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Author Topic: Query Letter - Like A Rich Jewel
dmsimone
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Oh man, this is hard. Here is my first attempt. Every other successful query I've read sounds so much better...I need to read more...but I need to start somewhere. At least it's under 250 words.


I saw on Manuscript Wish List that you represent middle grade books with magical elements. As such, I thought you might enjoy Like a Rich Jewel, a 76,000-word middle grade fantasy novel.

Thirteen-year-old Pippa remembers the terror she felt when a Night Mare engulfed her father and whisked him away. After years of not knowing his fate, Pippa receives a warning from the past that she might be the Night Mare’s next victim.

Instructed to hide, Pippa moves to a secret Druid island in the Hebrides. On Beltane Eve, the Night Mare finds and captures Pippa’s brother, Jamie, who sacrifices himself to save her. Everything changes when she uncovers clues concerning her parents and learns about a mysterious Norse sorceress, Kolruna, who is hunting her family. Defying her lost father’s request to remain hidden, Pippa allies with a mischievous tomte, seeks help from an enchanted raven banner, and makes a trade with ogres—knowing she must face the dangerous Kolruna in order to save Jamie. Distrusting a young spá-kona who tries to teach her blood magic, Pippa is drawn into a world of competing mystical forces she never knew existed.

Like a Rich Jewel can stand alone, but has series potential. I believe it will appeal to fans of Nany Farmer’s Sea of Trolls and Herbie Brennan’s Fairie Wars series. I am a daring engineering manager and technical writer of all things semiconductor by day, and an avid writer of fantasy by night.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There's a little too much of what I would call "term-dropping" (like name-dropping, only with undefined terms).

We don't know from what you've posted what the following are:
Night Mare
tomte
raven banner
spa-kona

and not knowing makes it hard to understand the conflict, the problem, or how to care about all of this.

Besides which, it isn't at all clear when this is--at the time of the Druids? or now?

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dmsimone
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Yes, you are right about all of this! So obvious now that you've stated it. I will fix and post another version in this thread.

Other folks - don't bother responding just yet [Smile]
You will be wasting your time.

Thank you,
Danielle

[ August 03, 2016, 08:18 PM: Message edited by: dmsimone ]

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extrinsic
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The name explosion was a secondary area I intended comment about, parallel to a primary consideration, and query content in lieu of the name explosion. That primary observation can wait for the revision, if the revision doesn't address it. At least maybe the revision could contain stronger and clearer cues for projecting areas for consideration to address that primary area.
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dmsimone
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Today, I read 87 successful queries from several genres. By successful, I mean those writers found representation. I noticed right away that the biggest thing I was missing in my query was voice. All I had was the author’s voice. And I had too much other nonsense going on. Probably still do [Smile]

Here's another go - 236 words:

(Insert personalization here). I am submitting for your consideration Like a Rich Jewel, a 76,000-word middle grade fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls and the Fairie Wars series by Herbie Brennan.

He had wild hair and his beard smelled like pine—that’s all Pippa remembers of her father before a cloud of smoke whisked him away. Years later, thirteen-year-old Pippa is overwhelmed with caring for her sick aunt and clashing with an unbearable cousin. That doesn’t stop Pippa from sneaking away in the middle of the night and threatening the dimwitted, local boys with her daggers.

A long-awaited message from the past sends Pippa’s family to a secret island in the Hebrides, but her brother Jamie is captured by the same entity that took their father. Pippa will do whatever it takes to find him. She steals, allies with ogres, and learns blood magic from a cagey sorceress. The cautionary clues that surface about her parent’s past are easy to believe, because in ninth century Scotland, Night Mares galloped across the sky and Druids cast spells. In an atmosphere thick with mistrust, Pippa and her friends are drawn into a world of competing mystical forces.

Like a Rich Jewel can stand alone, but has series potential. I am a daring engineering manager and technical writer of all things semiconductor by day, and an avid writer of fantasy by night.

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extrinsic
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A young woman loses her father to a mysterious dark sorceress, then her brother, and is herself a target of the sorceress's machinations.

The query details a sequence of superficial events, not a plot. Plot, according to E.M. Forester, is causation at least -- why -- antagonism, too, and tension. Or as Forester demonstrates, paraphrased: The king died and then the queen died, is a story. The king died, and then, from grief, the queen died, is a plot. In other words, the queen's grief for her spouse's death causes her death. Why.

Further, though, antagonism is motivations and stakes, or, respectively, complication's want-problem contest and conflict's outcome forces in opposition, like life and death. What does the queen want? and what problem or problems prevent her from satisfying the want?

Tension, too, is emotional texture; that is, empathy or sympathy for an agonist (contestant) and curiosity's suspense. This, too, is Orson Scott Card's first maxim: "So what?" Why should I care? Audience relate-able and relevant context and texture shape tension.

A young woman separated from family sets up for the woman's want-problem contest independent of family and little else. Separation from family and independent competition are congruent middle grade and young adult conventions, each feature depends on the other. Without one or the other, a plot, a story's contest overall, doesn't start movement.

Disconnection from family for a young person's contest start is both, one, necessary and natural maturation development; and two, naturally, an existential crisis that impacts adult identity formation, negatively and positively, toward one or another polar emphasis, for either more of better or worse personal growth outcomes. Middle grade narratives especially demand greater positive growth outcomes.

What is Pippa's personal want-problem contest, her motivation, her complication? Mere avoidance of trouble is not a plot or a contest, though perhaps a setup for proactive competition action later. Folk tales and many prose tales often entail three refusals to act before proactive action is taken. Though detailing three refusals within a query bogs it down in minutia. The want-problem contest incitement to proactive action, the context and texture of the contest start matters most.

A standout piece from the query synopsis, an enticing piece; that is, Pippa threatens dimwitted local boys with her knives. Causality there, local boys bother Pippa for some reason why, immature sexual teasing maybe, maybe not, maybe mere boys will be boys and play at king of the hill games from which they exclude Pippa. Plus, more importantly, that motif develops her characterization more than any other part, that she's an able knife fighter and holds local boys in contempt, for possible mates maybe, as able practice fighters, surely.

Secondmost standout is Pippa's memory of her dad was wild-haired and smelled of pine. Olfactory sensation context and texture is closely aligned with memory triggers and possible relate-able contexture for readers: characterization and perhaps setting development features from a smell. That he was wild-haired implies a roguish persona or was bothered by distractions, some vagueness there. A strong visual sensation of a burly wild man, though.

Neither of those above standout features per se sets up or contributes to dramatic story movement, though. Actually, the query in total doesn't set up movement of Pippa's contest. If the query strongly and clearly implies what Pippa personally wants, and is a fresh and lively take on a middle grade woman's predictable, natural, and necessary desires, and then gives what prevents her from satisfying that central desire, those are crucial bases of an appealing query, synopsis, short story, novel.

The query suggests Pippa wants to avoid the fate of her father, maybe her brother Jamie's fate, and rescue them from the sorceress, and, all the while, avoid the same fate herself. If that's the contest, it's confused. Orson Scott Card's Huh? maxim, what is going on? What in particular does Pippa want?

The third of three Card maxims, Oh yeah? unbelievable, is also on point for what Pippa wants and why, and, likewise, what and why the sorceress wants Pippa's family to which Pippa is the opposition contestant. I believe the query evades those what and why questions for the sorceress, too, artlessly withholds them. Want-problem motivations are a key to believe-ability management, to preserve reader willing suspension of disbelief.

Nor best practice should a want feature be expressed directly, not told, stronger if clearly implied from features that express an interpret-able want, is shown. The query only shows Pippa wants to avoid, refuse even, her family's fate. Like what and why the sorceress wants possession of Pippa's family members in some state of what? Death? Why? Because a prophecy predicts a Pippa family member will be the sorceress's undoing? Or maybe because the sorceress gains power by taking it from only Pippa's family? Or maybe the sorceress wants Pippa for a successor? One, only one, sorceress want is warranted, and likewise shown, not told.

Yet, on the other hand, plain and simple if lively expression of a motivations and stakes contest is a best query practice, plus, some language that is fresh and lively, like the one part about threatening knives and dimwitted local boys. That is itself a natural young woman's attitude toward boys' silly romantic overtures and likewise one-upmanship play, and fresh and lively expression, exquisite.

"Snow White" is about a wicked stepmother sorceress who wants to be the most beautiful woman of the kingdom. Problem is Snow White's beauty outshines the stepmother's. The tale is really about vanity's pride and envy, in other words. The folk tale, though, doesn't express or imply Snow White's want, beyond that she would rather be left alone to her own life's pursuits. The tale is not really about Snow White, then, but about a moral aptitude.

However, if Snow White were personally motivated separate and apart from and congruent to the stepmother's, the tale would be more dramatic and, ergo, appealing to contemporary readers. Their contest is the stepmother's, not Snow White's -- solely victimism. If, say, Snow White were attracted to a love interest, say a prince from an exotic land, and the widowed stepmother wanted the prince for herself, that would be Snow White's contest.

Folk tales like Snow White, though, are targeted to household children and women's behaviors that please male heads of households. Really, the tale is about daughters' innocence pleasing their fathers and wives pleasing their husbands, and wives and daughters' disruptive household feuds for the head of household's attentions and affections.

I don't think Like a Rich Jewel is that kind of marchen tale, tale no less, but really about something else, female empowerment's privileges and responsibilities, perhaps, which would strongly appeal to agents, editors, publishers, and readers, though no clue what the novel is really and truly about. What and why Pippa and the sorceress want could strong and clear imply that feature in the query.

[ August 04, 2016, 01:33 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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If the objective is to get me to read the manuscript then you have failed. As an agent or publisher I want to know what the story is about, what sets it apart, not some half-baked synopsis of the beginning.

What I have at the moment is a bunch of cliche situations, not something original that will capture my imagination.

An example for demonstration purposes only: For the world to become a garden filled with life all humanity must be destroyed or the planet will become a toxic wasteland bereft of life. Choose now! Which will it be? That is the decision Kara is faced with.

Phil.

[ August 04, 2016, 09:45 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by dmsimone:

(Insert personalization here). I am submitting for your consideration Like a Rich Jewel, a 76,000-word middle grade fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls and the Fairie Wars series by Herbie Brennan.

I'm sure you know that 76,000 words is long for middle grade. That being the case, I think I'd leave that housekeeping detail to the end of the query instead of leading with it.

quote:
He had wild hair and his beard smelled like pine—that’s all Pippa remembers of her father before a cloud of smoke whisked him away. Years later, thirteen-year-old Pippa is overwhelmed with caring for her sick aunt and clashing with an unbearable cousin. That doesn’t stop Pippa from sneaking away in the middle of the night and threatening the dimwitted, local boys with her daggers.
The first job of the query is to introduce the main character and tell the reader why they should care. You started out well with the memory of her father. I'm less interested in the sick aunt and unbearable cousin. Maybe because there's no connection. Actually, there's no connection between that and anything else in the query.

Threatening dimwitted local boys with knives, without any reason why, just makes me sympathize with the boys, rather than Pippa.

None of these three things seem to have much to do with each other. Is there a connection?

quote:
A long-awaited message from the past sends Pippa’s family to a secret island in the Hebrides, but her brother Jamie is captured by the same entity that took their father.
Here's where you need more detail. Why would they be awaiting a message from the past? And why does it send them into hiding?

Also, I would rather have learned about her brother above than her unpleasant cousin or the dimwitted local boys. Show me someone she cares about to help me care about her.

I'd use monster rather than entity. But that's a personal choice.

quote:
Pippa will do whatever it takes to find him. She steals, allies with ogres, and learns blood magic from a cagey sorceress.
The next two things the query has to do is establish the choice the character has to make and the stakes. This is a good start.

quote:
The cautionary clues that surface about her parent’s past are easy to believe, because in ninth century Scotland, Night Mares galloped across the sky and Druids cast spells.
If there's a mystery and clues about ninth century Scotland, you need to tie that in better with the problem of finding and rescuing her brother.

And it would be parents', not parent's unless your talking about only one of them.

quote:
In an atmosphere thick with mistrust, Pippa and her friends are drawn into a world of competing mystical forces.
First we've heard about any friends of Pippa's. Presumably they're not the dimwitted local boys.

quote:
Like a Rich Jewel can stand alone, but has series potential. I am a daring engineering manager and technical writer of all things semiconductor by day, and an avid writer of fantasy by night.

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dmsimone
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Thank you folks - will keep working at it!
Regards,
Danielle

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extrinsic
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Consider, because queries are for novels, and this is a novel, that a subsequent query revision might be posted to the Fragments for Books forum.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Consider, because queries are for novels, and this is a novel, that a subsequent query revision might be posted to the Fragments for Books forum.

Or, I can move the topic over there.

You say, dmsimone, which do you prefer?

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dmsimone
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Sure, please do. I obviously put this in the wrong place.

Thank you!
Danielle

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Disgruntled Peony
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No worries about the placement, it's easily remedied. [Smile]

As far as queries go, I haven't done enough research on the subject to feel qualified to give advice on it. I do, however, feel like I'm learning a great deal from reading this thread. (Also, I think you have a good idea here and I hope this thread helps you pitch it to the best of your ability.)

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extrinsic
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Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management, New York City, offers extensive general information about effective query writing, and offers commentary and query critique as the Query Shark.

Query format, layout, content and organization, craft, discourse and voice.

My primary consideration for query letters is that the content and organization is akin to a cold contact business letter of introduction. "Cold," to mean unsolicited.

Another useful site: Publishers Marketplace Entries include what agents and publishers want and don't want. A jobs board that's a who's who of the industry, marketplace news and business, plus much more free content. Site membership and all access is $25 month-by-month.

Personally -- I access the free content; and most of the jobs posted are in New York City's skyscraper canyons and cubicle farms, which are places I cannot live or work. Agoraphobia.

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dmsimone
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Yes, I love reading the Query Shark. I'm from New York so don't knock it, extrinsic - best pizza available, 24x7!

I've posted my query elsewhere - wow what a disaster it was. I'm embarrassed by what it looked like. Now it's a little more readable and sometimes makes sense.

Couple of questions that people argue over...maybe you guys can give some insight?

1. For MG or YA, do you need to specify the main character's age?

2. On another forum, everyone swears you need to say Dear Agent and then launch right into hook + witty, concise summary + awesome closing + BTW this is a YA fantasy novel, blah blah blah. Really? If I was reading a query I would want to know first if I met the writer (did we meet at a conference or do you stalk me on twitter), and genre, audience, word count up front. Does the location placement of this really matter?

3. Lastly...I am finding that there needs to be a delicate balance of detail in the narrative. Don't overwhelm with specifics, but be specific enough so that the agent understands the main thrust of the plot, the stakes, the conflict. This is truly an art and very subjective! I guess this last bit is more an observation than a question.

Thanks - I won't have you suffer through another version of my sad, little query until it looks better!

Good night!

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by dmsimone:

Couple of questions that people argue over...maybe you guys can give some insight?

1. For MG or YA, do you need to specify the main character's age?

It's general practice.

quote:
2. On another forum, everyone swears you need to say Dear Agent and then launch right into hook + witty, concise summary + awesome closing + BTW this is a YA fantasy novel, blah blah blah. Really? If I was reading a query I would want to know first if I met the writer (did we meet at a conference or do you stalk me on twitter), and genre, audience, word count up front. Does the location placement of this really matter?
Neither is right or wrong, necessarily. I'm in favor of leading with what's most likely to get the agent's attention, which usually would be the story. Unless, of course, you actually have met the agent at a conference or have something similar. Then absolutely lead with that. In your case, the word count is higher than usual for that audience (MG), so I would put that at the end rather than give an agent an immediate reason to stop reading.

quote:
3. Lastly...I am finding that there needs to be a delicate balance of detail in the narrative. Don't overwhelm with specifics, but be specific enough so that the agent understands the main thrust of the plot, the stakes, the conflict. This is truly an art and very subjective! I guess this last bit is more an observation than a question.
Yes. Queries (and blurbs) are almost as hard as synopses.


quote:
Thanks - I won't have you suffer through another version of my sad, little query until it looks better!

Good night!


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extrinsic
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I'm from New York, too, and Los Angeles and Chicago and Wichita and New Orleans and Jacksonville and Key West and Tidewater and Naples, Rome, and Mexico City and a dozen other smaller megatropolises. Didn't know why when I lived in them I was unsettled and confused and angry. Do now. Rigorously avoid them now. Not to mention I crave pizza yet it is toxic for me -- too many carbohydrates.

A letter of introduction, a query, could start with what is known as an encomium, a brief praise of the letter recipient, if the encomium content is relevant: a reminder perhaps of a previous casual encounter, a reminder the recipient invited the letter writer to send, or some such essential detail that opens introductions by way of exhibited close, intimate, though not overly personal insider awareness between recipient and sender. In any case, something that engages the recipient's favorable emotions.

Otherwise, skip directly to the pitch line.

1. A character's age doesn't per se need to be directly stated. More appealing to strong and clear imply ages, for that matter, events and settings and characters' basic nature, as personally perceived by a viewpoint persona, implied too. These are the all-important "telling details" that shape uniqueness and speak loud that this is something worth to behold. Like I perceive crowd mobs in large metropolises as zonbi hordes and I must act the part too, to avoid eaten brains. When in Rome.

2. How to structure a query letter is a matter of considerable dissent. Two thoughts are on point for reconciliation of the many dissenter consensuses. One, a querier who has done due diligence structures content and organization to suit a particular agent's submission guidelines; and two, a querier chooses to be original, lively, fresh, conformist, subversive, and most of all, cooperative -- or not. Life is personal choices from the fray or from new horizons, and both, and choices entail consequences. The reconciliation is of a cognitive dissonance's confused and at odds, mutually exclusive, several conflicted ideas. Due diligence, selections from the dissents, and personal, bright liveliness.

Camp A insists a query must 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so that agents have one standard and easy to skim format, so they can decline an unwanted submission in ten seconds or less.

Camp B suggests a query must stand out and attract close attention, to the point an agent is forced or, ideally, artfully persuaded to read all of it. Problem is what stands out to agents is subtlety, the plain and simple, easy to read and comprehend, speaks wow! for itself content and organization that implies the query writer mastered prose craft.

Camp C is all those who believe otherwise, that an agent will "get it." Never mind the content is disorganized, misses essential content, and contains excess superflurae, that an agent is expected to interpret and decipher. Besides, that's what agents, editors, and publishers' jobs are anyway. Nope. The job is to skim the cream from the whey.

3. Likewise a dissonance to reconcile, less so a balance between detail and summary, more so proportioned context and texture weights suited to a given dramatic contest's necessary emphases of event, setting, characters, complication-conflict, and tone's attitude features as freshly and lively perceived by a viewpoint persona.

Best practice, a query entails a first chapter's dramatic contest setup. Who, when, where, what, why, and how this is a contest questions artfully posed and artfully delayed, subtle answers -- subtlety suited to an age, grade, and cognitive aptitude -- of what a novel is really and truly about human condition-wise.

A synopsis summarizes the whole, and a sample chapter set, usually three, is an excerpt of the body content proper. Combined -- query, synopsis, and sample -- a submission packet contains sufficient content for an auditor to assess if the work suits the house, agent, market, audience, etc., and exhibits prose craft mastery to a suitable degree.

However, more often than not, a first glance at a query letter is brief and cursory, usually an immediate decline because of a busy screener schedule and an artless content appearance, due to haphazard formatting. Nextmost, if the format is passable, if the first line of the substance, the pitch line, lacks a contest implication, maybe a second line will, maybe a third line. If not, time's up. Declined.

How to introduce a focal persona and imply a contest in one line plagues query writers, most because they don't know what the novel the query introduces is really about. The contest action rambles, doesn't start, doesn't middle, doesn't end, because the writer doesn't know the singular point of the whole contest.

[ August 06, 2016, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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dmsimone
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Thank you Meredith and Extrinsic. You've both been extremely helpful.

I've got to keep working at it :
Oddly enough, I don't mind at all!

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dmsimone
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I've requested feedback on this query in another forum - but I believe a lot of the folks in that forum are likewise inexperienced writers all trying to write queries for the first time. I am getting frustrated there because, though there is a lot of feedback, it's all contradictory and people become mired in bickering over one word (half like my word 'surprise' below, and half do not). They say - add more detail here, or, no that's too much detail, or, why did you remove that detail. If I add every detail it becomes a synopses. Or maybe I am not good at being elegant under query restraints. Sigh. So here is where my query stands now:

Thirteen-year-old Pippa has no idea who—or what—sent the monstrous cloud of smoke that whisked away her father. All she remembers of him is that he has the wild hair of a Viking and his beard smells like pine. Years later, the threat has resurfaced…and it’s hunting her family.

A surprise warning from her missing father sends Pippa’s family to a secret island in the Scottish Hebrides. Her new home feels haunted. Druids cast spells late at night and live in imposing, stone towers. Despite the protection of the Druids, the menacing cloud finds Pippa, but her brother sacrifices himself to save her and is captured. Heartbroken, guilty, and desperate for answers, Pippa discovers a key clue about her father’s past: He spent a majority of his life avoiding a malevolent Norse sorceress, named Kolruna. Pippa is certain Kolruna is behind the kidnapping.

Pippa arms herself with her favorite daggers and commandeers her brother's longship. She sails across the Western Sea, seeking help and information. Pippa makes terrible enemies while her mission becomes increasingly complicated, demanding her to take great risks that endanger herself and her friends. Emboldened by her early successes and forced into a difficult decision, Pippa trades her voice for the ability to face Kolruna. Too late, Pippa realizes the price is steeper than she is originally led to believe because her voice might never return. Pippa justifies stealing and lying, and even learns to perform blood magic—anything to find her brother.

I am submitting for your consideration LIKE A RICH JEWEL, a middle grade fantasy novel steeped in the folklore of ninth century Scotland. It is complete at 76,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of Nany Farmer’s Sea of Trolls and The Fairie Wars series by Herbie Brennan.

Thanks!
Danielle

[ August 07, 2016, 11:10 PM: Message edited by: dmsimone ]

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extrinsic
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Interpreting critique is as much a skill as prose writing. Understanding past individual tastes, sentiments, and sensibilities is a core critique interpretation component. Critiquers who bog down in only mechanical minutia -- grammar -- signal they struggle to find craft points that work, as well as craft points that don't work. That works-doesn't work aspect is the only point to consider.

More detail or less detail? Nope. Artful specificity focus. Yes. Otherwise, a query's only function is to entice an agent, anymore, used to be acquisition editors, to read further, hopefully, eventually, read a full, and offer representation.

The several versions don't work for me, still forced and tepid language, and kitchen sink syndrome. Like a watering hole bar that offers an extensive menu of pub foods, all prepackaged, pre-prepared, straight from the freezer into a scorched, rancid-fat fryer, the kitchen sink syndrome offers an overwhelming array of unsavory details from which none stand out.

Like all things prose, query unity, coherence, and concision are foremost parameters. In other words, ease of reading and comprehension, comprehension in particular of a single focal point.

A kitchen sink syndrome query also signals that a novel doesn't know what it's about. Such a query, novel itself, says a writer prospects haphazardly for a unifying feature, one feature. Focus is another term for an overlooked unifying criteria.

What? For a middle grade novel, the answer might be what does that age group most want? Likewise, what does a middle grade young woman most want? Two areas for consideration, one, peer cohort popularity; and two, daddy's approval at that brutal age when daddy wittingly or unwittingly withdraws intimacy because of incest taboos. Cruel to understand that latter for a child.

Here, again, is the matter of what Pippa most and personally wants, for unity's, etc., sake: How does her personal want wittingly or unwittingly cause her father's disappearance? And her brother Jamie's? And her own similar and other problems?

Excerpts from The Poetics of Aristotle contain guidance.

"Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events
inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on
us by surprise; and the effect is heightened when, at the same time, they follow
as cause and effect. The tragic wonder will then be greater than if they
happened of themselves or by accident; for even coincidences are most striking
when they have an air of design." (Chapter IX)

An air of design.

"It should, moreover, imitate actions which excite pity and
fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. It follows plainly,
in the first place, that the change of fortune presented must not be the
spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves
neither pity nor fear; it merely shocks us. Nor, again, that of a bad man
passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the
spirit of Tragedy; it possesses no single tragic quality; it neither satisfies
the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. Nor, again, should the downfall of
the utter villain be exhibited. A plot of this kind would, doubtless, satisfy
the moral sense, but it would inspire neither pity nor fear; for pity is aroused
by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. Such an
event, therefore, will be neither pitiful nor terrible. There remains, then, the
character between these two extremes—that of a man who is not eminently good
and just—yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by
some error or frailty." (XIII)

By some error or frailty, moral error or frailty.

So, blues-sky projecting what Pippa might could personally want, perhaps she wants a flashy cloak pin or broach for her kilt maybe. Perhaps something that had belonged to her mother and was interred with her when she was buried in the neighborhood bog. Blue sky, that. The pin, though, is bewitched. Pippa taking it signals to the sorceress where her family is, because Pippa doesn't know the pin is bewitched nor how to keep it from doing its magic. Tragically, Pippa's otherwise innocent deed causes her family and her to suffer. Such is focus, a unifying coherent, concise feature that then is the fount of a whole narrative's contest action.

"Since the objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either
of a higher or a lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these
divisions, goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral
differences), it follows that we must represent men either as better than in
real life, or as worse, or as they are. . . . Now it is evident that each of the modes of imitation above mentioned will
exhibit these differences, and become a distinct kind in imitating objects that
are thus distinct." (II)

Is Pippa better than people are in real life, or worse, or as they are? Does she yield to all wicked temptations? Or is she so pure of being that she doesn't yield at all? Or is she of an average moral aptitude? Is she "not eminently good
and just—yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by
some [minor at first] error or frailty"? (brackets mine)

"But most important of all is the structure of the incidents. For Tragedy is an
imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in
action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. Now character determines
men's qualities, but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.
Dramatic action, therefore, is not with a view to the representation of
character: character comes in as subsidiary to the actions. Hence the incidents
and the plot are the end of a tragedy; and the end is the chief thing of all.
Again, without action there cannot be a tragedy; there may be without character." (VI)

In short, drama, whether Aristotlean tragedy, or the present-day admixture of comedy and tragedy; that is, comedy begins with bad fortune and becomes good fortune for an outcome, and tragedy starts from good fortune and becomes bad fortune. Both, in the general present-day maturation tableaus of most all narratives, and middle grade and young adult in particular, is personally problematized personal growth at a proportionate personal cost, like loss of childhood's blissful innocence exchanged for adulthood privileges, responsibilities, and anxieties, or bildungsroman -- maturation narrative.

Pippa, for best practice reader effect; agent, editor, publisher, audience, etc.; causes her own problems that only she then can personally strive and suffers to satisfy.

Consider, again, such a tangible personal want, as the pilfered grave goods above, for example, (maybe her knives?) for Pippa that causes the contest action commencement. That's what a query should best practice detail: self-incited contest action commencement.

[ August 08, 2016, 11:17 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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For what it's worth, I feel like the latest version of the query is the most powerful. I don't feel qualified to provide feedback beyond that, but it seems to me that you're at least headed in the right direction.
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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by dmsimone:
I've requested feedback on this query in another forum - but I believe a lot of the folks in that forum are likewise inexperienced writers all trying to write queries for the first time. I am getting frustrated there because, though there is a lot of feedback, it's all contradictory and people become mired in bickering over one word (half like my word 'surprise' below, and half do not). They say - add more detail here, or, no that's too much detail, or, why did you remove that detail. If I add every detail it becomes a synopses. Or maybe I am not good at being elegant under query restraints. Sigh. So here is where my query stands now:

Only you can decide which advice to take and which to ignore. Part of that is how much you trust the people giving the advice. Part is whether or not, after some reflection, the advice feels right to you.

If one area is consistently pointed out, there's likely a problem there. But the proposed solution may not be the right one.

Ultimately, it's your work and only you can decide.

quote:
Thirteen-year-old Pippa has no idea who—or what—sent the monstrous cloud of smoke that whisked away her father. All she remembers of him is that he has the wild hair of a Viking and his beard smells like pine. Years later, the threat has resurfaced…and it’s hunting her family.
Good beginning. I feel like the word "threat" here may be too generic, but I'm not sure what to suggest in its place.

quote:
A surprise warning from her missing father sends Pippa’s family to a secret island in the Scottish Hebrides.
Much better. [Smile]

quote:
Her new home feels haunted. Druids cast spells late at night and live in imposing, stone towers. Despite the protection of the Druids, the menacing cloud finds Pippa, but her brother sacrifices himself to save her and is captured.
This may be a place where detail is actually getting in the way. Do we really need to know about the imposing stone towers? Or is the fact the Druids are providing magical protection enough?

quote:
Heartbroken, guilty, and desperate for answers, Pippa discovers a key clue about her father’s past: He spent a majority of his life avoiding a malevolent Norse sorceress, named Kolruna. Pippa is certain Kolruna is behind the kidnapping.

Pippa arms herself with her favorite daggers and commandeers her brother's longship. She sails across the Western Sea, seeking help and information. Pippa makes terrible enemies while her mission becomes increasingly complicated, demanding her to take great risks that endanger herself and her friends. Emboldened by her early successes and forced into a difficult decision, Pippa trades her voice for the ability to face Kolruna. Too late, Pippa realizes the price is steeper than she is originally led to believe because her voice might never return. Pippa justifies stealing and lying, and even learns to perform blood magic—anything to find her brother.

This paragraph is rather long. (The query is just a little long, too.) And it's starting to sound a little like a mini-synopsis.

I think this could be pared down to the choice Pippa makes--taking her daggers and her brother's ship and sailing across the Western Sea. I'd probably leave out the trading her voice part in favor of the simpler, and juicier description from the first query:

quote:
She steals, allies with ogres, and learns blood magic from a cagey sorceress.
That's just my preference, though.

quote:
I am submitting for your consideration LIKE A RICH JEWEL, a middle grade fantasy novel steeped in the folklore of ninth century Scotland. It is complete at 76,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of Nany Farmer’s Sea of Trolls and The Fairie Wars series by Herbie Brennan.
Again, my preference. I would waste words with "I am submitting for your consideration . . ." That's a given.

[/QB][/QUOTE]

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dmsimone
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Again...thank you all! I will keep plugging!
Thanks,
Danielle

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dmsimone
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As luck would have it - the Query Shark herself is teaching a query workshop at the conference I'm attending tomorrow in NYC - so excited!
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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by dmsimone:
As luck would have it - the Query Shark herself is teaching a query workshop at the conference I'm attending tomorrow in NYC - so excited!

Woot! [Big Grin] I hope that goes well.
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dmsimone
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Not only did I get to hear Janet Reid speak - she is absolutely amazing so if you ever have the opportunity to meet her or hear her speak, take advantage of it - but she looked at my query afterwards. What an opportunity, right? She told me exactly where it needed to start, what to take out, and how to have it end.

The woman is something of a rock star.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by dmsimone:
Not only did I get to hear Janet Reid speak - she is absolutely amazing so if you ever have the opportunity to meet her or hear her speak, take advantage of it - but she looked at my query afterwards. What an opportunity, right? She told me exactly where it needed to start, what to take out, and how to have it end.

The woman is something of a rock star.

Terrific!
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extrinsic
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Eagerly anticipate the next query iteration!

[ August 13, 2016, 09:14 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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dmsimone
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I'm afraid to post it. I've had a lot of folks look at it from different forums and have received so much contradictory information that I no longer trust myself to know what is right and what is wrong...even though there is no such thing as right and wrong with queries. It has gone through so many iterations. It can probably improve still, but I'd like to sit on it a little while first.

However...when I pitched today at something called Pitch Slam, I delivered a loosey goosey incarnation of my new query (which I reworked frantically late Friday night and then memorized). Of the 7 agents I pitched to, 6 requested partials and 1 requested a full. So I think I did something right [Smile]

Quite honestly, I'm a little terrified. I didn't think anyone would actually want to see my MS.

[ August 13, 2016, 11:12 PM: Message edited by: dmsimone ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Whoo-hoo! Way to go, dmsimone! That is very exciting. (Sort of like being picked by all the people on THE VOICE, right?)

[Big Grin]

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D. R. Brown, Jr.
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Congratulations dmsimone.
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