Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Mania--Query Letter

One of our readers submitted a query letter for critique. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0042:

Address, etc

Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for the completed novel, Balance of Powers, comprising approximately 105,000 words. Balance of Powers takes us on an epic journey where three separate worlds are about to converge. This novel weaves together what I love most about fantasy adventure, science fiction and psychology, and will likely satisfy your interest in both epic fantasy and science fiction. The advanced science of the alien world Xo’lentia and epic adventures on the magical world of Ru’unta 3 are all tied together as our hero battles the corrosive thoughts of his own mind.

The future of each world hinges on the fate of one man–¬¬–Jared. There is one small problem for our unlikely hero, however. He has no idea who he is or where he came from. Only maddening glimpses of supposed memories plague his mind with self-doubt and loathing. Finding himself in a strange and foreign world full of magical beings and ominous creatures, Jared questions his abilities and purpose. Many have faith that he is the Foretold One, destined to save the planet from destruction.

Others would just as soon see him dead.

But that’s not all. Our unassuming hero has caught the attention of an advanced alien race as well, and some will stop at nothing to exploit Jared to find his home world, Dimension Earth.

Jared may be able to overcome the challenges of this dangerous planet with the help of those determined to protect him, but will he manage to work through his own destructive thoughts and beliefs? Planet Earth, Xo’lentia and Ru’unta 3 may all depend on it.

As a mental health counselor and a life long lover of science fiction and fantasy, I look forward to publishing this novel that ties them all together in an action packed adventure, full of interesting characters and landscapes. The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Jordan McCollum said...

I think the synopsis part of this query is already pretty good. You hit on the all-important issue of stakes well.

I don't think, though, that the first paragraph serves you well. Most agents seem to prefer jumping straight into the synopsis of your story to an introduction like this. And generally speaking, talking about your story at this length 1.) tells when you should show and 2.) runs the risk of sounding impossibly overconfident.

A smaller quibble: I don't think referring to Jared as "our [adjective] hero" is a good idea. The adjective can verge on telling, and the whole phrase sounds a little self-deprecating in a query. That doesn't seem like the tone you're going for here. (Also, it's first person plural and the synopsis/pitch part of the query generally is in third person—or at least not first person from the author's POV.)

"Dimension Earth" confuses me: is Xo'lentia an alien world or an alternate dimension? I can see how Earth seems to be in danger, but I'm not clear how the other two worlds are at risk.

So I might recommend:

Dear Agent:

The future of the planet Xo'lentia, the magical realm Ru'unta 3, and Earth hinges on the fate [is it just his fate (i.e. what befalls him) or is it his choices/actions that this really depends upon?] of [descriptor: like his day job or something] Jared [Last name?]. But Jared has no idea who he is or where he came from...

Then after the synopsis/pitch:

Complete at 105,000 words, Balance of Powers blends fantasy and science fiction while exploring the inner depths of the human mind.

From your bio paragraph, I think it's relevant that you're a mental health counselor, so I'd keep that. But I think most of the rest of that paragraph goes without saying: of course you look forward to publishing your novel, and of course it's available upon request. Best to end on the strong note you have in there: I have qualifications to write this novel.

Best of luck!

Kimberly said...

Jordan summed up my own thoughts perfectly and I echo her suggestion to lead in with the synopsis. Just like the opening line of your novel needs to draw your reader in, your opening line in your query needs to do the same.

Clarifying a few points as Jordan suggested will make your query all the more powerful, and I think those small changes will make a huge difference.

Good luck!

Danielle said...

I agree that the 1st paragraph should thrust you more into the world. I would also advise you to use that adjective showing why Jared is unlikely and watch for repeated words.