Sunday, January 15, 2012

It Takes a Village to Write a Query: Breakdown #3

Writing a query can be a blood, sweat and tears process that makes you never want to write one again! However, by the time you feel this way, you should have a fairly good query that is ready to send to agents. Here is one submitted by LPWrites for review. (Black is the query, red is my commentary).

Dear Agent:
Haunted by the sudden loss of her beloved guardian, a young woman (How young? It is a good idea to note the MC age in your query) discovers she is not the only one with ties to the spirit world (What ties?), and when a string of lies is exposed (Lies about what?), she must make a life-changing decision in order to save the most annoying boy on the planet. (This paragraph is not the one to lead your query. The second paragraph is where you want to start, because it sets up the story and provides a glimpse of the “who, what, why, where and when.” I don’t think you need this paragraph.)
(Make this your first paragraph in the query.) Seventeen-year-old Ashley Mead’s connection to the spirit realm is a secret she’s kept carefully guarded (you might consider stating what this connection is. For example, “Ashley Mead’s ability to channel spirits is a secret she guards with great care."). Until now. Weeks after her guardian is sent to an alternative realm for taking another life while trying to save her from drowning, Ashley follows in her mother’s footsteps, throwing herself (literally) at the first guy she sees—the egotistical, girl-magnet Joey Kirkland—in attempts to distract her from her recent heartbreak. (Rearrange this portion to address that she is heartbroken, decides how to take care of that heartbreak, and how it leads her to Joey. Also, what happened to her mother and why is this path so concerning?)
Aside from bantering with Joey, which proves to be a pretty good distraction, (Eliminate this portion altogether – it doesn’t provide meat that you need for your query lure.) Ashley soon learns Joey, too, is capable of spirit contact and it is her which is feeding his ability, strengthening it as the two of them grow closer (This is good, but make it stronger. Ashley soon discovers Joey’s just like her and using her ability to strengthen his own as they grow closer.). Ashley introduces Joey to her secret life, including Alec, her replacement guardian, who—new to the spirit realm himself—struggles to keep Ashley protected from an escaped convict who is stalking her. (Use commas instead of m-dashes. The portion about the convict is important. Eliminate the replacement guardian info and build more on the convict, such as, “But no strength can match the determination of the escaped convict stalking her, looking for the perfect time to strike.” Also, why is he stalking her? Does he want her power, the same one that is strengthening Joey?)
Just when Ashley thinks she has it all figured out (What does she have figured out? How to get rid of the convict?), everything starts to go awry: Ashley realizes she’s falling for her once-enemy, the convict is no longer simply a threat but a serious problem, and her relationship with Joey has made him a target for a malicious group of Seekers and they are now after his soul. Because Ashley is protected by a Yuhaviatam agreement, Alec explains she is the only one who can save Joey, but she must enter the spirit realm in order to do so. (There’s a lot going on in this last section. She’s protected by an agreement, has a convict after her, must save Joey [from the seekers who want his soul because he’s involved with her?], and go into the spirit realm to do so?
SOUL SEARCHER is a young adult novel complete at 74,000 words and is available upon request.
I believe there is a comprehensive and entertaining story behind this query, however the query itself needs to be reorganized. We need to know why the convict is after Ashley, why Joey must be saved, and what the outcome could be if these things don’t occur – without laying everything out on the table. Start by setting us up, follow with the conflict and problem to be solved, how it might be solved and what could happen if it isn’t.
Use more action verbs to give movement to the query and develop excitement. Insert just a few and you'll be amazed how much more flow you see! I am curious to see the result of this reorganization and bet our readers would be as well. Please let us know, and thank you so much for submitting your query.


  1. This is very helpful! One of my 2012 goals is to submit to an agent, and now I have a better idea of how to write a query. (I've never really had to write one before...all my books thus far have been published by small presses who allow submission of the complete manuscript.)

  2. Hi Jo -

    There are several good resources to help you with your query, such as Oftentimes, having peer review of your query beats anything else. Good luck with your writing! - Julie

  3. Thank you so much, Julie, and YA Stands for putting on this contest! This is a really helpful breakdown and I can't wait to dive back into this query. Looks like I have a lot to do! Thanks again!

  4. You are most welcome! We're all in this together. :-)

    - Julie