1. ilsediaz

    ilsediaz New Member

    Feb 24, 2020
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    Dystopian Novel, query letter.

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by ilsediaz, Feb 24, 2020.

    Hi everyone! I'm so exicted to become part of this wonderful online community.
    I'd really appreciate it if anyone could give me some feedback on this query letter. You may be totally honest! In fact, please be! Thanks in advance, now here it goes:

    Dear Agent x,

    Society collapsed. All that is left of it is debris, a threatening fog that covers most of the sky, and buildings on the brink of falling apart. One of the few cities left standing renders its habitants with only three choices: they can either live on the streets with limited resources, spend their childhoods inside a secluded orphanage, or join the criminals that stain the pavement with blood on a daily basis.

    Elijah goes through all of it. His time at the orphanage ends abruptly; he finds friendship on the streets, and then loses it due to a hasty decision that changes his life forever.
    Everything he gains he soon loses, and the more he finds out about how society met such an end, the more humanity terrifies him.
    The voices inside his head seem to prove him right each day--he is only capable of doing harm.

    HUMAN NATURE is a dystopian novel completed at 104,030 words. It targets an adult audience and reflects about our society and the future it is likely to meet. The full manuscript is available upon request.

    It has come to my attention that agents are looking for stories about people of color, written by people of color. My protagonist is a person of color, and I’m proudly Mexican.

    Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
  2. Veloci-Rapture

    Veloci-Rapture Member

    Dec 23, 2018
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    So I'm not a professional, and have no qualifications, but I've been reading a whole lot about query letters over the last year or so. The following advice is based on that research, and may be biased, incomplete, or incorrect.

    First, the things I like:

    The length is great. A nice, taut query letter is (as far as I can determine) around 250 - 300 words, and you're at 227 right now.
    The housekeeping (title, word count, etc) is at the very end, which is exactly where it should be.

    Now, the other stuff I may be wrong about.

    This is setup. From what I've come to understand, your query letter should start where the story starts, with the main character being the subject of the first line.

    Also note the phrase: "renders its inhabitants with only three choices". That's a confusing clause, because you're using "renders" in a non-standard way. "Renders" generally means something along the lines of "builds" or "creates", and it sounds like your city is creating its citizens. You may be doing that on purpose, but if so, I can't tell. To me, it's a sign that you're not fully competent with your craft yet (your craft being "words"). If I'm seeing misused words in a query, I'm sure they're going to be in the manuscript as well.

    This is where the story starts, with Elijah. But I have no clue as to what this story is about. You have a list of events that are all vague and cliche; none of them are specific enough to be enticing. I don't really have a good grasp of what Elijah wants and what the stakes are for him. What choices does he have to make?

    Generally, from what I've seen so far, a good query has a simple formula at its core:
    1) Who is the main character?
    2) What does the main character want?
    3) What's keeping them from getting it?
    4) What choices do they have to make?
    5) What are the stakes for those choices? What bad thing happens if they choose A, what bad thing happens if they don't choose A, etc.

    Once you've figured all that out, you can get it on paper in whatever style or method is appropriate to your personal narrative voice.

    Try starting your query with the first real choice Elijah has to make. Get us right into the thick of things, get the agent invested in the main character's dilemma from the very first line.

    You've got a lot of extra words here in the housekeeping section. "Completed" for example; if you're querying, the agent assumes it's complete. Also, the full manuscript being available upon request is a given. It better be. There's no reason to state the obvious. These are little nitpicks, but an agent is looking at your query as a sample of your writing, and if your query is over-written, they'll get worried the manuscript is too. Getting rid of those redundancies also gives you more space in the query to get specific with a few key, enticing details of your story. Every word matters.

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