1. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    My first Querry letter

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by SeverinR, Oct 22, 2011.

    Edited
    Her world falling around her, Melima Corbrar stumbles into a new life; an amazing world hatched before her eyes in the sweet dragonet and learns about the wonderful world of dragons and the National Dragon Rider Corps.

    Fleeing an arranged marriage to a sadistic Duke, Duchess Melima Corbrar an underage wood elf seeks shelter from a blinding storm but stumbles on a dragon and her egg. Her new life begins with the hatching of the dragonet, their hectic first flight, a new friend in a former dragon rider healer, the hazards of an electrical dragon developing, and the shared love of music, the special bond between an elf and a hatchling dragon. Her past will find her, and demand she face it. This time she will not face it alone, but with the humanoid friends and beasts to support her, but what would the final cost be?

    I write from my experiences, I have owned and worked with horses, learning with them the ways of a knight, how to fight with sword, mace, spear and lance on horseback and spent long hours on horseback trail riding and participating in a wagon train. Also I served in the military (Air Force)
    )



    The first two might need work, but the third paragraph is the one I have doubts about.
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Using hatched and hatchling in the same sentence makes it sound redundant.

    THe second paragraph kind of looses me--like a list of events, which really don't stir excitement or an emotional connection, wanting me to read further, and actually, you could probably lose the first paragraph...fleeing an arranged marriage, wouldn't the world be falling down around her as it's a common plot a reader could easily imagine. Also, trying to fit in a lot in descriptions : new friend/former dragon rider healer.

    Here past will find her...not would?

    Also needs some punctuation and sentence structure work. For example:
    Maybe after
    start a new sentence?

    Just a few thoughts. And hey, I live in West Central Ohio too :)
     
  3. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    1st line: agreed and changed it.

    2nd: The first para is the hook, it is a one sentence description of the book, para 2 is a quick summary of the book, so the 2nd builds on the first, but not repeating it.
    I will need to think about a better description rather then the list of events.

    I work in Dayton, do you live near there?
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Queries are diffiuclt to write. What one agent prefers, another may not. Good luck!

    I live in St. Paris and work in Piqua.
     
  5. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I believe querry letters are probably a sub art form in themselves.
    The best writer probably wouldn't write out a perfect one the first try.
    It is as different from novel writing as poetry is to novel writing.
     
  6. Raki
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    Overall, I think you need clarity. But something else I may comment on first … it varies from person to person and agent to agent ... personally, I like to start my query letters with a “I’m writing this to you because” statement that includes what I’m “selling,” what it is, and how long it is. Some will suggest that this information can go in the last paragraph, but above all, it is important for the information to go in the query. For example, the first line of a query I’m currently working on reads something like, “I have completed a 125,000-word urban fantasy novel entitled TITLE HERE, and I hope you might consider me for representation.” Another format I used that returned a few positive results read something like, "I am seeking representation for my genre-type-here novel, TITLE HERE, complete at 100,000 words." I tend to treat the query letter as a business letter and so I go straight to the point (and say what it is, what it's called, and how long it is). You do not (but you need to) mention the title of your work in the query, its length, or what it is.

    With that said, I tend to also treat the rest of the query much the same way, though there is a need to be more creative and to make your content more intriguing as it goes. Some things that will hurt you here are bad grammar, misspellings, lack of clarity, repetitiveness, and wordiness (among others).

    I’ve highlighted portions of your query, and I’ll touch on each of the highlights below with brief comments. I've marked in red what I do not understand (what I consider to be unclear); blue, what I consider to be grammatically incorrect; and purple for repetitiveness. There may be a few overlaps in colors so look to the comments. Note ... the abundance of questions I ask are for you, not for me. There's no need for you to answer each of my questions on here; I wrote most of them to "try" to get you thinking about the query from different perspectives, possibly get ideas rolling for you.


    What does “her world falling around her” mean? I know what I think you mean, but I can’t be sure. Do you mean something like “her world is falling apart” and “everything is going wrong for her” or that it is literally “falling around her”? You may look into revising this.

    The word “stumbles” is repetitive, used twice in the first two paragraphs.

    “New life” is also repetitive.

    “World” is repetitive … three times in the first sentence.

    Why did you choose to use a semicolon in the first sentence? I realize the content may be closely related, but in using the semicolon, you change the subject of the second portion of this sentence. Instead of “Melima Corbrar” learning “about the wonderful world of dragons,” you have “an amazing world … learns about the wonderful world of dragons.”

    Also, queries are written in present tense, and you have a few tense jumps throughout. “Hatched” should be “hatches.” Of course, this will probably be altered once you fix the subject-verb problem with the world learning the world.

    “In the sweet dragonet” may work better as “in the form of a sweet dragonet.” Otherwise, it appears the world is hatching inside the dragon baby.

    Some last notes of the first paragraph … are the words “amazing,” “sweet,” and “wonderful” needed? Personally, I do not like this paragraph as a hook (partially due to my own methods but also due to the form it is in now). If I ignore the mistakes or portions that are unclear to me, I’m confronted with the thought, “who cares?” Not to be mean, but because it just isn’t that intriguing to me with how it’s written. Something you may try to do, and is often times used as “the hook,” is writing a tagline. A single sentence of 25 words or less that describes your work in its entirety. Some will advise to begin such sentences with a “What if” question (e.g., What if an unhappy duchess stumbles upon a dragon den and plummets into a fantasy world of dragon riders and freedom?). But that is not always required. It can be phrased as a statement.

    On to the second paragraph …

    “stumbles” “new life” “hatching” as previously mentioned are repetitive (hatching is repetitive with hatched and hatchling)

    Need commas between “Corbrary” and “an,” as well as between “elf” and “seeks” (e.g., Melima Corbrar, an underage wood elf, seeks …)

    An additional note, is it necessary to say her name once in the first paragraph and again in the second?

    The entire second sentence here, I do not like. The main reason, when I think of dragons, I think of huge reptiles, usually man-eating or capable of being man-eating beasts. Apparently, that is not how you craft them here, but you may want to state such, as the protagonist “stumbles” upon a dragon and her egg and goes straight to learning to ride it. Is the momma dragon not alarmed at the intrusion? Does it welcome her? Basically, I’m trying to figure out how you jump from stumbling upon the dragon to hatching the dragonet. Some explanation may be necessary, but maybe see what others have to say about it first?

    Other complaints with the second sentence is the laundry list of things that come with the “new life.” Again, you may want to give some explanation here. Are riding dragons a normal thing for the wood elves? Why would she try to ride the dragon? Why would she stick around for that matter after stumbling upon the dragon and her egg?

    What does “a new friend in a former dragon rider healer” mean?

    What does “hazards of an electrical dragon developing” mean?

    The phrase “the special bond between an elf and a hatchling dragon” makes the sentence a run-on, unless “the special bond” is their “shared love of music,” in which case I may recommend using an em-dash instead of a comma.

    I like “Her past will find her” but the comma after it is unnecessary.

    What are the “humanoid friends and beasts” supporting her?

    I would replace the comma after “support her” with a period to prevent another run-on sentence (e.g., This time she will not face it alone, but with the humanoid friends and beasts to support her. But what will the final cost be?).

    Again tense change with “would” in the last sentence here. Should be “will.”

    I like the question at the end, but what “cost” is at stake (and is the cost singular and not plural—costs)? Personally, I don’t feel we’ve learned enough about the character or her new world or how she intends to face her past with this paragraph to really want to answer that question.

    Overall with the second paragraph, I felt it started well. It dives right into the plot with the first sentence, but then it hesitates with the second sentence and seems to shift and just scan over a few highlights of the story. It picks back up with “Her past will find her” but seems to lose focus again with the ending question. Maybe try to end the paragraph with a statement instead of a question and see how that will shape the paragraph.

    For the third paragraph …

    The comma after “experiences” should be a period.

    Honestly, if someone wrote a letter to me, expressing that they learned the “ways of a knight” and “how to fight with a sword” and so on “on horseback,” I might look at them (or think of them, in this case) as crazy. I know that’s judgmental, but let me explain. This third paragraph is basically designed to be your short bio in the query—your credentials. Things to include might be stuff that will help whomever you send it to market you and your work, explain why you were the right person to write the book, or previous writing you have done that is worth mentioning. If you deem this stuff worth mentioning, then by all means, keep it in there, but if you are not a knight, it may be wise not to talk about it (and what does learning the ways of a knight have to do with this story?). How important is your “learning … to fight with sword, mace, spear, and lance on horseback” to this book? How many fantasy authors, do you think, who have sword play and so on in their books have learned the intricacies of it? How many are marketed as “learning how to fight with sword” and so on?

    I don’t mean to be cruel with these questions; I just don’t want you to send this to someone and have them wondering if you are joking or pulling a prank. Indeed, it may work to your advantage; I do not know. I know if someone sent a letter to me with their bio reading of this information, I would think they were joking or discard it with a thought (are you serious?).

    Now, what do I see that’s usable in your bio? You mention horses quite a bit, and I think I know why. Is riding a dragon in your story comparable to riding or learning to ride a horse? And is that the connection you are trying to make? You may want to draw that connection out for the reader … to make them understand (e.g., I’ve used my lifelong knowledge and familiarity with horses to enrich my writing in the fantasy genre and of the bond shared between people and animals.). I wouldn’t recommend using that specifically, but something like it. I would cut “I write from my experiences.”

    If you leave the third paragraph “as is,” you need a comma after “lance on horseback” or a period and new subject after that period (i.e., “…lance on horseback, and spent…” or “…lance on horseback. I spent long hours…”).

    Also, just say you served in the Air Force or military … no need to say both. (BTW, thank you for your service.)



    And that’s about all I have for now. I know it looks like a lot, but mostly it’s just my explanations :). Sorry if I was a little rough in places. Let me know if there’s anything you do not understand.

    Some additional notes on writing a query … shoot for a 250-word or less maximum (some places require less) ... there are a few formats used. Most tend to exhibit four or five paragraphs (The opening, the hook, sometimes a second hook is needed, the credentials, and the closing).

    Way up at the top of this post, I commented about the opening. I usually treat it as an upfront “this is what I have and this is what I want.” However, not all agents like queries that are straight to the point. You still need to include the title of your work, its length, and what it is, but you may also personalize the opening as to how you learned of the agency or why you are submitting the query to them specifically (make sure you research the agency and that they except or expect something like this) … basically a way to show your personality to them in one to two sentences.

    The hook … I used the word tagline above, which may not be technically correct. For the hook, you usually want a 25-word or less sentence that describes the entirety of the book. It needs to at least mention the protagonist and the main conflict.

    The second hook … largely just an extension or explanation of the hook can be pushed off to its own paragraph or included with the hook. These two paragraphs (or one) are where you will gain or lose interest in your work. When the agent or whoever finishes these paragraphs, they should know if they want more or not.

    The credentials are basically where you showcase yourself: what makes you perfect to write this story, what former publishing credits do you have, what marketing platforms you may have access to, etc. Agents and editors are looking for good stories and storytelling, but they are looking for ways to market you and your stories, too.

    The closing usually consists of a short note thanking them for their time. Some also include the manuscript information in this paragraph (genre and length), though I personally wouldn’t recommend it.

    Google is definitely your friend when it comes to writing queries. There are many, many helpful guides out there for writing queries, many examples of successful and unsuccessful queries, and a few places that will break down the elements of each and explain them. Writing a good query is difficult, yes, but it's not nearly as difficult as most make it out to be, imo. Do your research, write it, rewrite it, revise it, and continue to tighten it. Try to look at it objectively ... if someone sent this to you, would you be interested (pretend you are ignorant of the story, the details within, and what you know or think you know about what you're trying to communicate)? Read each of the lines and words and look to each one and pick out what they mean to the overall construction (Are they all needed? Will the message be less clear without certain ones? Could it work differently? Could it be shorter? etc.).

    All right ... think I'm going to stop there ... I'm spent. Hope this helps. :)
     
  7. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Thank you for the indepth critique.

    Friday night I found another example of Querry letter, sounds more like what you mention.
    instead of the 3 paragraph querry (Hook, synopsis. and creditials)

    Also saturday I went to the bookstore and read the book descriptions. (I wasn't even impressed with my op and I love the story.)

    My creditials: I need to work them more to the book, I have no published writing experience, but have dabbled in most martial arts(including archery), Instead of knight I should reword it for Medieval calvary teachings, riding a horse bashing heads with a mace, spearing rings, knocking reeds, and the quintain.
    The story includes use of various melee weapons, although does not include horses(much anyway) I wrote about riding a dragon much like riding a horse, heraldry.

    I will work on the new form of querry letter using your recomendations.
     
  8. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Never mind, it showed up while I was typing.
     

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