Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pirates and Elves and Magic, oh my!

Hey guys! I wanted to share my newest query with you. I have another revision of my novel, but before I do that, I need to print the book and maybe hold off on reading for about a weeks so I can approach with fresh eyes.

I have been reading QueryShark's blog for the past two days. I stayed up until 12:30 just to get through most of the archives. I do this because:

1.) Query Shark says to read the archives.

2.) I learned a TON just by reading the first page of query critiques.

3.) I am not going to submit my query to Query Shark, but I need all the help I can get. I am not submitting because I don't want my query critiqued, but because she states that 99% of the queries submitted don't get posted. So, I felt it's easier to let my bloggers have at it at the moment

From Query Shark, I took tips from her "how to add plot to your query." I'd post that here, but I feel like I would betray her "read through the archives" statement. So, if you'd like to read what I read, HERE is the link to Query Shark.

Query Shark (Janet Reid) said that the age of your character isn't necessarily important to add to the query, but in mine, I am not sure if it works. She said she is always looking for VOICE. I noticed the queries she really liked were dominated by voice. Also, reading Query Shark made me realize how IMPORTANT it is that your query is polished and tight because agents will look for indicators that tell them what your book might be like--for instance, if you have unnecessary words, or long sentences. Also, no address at the top of the letter!

What I don't want in my query is "character soup" as Query Shark says. I don't want the readers to feel overwhelmed by characters. I also (as I said) need to take a break from both the novel and the query so I can return with an objective eye.

So, without anymore rambling, here is my query...please, critique away!

Dear Mr/Ms. Agent:

Eighteen year old pirate Barren Reed remembers one thing from his childhood—his father's murder at the hands of his older brother, William. Since then, he stakes out the coast of Maris, attacking any and all ships that pass through The Cliffs in an attempt to lure his brother into a fight to the death. When he learns his brother is to marry soon, Barren decides to set his attention on the fiancĂ©e. Kidnapping Larkin proves far more difficult than he ever thought--she's the most defiant and stubborn woman he's ever met, and to top it all off, she's handy with a sword.

Larkin is just one of Barren’s problems—especially when his attraction toward her grows. His brother is making plans to overthrow their uncle, King Tetherion. Turns out, Teth knows exactly what Will is looking for—a bloodstone that will give him power over dark magic. Tetherion will charge Barren with the task of locating the stone, though Barren isn’t sure he wants something so dangerous in Tetherion’s hands—especially since its existence is the reason he doesn’t remember his childhood.

Barren will face condemnation by his uncle if he chooses to destroy the bloodstone, and at worst, death, but the secrets he’s unraveled on his adventure tell him not to hand it over.

I am pleased to submit for your consideration my young adult novel, CUTLASS, complete at 90,000 words. I have a BA in English Writing and I am pursuing a Masters in Library Science and Information Studies.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Ashley Nixon


  1. Wow. This book has a totally different shape since I last saw a query for it. It looks pretty tight, for the most part. I think the second to last paragraph feels a little off, but I can't put my finger on why.

    The other thing I would change is: "I am pleased to submit for your consideration my young adult novel, CUTLASS, complete at 90,000 words."

    Instead, just say something like "CUTLASS is a young adult novel, complete at 90,000 words."

    Good job!

    1. I'm happy you can see the difference! I think the use of names is a little awkward in the second, and maybe the first two sentences. I'm going to play with it, lol.

      Also, I agree with the reword of the last sentence!

      Thank you so much!

  2. This totally sounds like something I would read!

    The only thing I really wanted to comment on: Eighteen year old pirate Barren Reed remembers one thing from his childhood—his father's murder at the hands of his older brother, William. - The he is ambiguous. As I read the query, it became increasingly clear that you're talking about Barren's older brother (and not their father's), but since this is the first sentence of your query, I'd think about tweaking that a little more so it's more clear who you're referring to.

    Aside from that, it's looking good!

    1. Awesome! I did feel the phrasing was a little off, but I wasn't sure how to fix it just then.

      Thank you for your help!

  3. The one thing I'm going to point out is the "name soup." Knowing William's name isn't necessary, since you don't refer to him as William again and simply Barren's brother. I'm not sure if Tetherion is a name you want to keep either, especially since you switch to calling him "Teth" in the next sentence. I don't even think it's all that necessary to mention that he's a king either. Sure, that's interesting, but such information isn't crucial in a condensed query synopsis.

    1. I agree with taking out William's name, but I'm not sure about taking out Tetherion's name, maybe using it less? I do see a little overkill.

      Thanks for your help, Adelle!

  4. The story has a lot going on and sounds like a fast paced read. I'm not sure what the first sentence has to do with the rest of the story as the further I read, the more it seems the story is about the bloodstone. The first paragraph was all about his wanting vengeance against his brother. the second,about the bloodstone and his uncle. Not to mention this line....Larkin is just one of Barren’s problems—especially when his attraction toward her out of place. it's like oh, i have to mention that he's attracted to her. And sorry, but so cliche "she's the most defiant and stubborn woman he's ever met" Who is the antagonist? William? Teth? is there a romance going on with Barren and Larkin? Because it seems there might be.
    Hope this is helpful. The story actually sound like it's got a lot of spunk. Good luck.

    1. Hi Lori!

      The story does center around the bloodstone, mostly, but there is always Barren's underlining wish for revenge for his father.

      I can see how figuring out who the antagonist is would be difficult, so I will focus on that as I rewrite. It will be interesting to rework it, as William is the antagonist.

      I also think I could do without Larkin in the query, and you are right--I felt the need to add that there was a relationship beginning between them, but I don't think that's actually necessary.

      Thank you!

    2. My opinion then, although I like the first line, is to mention the bloodstone at the beginning, perhaps with his wish for revenge. Bring Williams name in at some point as he's the antag. The only names we need are Barren and William, protag & antag. Do we need to know where they are? trying to pull out thing not needed so you can focus on what is needed. I get that the bloodstone is why is doesn't remember anything from childhood, but why? When I first read that line, the he remembers only one thing from childhood, I thought it was simply because that's a really traumatic event. It never occurred to me that there might be another reason for the loss of memory. You might clarify that earlier.
      Have I mentioned how many times I've rewritten every query I've ever written?

    3. I see how the memory situation would be confusing. And after you mentioned the protag and antag names, I realized that other queries I read only focued on them as well.

      I'll add the bloodstone at the beginning and see where I can take the query from there. It's super hard to be objective when you wrote the book (I know you know this), so it's always a challenge to me to figure out what doesn't make sense and what isn't needed. lol.

      So, Barren and Williams relationship I can leave out, too. I can see how that would be uncessary in a query. I don't have much time to keep someone interested, and I don't want anyone left wondering why I placed a sentence somewhere it didn't fit.

      Thanks!! :)

  5. Query shark is awesome! you summed up many of her helpful points and so did other commenters. More voice, less detail.

    Great story! Here's my take, Fierce Pirate Barren wants revenge on his brother for killing their father so kidnaps his fetching, fiesty fiance, reminding him why women are bad luck. To make matters worse, Uncle King Teth uses the brothers' rift, sending Barren to find the dangerous bloodstone everyone wants that will give the holder ultimate power, so he might have to keep it for himself.

    i may be off base, but i hope i gave you a couple of ideas. i love it! and i look forward to reading it!

    1. This does help me think of a way to orgnize the first paragraph! Thanks, Tara!

    2. Personal opinion, great organizational idea, but trying to do too much with each sentence will send the agents running.
      Might I also point out that yes, Janet is wicked and insightful with her knowledge, check each agent for their wants when querying. They're all a little temperamental. Shrug

  6. "he's the most defiant and stubborn woman he's ever met, and to top it all off, she's handy with a sword." this line!

    1. I'm glad you like it! I do feel that it is cliche, though. lol.

  7. A few thoughts...

    Get to the point quicker. All he remembers line is filler. Pirate seeks revenge for his father's death. His brother is the murderer...

    -the why he doesn't remember otherwise needs to be immediately connected to only one thing he remembers

    And I agree...18 is unnecessary. The topic implies adult. That's gudenuf

    'Face condemnation' is whimpy.

    'he learns' ... filler

    'just one of his problems' ... filler

    'will charge Barren' ... wordy phrase. SL He must...

    'pleased to submit' ... they know.

    - Mac

  8. Voice definitely comes through in the query and the story sounds awesome but I agree that it can be tightened up a bit. It sounds more like a synopsis than a query so if you take out some of the filler and character names that should help a lot. Great job!

  9. I really like this query and the storyline A LOT. The comments you've gotten are pretty much what I would say. Good luck!!

  10. Sounds like a great story! I think you can streamline the details about the bloodstone in the second paragraph.

    Something like: "Larkin is just one of Barren’s problems—especially when his attraction toward her grows. His brother is making plans to overthrow their uncle, the king. He's also searching for a bloodstone that will give him power over dark magic. The same bloodstone that caused Barren to forget his childhood. The one he's charged with finding."

    If you want more great query examples, check out Miss Snark. The blog is retired now, but all the old posts are still out there. Check out her "crap-o-meters" - they're SO helpful!