. And I might reword to: “by forming relations with characters like Dan…” I think someone else said it, but “various” doesn’t strengthen this at all.

    • “secretly” – another adverb that isn’t necessary. For the sake of the pitch, why does the reader care if it’s secretive or not? Either way we now know something important about Mykhaila. Secretive just kind of bogs it down a little. Seems like more of a detail best reserved for the novel than the pitch.

    • If you can ever do without the word ‘suddenly’ in a sentence (and often you can’t), I would do without the word ‘suddenly.’ Here I don’t think it’s needed.

    • Second time you’ve used the word ‘horrific.’ I think it’s more appropriate here than the first time.
    My comments of the first version still stand, IMO, about emphasizing the character’s real dilemma as opposed to breaking down the plot. I still think that’s what this is missing. But it’s getting there. It’s well-written.
     
  24. thelonelyauthorblog
    Offline

    thelonelyauthorblog New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    3
    I agree. Including Dan's death may be revealing too much information.
     

Share This Page