Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Query Crit #3

Dear Awesome Agent,

Daphne Chase, an 18-year-old literary prodigy and daughter of Abelard Chase -- a famous, eccentric author known as the hero of his generation -- was not afraid of the shadow lurking around her family's grounds. It had been stalking her for nearly a year now, tirelessly watching her window day after day, without food or water, without rest. She knew he was after her, and only her. She was the only one who could see it: a shadow that had found a way to stand on the ground. He was nothing more than a dark mass with a man's silhouette. Faceless. Intentions hidden. But Daphne wasn't afraid of him. At least not yet.

When Daphne goes to college to study creative writing against her father's will, the shadow follows her. She is certain she will never go back home. She wants to be a writer, write a novel and start her career away from Abelard. Despite neither calling nor answering his phone calls, Abelard manages to interfere in her life by booking a room in the Franks' Inn, a house for students who don't want to live in the dorms. Daphne, an introvert, finds herself surrounded by extroverts and the many privileges that come from living with passionate young adults. They clash daily. They are loud. Some of them love her. Some of them hate her. One of them is an old high school friend. She wants to be away of them all, allies or enemies, to concentrate on her book.

During a visit to the woods that surround the school, the shadow surprises Daphne and introduces himself as Creativity. He is the entity that has inspired both tranquility and destruction. The voice in the back of her head. The dreams she sees when asleep and awake. He says she is ready to be just as successful as her father is. He's chosen her for a deal: in exchange of her love and devotion to him, he will help her write a masterpiece. 

Under pressure, Daphne agrees on a deal with Creativity and gives him a name: Apollo. He soon takes human form, and teaches her to write words in the air. Words that change into events. It's like watching a movie from within. Daphne can give her enemies the most terrible fates, ranging from being kidnapped by bizarre bandits on horses to being crushed by giant trolls. What Daphne had not imagined, though, was that Apollo sees her stories as hints to what she actually wished to happen and uses his influence on people to change their destinies to tragedies that resemble Daphne's ideas the most. Shocked that she is to blame for their sad fate, Daphne tries to run away from the deal, but Apollo punishes her by taking away the people she loved the most. She has to choose between keeping her allegiance to him and finishing the book she dreams to write, or fighting him to keep the few people that remain in her life.

DAPHNE'S BOOK is a 100,000-word New Adult fantasy and romance mashup, a cross between Death Note and Stephen Poliakoff's Capturing Mary, and will particularly interest readers who want to read about flawed characters that are neither entirely good nor bad, or characters that are trying to reconnect with family and friends by listening to their stories, instead of selfishly focusing on themselves.


  1. For a query it is too long, the general rule is for your query to be about 250 words and yours is 499 so I think you can definitely cut it down and get rid of some excess words, only keep what is important to the structure of a query: who is the MC, what are the stakes, what are the consequences. For example I think you can cut down your opening paragraph to this:

    Daphne Chase, an 18-year-old literary prodigy and daughter of Abelard Chase -- a famous, eccentric author known as the hero of his generation -- was not afraid of the shadow lurking around her family's grounds. It had been stalking her for nearly a year now, tirelessly watching her window day after day, but Daphne wasn't afraid of him. At least not yet.

    Your story definitely has an interesting premise but the strength of your storyline gets lost because the query is too long and starts to sound like a synopsis so in the end I am intrigued but not really clear on what your story is about.

  2. I agree that at the moment this is too long for a query and that the length is getting in the way of your story.

    I really like A.J. suggestions for a shortened into paragraph. Then, I would cut the second paragraph (which is nice but doesn't belong in a query), and with the third paragraph I'd focus on the fact that the shadow turns out to be Creativity, and then get right into the deal he puts forward. I think the real meat of your query is in the fourth paragraph, and I would make sure the spotlight is on that part. That's where the conflict really ratchets up and becomes super interesting.

    It sounds like a great story. Good luck!

  3. Agree with A.J. & Ann...

    Very lengthy, you could easily cut this to 2 paragraphs and half the length. I like how A.J. condensed your 1st paragraph, so I'd take that for your first paragraph, then take elements from your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th paragraphs--the KEY information--and create an altogether new 2nd paragraph.

    Also, watch your tenses. In the opening sentence, I noticed a switch between present and past, and it really threw me. I realize you're trying to insinuate backstory (at least, I think you are), but the abrupt change had me scratching my head.

    Your final para with the title & w/c... too long. I'd cut everything after the second title. The first premise is too obvious--most people don't want to read about someone entirely good or entirely bad, they expect a flawed character. And, the 2nd... I'm not sure anyone really goes to look for a book with this in mind. They look at the premise, the plot, the characters, or some mix of these, and decide to buy it, not because the MC is going through something they can relate to. Some of my favorite books are ones where the MC and I have almost nothing in common, including life experiences.

    Overall, I like your premise. I'm at the upper end of "new adult" (I think--it's such a new term, I'm not sure what qualifies as "new adult") and would be likely to pick up the book, even though fantasy's not my normal thing.

  4. Whoa! I looked at this and just froze. Aim for 250 words maximum for the meat of the query. : )

  5. I have to agree with Escape Artist et al, this query is far, far too long.

    One: Try to limit this to two characters and ONLY show the main plot. The whole thing with her father - that's a sub plot (or it looks like it's one from what I read), you can cut all of that (although I love the idea of an author as a hero!! :-) ).

    Lots of good advice here already, I'm feeling very redundant!

  6. I have to echo what everyone else is saying here. You have a great story, but I'd cut the query in half. I think A.J. has a great alternative for the first paragraph, and then I'd tighten the rest from there. But good luck with it because it sounds like a very interesting premise.

  7. Thank you, everyone, for your comments, suggestions and kind words. This is really, really helpful. I'm getting ready to start querying again, and this will certainly help me strengthen my approach.

  8. I agree with everyone else. I think it's lenghty, and that you give away too much of the story.

    Also, I suggest that you greet the agent or editor in the beginning. Perhaps, it would also be interesting to introduce it like, "I hope you enjoy reading this story about [short sentence that resumes your work]. I am really passionate about [xxx] (or like writers X and Y who inspired me," and then maybe you could write a bit about how you had the idea to write this or a little about your creative process.
    I think you should describe the whole story in one paragraph. Make sure the query is not longer than a page!

    I hope this helps!

  9. My thoughts are in line with the others – this is WAY too long. Cut, cut, cut. Your first three paragraphs could be reduced to one sentence each and still convey the same meaning. Be careful not to mistake wordiness for voice. The meat of your action happens in the fourth paragraph and it sounds very intriguing, but could also use some pruning and rephrasing for clarity.

    Also, a word about New Adult – most agents are not looking for it, namely because only one major pub is looking for it. Some smaller presses are, but be prepared to be rejected based on the age alone. I’m not saying it’s right/good/fair, just that it’s highly likely to happen. (I attempted to query a college-age main character for about a year before I came to my senses. It was the most common reasons I got rejected). Also, this plot does not sound like it needs to be New Adult. You could easily age her down a year, put her in a private school, and call it a day. Or you could age her up and put it squarely in the Adult realm. (Again, I realize you probably don’t want to hear that, but it’s in your best interest to give it serious consideration. Just sayin!)

    Good luck! :)