Sunday, March 28, 2010

#151-revised 11x

Dear Query Shark,

When sixteen-year-old Aine O'Shea kills an innocent boy, her half human, half fey self is thrust into adventures that hardly leave her time to breathe.




A guardian is assigned to train her, to keep her alive, and it's easy enough to protect her against the Unseen creatures of the Faerie realm who won't stop until she is dead. But, her body needs constant doses of human feelings to help feed her human DNA that fights her immortal DNA to keep her body functioning. Ronan is forbidden to express emotions, and when Aine discovers herself falling for the very arrogant, very aloof, devilishly good looking Ronan, Aine must dig deeper to uncover the restrictions holding his emotions back, or risk more than she can handle.


A close member of Ronan's band of guards catches the two embracing, the betrayer reveals his true loathing of half-breeds and leads demons to kill Aine. Without Aine, there is the threat that the wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble, and then she and the humans will be killed. Aine must find the strength to fight those who want her dead, and her emotions must find a way to open the guard's feelings or she can never have him.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

 You've got the pieces in the right place, but the writing still isn't publishable in the general trade market. 

I'm going to just repeat what I said below:


First, don't worry about the query any more. You need to get down to some basics: the writing. 

One way to learn good writing is to absorb it. Not just read it: absorb it. As far as I know there is only one way to really do this and it's hard to do.  You write out an entire book. Not YOUR book, but one of the books you think is a comp for yours. Or better yet, more than one book. 

And by write out, I mean you type them into your computer word for word. The action of writing/typing as well as reading will get this into your brain more deeply than reading alone. 

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Dear Query Shark,


Sixteen-year-old Aine O'Shea likes to think she's a normal teen the day her aunt lets her go on her very first date. She is but instead of ending in a kiss, flames consume her date.

Her dreams of being ordinary are crushed when she learns she's a half-breed sent from Faerie, where half-breeds are put to death. No longer safely hidden in the human world, her mother, the Queen, sends a guard named Ronan to offer Aine the one thing she doesn't want: protection.

With her protector, she lacks her independence. However, as much as she hates relying on someone, Aine comes to understand the need of others for touch/emotion and it's essential for her survival.

Ronan isn't fey or human, but he's the only one Aine is able to touch without injuring, and that touch becomes a need for Aine. Ronan is an enigma and turns away from Aine's attempts at touch, and cracking into Ronan's feelings makes breaking into Fort Knox easy. But when she's in dire need of either or both, he's there unexpected, like a typhoon.

When a quintessential member of Ronan's crew secretly despises half-breeds and is an assumed close friend to Ronan, catches the two embracing he deceives them by leading demons to kill Aine. Without Aine, there is threat the wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble, and she, then humans, will be killed. Aine must find the strength to fight those who wish her dead, and her emotions must find a way to open the guard's feelings or she can never have him.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will enjoy Lovely Dark Fallen.
My young adult novel, Lovely Dark Fallen, is a standalone Dark Paranormal Romance with series potential complete at 89,000 words. My story features two alternating points of view.

I am a member of YALITCHAT.org <http://yalitchat.org/> , Romance Writers of America, and Society of Southwestern Authors. I hold an MBA in Accounting, teach a yearly class on Finance for writers at yalitchat.org <http://yalitchat.org/> via Skype, and have taken classes via writer's digest on learning the craft.


DO NOT INCLUDE URLs or links. It's one fast way to end up in the spam folder. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

You've got the pieces in place but the writing is still awkward and clunky. I know you can't see this or you'd have fixed it.

First, don't worry about the query any more. You need to get down to some basics: the writing. 

One way to learn good writing is to absorb it. Not just read it: absorb it. As far as I know there is only one way to really do this and it's hard to do.  You write out an entire book. Not YOUR book, but one of the books you think is a comp for yours. Or better yet, more than one book. 

And by write out, I mean you type them into your computer word for word. The action of writing/typing as well as reading will get this into your brain more deeply than reading alone. 

One of the best ways to memorize poems is to write them down. Then try to write from memory.



 --------------------
Dear Query Shark,

Sixteen-year-old Aine O'Shea accidently kills her first date. At the touch of her hand he burst into flames. Nothings left but a head full of ashes and a singed dress.

Head full of ashes? Her head is full of ashes? Her head is a bucket?   EVERY word. You have to look at EVERY word.

"At the touch of her hand he bursts into flames" is awkward. Consider: he bursts into flames at the touch of her hand. 

You've got to learn to recognize awkward writing and get rid of it. Everyone writes this way on their FIRST draft, but you fix it on subsequent drafts.  You're on #9.  This should stand out to you now.

Aine is a target. Her mother, the Queen of Faerie, sent her to live on Earth for her safekeeping. Now the Queen sends Ronan to defend her, Aine doesn’t want protection. She only wants to be able to touch another human being. Aine learns from him she’s a half-breed sent from Faerie.

You've gone from the ability to set people on fire (an ability I covet) to "a target." They're not connected.  If Her Maj the Q had sent Ronan to Earth with asbestos underpants and a fire extinguisher to keep Aine from setting BoyToy #2 on fire, we would see the linkage.  As it is now, there's no connection between paragraph 1 and paragraph 2.

Ronan relocates Aine from Ireland to America after an attack by Fomori, water demons, that manage to poison her. If the poison is not removed, she’ll die. Ronan’s crew searches for a cure but when a core member deceives them, a cure seems unlikely. Without Aine, the wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble, and humans will be enslaved.

Core member? That smacks of gov-speak, the awkward beyond words writing of government bureaucracy.  Have you EVER called a friend or cohort or companion in crime a "core member?"  No you have not.
"Seems unlikely" is a tepid way to phrase anything. You've got to use red-meat words that drip blood. Leave the vegan words for someone else.

"The wall between Earth and Faerie will crumble and humans will be enslaved."  Ok, this plain just does not work as the stakes of the novel. It has to be something that happens to the characters themselves.  "Humans" are not characters although some of the characters may be human.  What are the stakes for Aine? For Ronan? For Her Maj, the mother of all fire-setters?



Lovely Dark Fallen, a young adult Dark Paranormal Romance is a stand-alone novel complete at 89,000 words. It has series potential.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will like Lovely Dark Fallen.
I am a member of YAlitchat.org <http://YAlitchat.org> , RWA, and SSA.

Don't include links in a query.  It makes it much more likely your query will get flagged as spam.
And what is SSA?  When I google it, I'm pretty sure you don't mean Social Security.

This is MUCH improved but you're still not seeing some of the basics.  Time to go back and read the archives again. Really REALLY study the changes people make that get them to yes.  


Let this sit awhile for your eye to get sharper about making paragraphs flow smoothly.



-------------------
Dear QueryShark

Sixteen-year-old Aine (Awn-ye) O'Shea accidently kills her first date. He bursts into flames upon accepting her hand, and she can hardly believe her luck. After all, it took a promise to clean the house and cook for an entire month in order for her aunt to allow her to go on the date in the first place. And what does she have to show for it? Nothing but ashes and a singed dress.

I've never understood why queriers put pronunciation guidelines or nicknames ["Elizabeth (Liz) Lemon"] in queries. Call her Liz Lemon. And honestly I'm not planning to recite this. In other words, like everything else you absolutely do not NEED to have--leave it out.

This paragraph is in the wrong order. He's dead, and you're working backward to how hard it was to get a date. We know that however hard it was to get a date is NOT NEEDED cause the guy is now dead, and she's figured out she killed him.

Unfold your story in the right order. And better yet, leave out all the backstory. He's dead. That's the big thing.



Then Ronan emerges from the smoke right after with the trees still blazing and he terrifies Aine. And he still approaches and she finds him immune to her fire with a touch of his hands on her. He replaces her pain with a desire dangerous for the both of them.

And now we're back to Cinders the dead date. A query letter is too short form to do much back and forth. Organize your sentences simply both internally and externally. Subject, verb, object/clause. The first event is mentioned first. Then the next one.

This gives you the correct form. Once you have the correct form you can edit. Editing incorrect form gives you mishmash. Editing correct form gives you elegance. You've got to train your eye to recognize the difference.

Aine learns from him she’s a half-breed sent from Faerie. Hher mother, the queen, sent her to live on Earth for her protection. When Aine’s power of fire awakens and she became a beacon to those who want her dead. tThe Queen of Faerie sends Ronan to train Aine and be her guardian.

At this stage I hate to quibble about names and I'm not the best resource on names in urban fantasy books but "Faerie" is something I've only seen to describe a kind of being, not a place. Commenters might have different information; you should pay attention to that.  I'm wrong.

Also you can see I've taken out Everything You Do Not Need and adjusted the rhythm of the sentences.  You've got to be able to hear how clunky things sound and then fix them. Everyone writes clunky stuff. The trick is to recognize it and edit it out.  


Part of the training is to remove Aine from Ireland and take her to America. Before Aine can leave she is attacked by three Fomori, water demons, that manage to poison her. If the poison is not removed, she’ll die.

Is there a lot of moving around here? Faerie to Earth, Ireland to America. You really need to focus on the stakes. What's important is WHY three Fomori attack her, not when it happens. What does the antagonist want and how is Aine keeping him from it?

You can't put everything in a query. You shouldn't put all this info in a query. It muddles the point.

Ronan’s crew searches for a cure to save Aine’s life. He stays behind but when their forbidden love is discovered, Ronan is put in a coma. She’s left alone and one of Ronan’s trusted team has deceived them all. The betrayer leads the Fomori to Aine where she is tortured. If she dies, the walls will crumble between Faerie and Earth.

For breaking the one rule the Queen had restricted Ronan to not break, he must face the tribunal for sentencing. But he chooses to risk their persecution by staying with Aine. Together they can close the wall of Faerie forever.


Leave out all this stuff or you end up with synopsis NOT an enticement to read more.
Focus on what's at stake.

Lovely Dark Fallen, a young adult Dark Paranormal Romance is complete at 89,000 words.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will like Lovely Dark Fallen.


Don't edit this. Start over. Write each sentence with subject then verb then object/clause. Make sure the events flow in chronological order. When you do that, you'll have the framework.  THEN edit to make it pretty and graceful.

You have to practice at the barre for hours before you get to put on the tutu and toe shoes and swoop elegantly around the stage.

And if there's one thing we sharks now about it's dancing:


----

Dear Query Shark,

Sixteen-year-old Isis O'Shea never meant to kill her first date. All she wanted to do is hold his hand and he burst into flames. That’s when she discovers her curse.

Leave out that last sentence so that you really start with a (pardon the pun) bang. You cover the curse stuff later, and that's the best way to do it.


She’s distraught, but when Shadow Man emerges and she finds him immune to her fire, he replaces her pain with a desire dangerous for the both of them.

I'm confused here. Shadow Man emerges from the immolated first date? He arrives later? Also, this is the only time you mention him. Remember, if you put him in the query right after you introduce Isis, I think he's a major character. I expect to see him as part of the story.  If he's NOT, he doesn't belong here.

Ronan is a mercenary under contract by the Queen of Faerie and tells Isis learns she’s a half-breed sent from Faerie. Her mother, the queen, sent her to live on Eearth for her protection. That changes wWhen Isis’s power of fire awakens and she became a beacon to those who want her dead. (what happens??)

(this is what happens:) The Queen of Faierie sends  Ronan is to train Isis and be her guardian.

Part of the training is to remove Isis from Ireland and take her to America. Before Isis can leave she is attacked by three Fomori, water demons, that manage to poison her. If the poison is not removed, she’ll die.

Ronan and his crew are to search for a cure to save Isis’s life.

And right here you have the first part of a pretty good query. What you're missing is WHY we should care if Isis croaks.  What Bad Thing will happen if she dies? What Bad Thing (or even better what Worse Thing will happen if she lives?)  That's what I mean when I beat you over the head and mouse about What's At Stake.

It's a race for Isis to decipher lies and truths and discover her true path of destiny to save the world from eternal darkness by demons that suck energy. She has to find who leads them before saving herself from death. She does love Ronan, but she's afraid he’s more of a threat with the ability to erase minds.

Here's where you go splat. This is mushy, with no specifics and no sense of which world she's saving. Eternal darkness by energy sucking demons isn't really very interesting.  It's too general. Give us a good blood curdling terrifying bad guy that we think is very hot, and you've got yourself some delicious evil.


FALLIN', a young adult Dark Paranormal Romance is complete at 89,000 words.

Well, romance...hmmm...I sure didn't see anything here that looked like a romance. 

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will find like  FALLIN’ in a similar style of storytelling. 

"will find FALLIN in a similar style.."  you don't find in. You find to be: "readers will find Fallin to be a similar style of storytelling."  This is the kind of clunky writing that bodes ill for the manuscript.  If I see this in a query, it's almost always an instant rejection even if I Love Love Love the concept.  I don't want to have to edit a manuscript down to the verbs to get it ready to show an editor. That's YOUR job.  You've absolutely got to do this right.



I hold an MBA, teach a yearly class on how to treat writing as a business at yalitchat.org, via webinar, have taken classes via writer’s digest on learning the craft. I am a proud member of YAlitchat.org, RWA, and SSA.

This version, while not perfect, is SoMuchBetter I feel like giving you a big shark kiss.
How could you resist?







Revise. Resend. You're on the right track.

---------------------------------

Dear Query Shark,

Bitch. She has to be. Not a choice but a must.

This isn't a log line.  It's also really off-putting if (like me) you don't particularly warm to the idea of tough females (of any species) being called bitch.  You're better off to delete this.

Sixteen-year old Anaroha just wants to be held without burning the one at the other end.

Other end? That's a very strange, and not particularly illuminating way to describe someone touching you.  Unless you're a boa constrictor, in which case it makes sense.

When malicious water demons try to kill her and she expels a flame from her hands stopping them, she begins to understand why she's so hot.

The construction here is off balance.  When malicious water demons try to kill her is not a complete clause. The means you don't have an "and" with another clause following it.  
You've got to develop an ear for this kind of thing.  This is the level of writing I see in first drafts. Everyone writes with a tin ear then.  It's the revisions that polish it up. 

Then, Ronan appears after the assault and shows her she is not a freak by a simple caress. As the school year comes to an end, Anaroha has doubts she will ever know what a simple hug, hell, even more, feels like from Ronan as he distances himself from her.

At this point, I don't understand a single thing that's going on.  You've got events but no plot. No choices, no stakes.  And it's not polished.
Here's where I stop reading. 

Between being trained by RonanAnaroha uncovers a shocking secret about her new world - a secret that binds her fate to Ronan's in a way neither could have ever anticipated. He is summoned by the Faerie court and she will have to decide to follow or stay.

There are places for long ass sentences. A query letter isn't one of them.  

Staying she loses him but will be safe, alone, without contact. If she goes, Anaroha will never regain a normal life but may discover the cure to gain control of her heat. But here's the catch, she goes, the fey will kill her.

FALLIN', a young adult Paranormal Fantasy is complete at 100,000 words.

Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will hopefully find FALLIN' in a similar style of storytelling, geared towards young adults.

I am a member of SSA, IWWG, and YAlitchat.com

Thank you for your consideration.

I said this on the last revision:
I don't have any sense of the specifics of this story. Start over. Write short concise sentences about the problems and choices that Anaroha faces.

It still applies.





Also, stop doing everything you're involved with that's publishing related. Get a critique group, or a writing group. Focus ONLY on your writing.  You aren't close to being publishable yet.  Every minute you spend on anything BUT improving your craft is an unwise use of scarce resources.

You've revised six times, and this is still a mess. That means your novel is too.  You're not ready to query.  


------------------
Dear Query Shark,

Faerie has a whole different meaning to sixteen year old Anaroha when malicious water demons try to kill her.

I don't understand this sentence.  I know what a faerie is.  I know what water demons are. Why doesn't Anaroha?

The first time she stops them, she begins to understand why her body temperature runs high all the time and no one can touch her.



Your sentence reveals information in the wrong chronological order: her body temp runs so high no one can touch her; she understands why after the water demons try to drown her.   You have to tell us the problem before you explain the solution.


Before she can absorb the new reality she is forced from her provincial ocean town in Dingle, Ireland to the deserts of Arizona. Anaroha's biggest challenge is accepting the changes within herself. As the school year comes to an end, Anaroha has doubts she will ever know what a simple hug feels like from a loved one.

Forced? why? how?  And what changes? And if she has doubts she'll ever know what a simple hug feels like, how will she know to want it, or even understand she's lacking something.  I can't fly so I don't feel the lack of wind beneath my wings.  
This is all jumbled and unfocused.  We're two paragraphs in and I have no idea what's going on here.


Between being trained by Ronan, an unemotional warrior, and the only one she knows that doesn't burn from her contact, who she stupidly allows herself to love, and her life being threatened, she will find the strength to face her enemies or die trying. Anaroha uncovers a shocking secret about her new world - a secret that binds her fate to Ronan's in a way neither could have ever anticipated.
FALLIN', a young adult Paranormal Fantasy is complete at 100,000 words.

You've just dropped Ronan in here as though we know who he is. Who's threatening her? The water demons? 




Fans of the Fever series books by Karen Marie Moning will hopefully find FALLIN' in a similar style of storytelling, geared towards young adults.

I am a member of SSA, IWWG, and YAlitchat.com

Thank you for your consideration.


I don't have any sense of the specifics of this story. Start over. Write short concise sentences about the problems and choices that Anaroha faces.

---------------
Dear Query Shark:

Inaroha Rein just wants to swim. Heart pounding against her chest, threatening to burst through, terror freezes her feet to the sand of the southwest Irish shores when three fomori, water demons, emerge and plague the beach with horror. They snatch three children unlucky enough to be snared into their tentacles. Hearing the chaos of the people all around Inaroha faces her first baptism of fire.

What does chaos sound like? Think about this for a second. Chaos isn't auditory. Chaos is visual. What does she actually hear?

And it's not clear to me who the subject of that sentence is. Is it Inaroha who hears the chaos, or is it someone else who hears the chaos of the people surrounding Inaroha who then faces her first baptism of fire.

If I don't know who you're talking about, it's a very bad sign.

Simplify. Simplify.


After a fierce battle in the ocean, a stranger that has haunted her dreams becomes visible. Ronan is not from earth but from the ancient world of the fairy realm. He looks human. Acts human. His eyes show the truth. He tells Inaroha she must leave and go with him to the deserts of America to train with him.

What happened to the water demons? And if Inaroha just wants to swim, and some dude shows up talking about the desert, why doesn't she just say "later alligator" and swim off? Even fantasy has to make sense.

The summer before her junior year, she is alienated and immersed into the southwestern American culture where she finds her strength from Ronan and his guidance. Forced to accept the truth about the world she’s from, the fairy realm, she must chose to return and fight in the war or stay and be stalked by the fomori.

This is so general and unspecific as to be boring. Also, it's not the story. It's the prelude to the story. Nothing remotely resembling a plot has shown up yet.


Mean while, Inaroha struggles with emotions for Ronan as he continually rejects her even though she knows underneath his staunch face he feels the same. The feeling of being alone and rebuff Inaroha’s father disappears.

Staunch face? What the hell is a staunch face?


Fallin’ is a young adult novel approximately 120,000 words that follows Inaroha through physical and emotional fights as she begins to finally take the responsibility to solve the mystery of her life before it destroys her.

On a side note, I am a member to IWWG, WD, AZ authors association and YAlitchat.com .

A member to?

Thank you for your time.


There's no plot. There are no specifics. This is still a mess.






----------------------------

Dear Query Shark,

Inaroha remembers only Ireland as her place of birth. A contemporary story, 77,000 words, of a modern day Jean D’Arc meets the mystic world of Irish mythology.


She is not French, nor Irish. Born from the goddess Belisama

If she's not French or Irish why did you mention Jean D'Arc and Irish mythology?

The clause "fathered by a mortal she does not know her birthright" doesn't make sense. You're missing a word or some punctuation or something. Does her mortal father give her some sort of special right or privilege (ie birthright)? Otherwise, why would she not know?


She meets her mother, whom she mistakes as an angel. She is presented with a gift disguised as a scar on her body in the shape of a black rose.

These are events, not plot. "She meets her mother" raises more questions than it answers. If she doesn't know either of her parents, where is she? And it's "mistakes for an angel" not "mistakes as an angel."

On her sixteenth birthday she is attacked.
Why?

Saving her little cousin’s from a near drowning from three sirens wakens her mystical powers.
What happened to the attack? Cousin's is not the plural of cousin.

You've got three sirens added to the mix now, and some mystical powers. In other words, you've got way too much going on here. Focus on what happens to her and what choice she must make.


Powers buried under the rose.
I'm sorry, but wtf? This doesn't make sense to me.
Oh wait, buried under the scar shaped as a black rose?
I still don't get it.


She must leave her town.
What town? Why?

Leaving will keep her family safe…for now.
Why? I thought she didn't know her parents?

Three sirens are tracking her movement and are out to kill her.
Yea, well, me too. This is really the first time we get a sense of any conflict.

Inaroha has attracted the attention of three malevolent sirens who want to eat her for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That's the start of the query.


Accompanying her on this journey is Ronan, a guardian from another realm.
Another realm? Like France? Another dimension? The Fifth perhaps? Be specific.

He looks human enough. Acts human enough. His eyes show the truth.
This, finally, conveys a sense of character. More of this. Less of everything else.

Like a kaleidoscope they change color to reveal hidden emotions on a facade void of human expression.
Yea, less of this kind of sentence, which undercuts the simplicity and clarity of the three sentences before it.

Ronan marches into her life to save her from herself.
And here I thought the three sirens were the problem.

He has trained as a warrior where there was no space or time for emotions.


He must protect her and direct her to accept the throne even if it means his death.
What throne? And why does it mean he's at risk other than the usual warrior stuff?

Hunted and on the move to try and stay safe.
Sentence fragment that doesn't work.

He must keep his emotions buried.
I thought he didn't have any?

He must not fall for her because it will interfere with his military vow. Breaking the vow can lead to expulsion and punishment.
Expulsion from what? And maybe he wants out!


Inaroha’s in the dark about Ronan’s true intentions.
What does she think he wants?

Always ending in a fracas she quarrels with him to get the truth about events happening and the war she witnesses.
Where are the malevolent sirens?
This sentence is so badly organized it almost doesn't make sense. What you need is this: She quarrels with him to get the truth about unfolding events. See the difference?


One step ahead of the enemy may provide a false sense of hope.
This doesn't make sense.

She must train and face trials to lead the men in battle with the use of her gifts to save her world.
This sentence is as awkward as a baby giraffe on ice.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Probably not, but I like your optimism.

Best Regards,


This is better, but it's still a mess. Focus! Focus! Short, declarative sentences.
Leave out the backstory. Tell us what the heroine must choose and what she risks in choosing it or not.


------------------------------------
Dear Query Shark,

FALLIN’ a 77,000-word contemporary YA paranormal fantasy about unveiling sinister lies shoved down our throats as the truth.

You're missing the verb in that sentence. It's also not the most enticing thing about your book. Yes you need the page count and the category, but they should come at the END of the query.

INAROHA’s heart hammers loudly, raucous screaming in her ears as the pounding threatens to crack her chest cavity. New challenges in the twilight hours terrorize her psyche as visions reveal bloodcurdling events.

You need less about some specific fear and more about the main conflict. Don't capitalize the names of the characters, that's for film scripts.

Inaroha faces a choice. What is it?
What are the consequences of that choice?
What are the stakes?
Why does it matter?

Those are the questions that should be answered in the first paragraph of the query.

RONAN marches into her life to save her from herself. He is a guardian from another world but Inaroha’s in the dark about his true intentions. He’s a trained warrior where there’s no space or time for egocentric emotions.

This is better, but we still haven't seen the main conflict.

Ascertaining her dreams as potential reality she pieces together a harsh fact of warfare occurring in another multi-verse.

This sentence literally makes no sense. I'm not sure why you're not using basic sentence structure here (noun/verb/object) but you should.

Keeping a grasp on her sanity she learns she’s the cause of the conflict.

These two clauses don't connect.

There’s no easy choice. Rejecting her responsibility leads her to unequivocal death or recognizing her position and living with unbelievable hardships.

Because this follows sentences that don't make sense, we really don't know what you're trying to do here.

Simplify. Write basic declarative sentences. Leave out every single adjective and adverb. Those are the bones of your query. When you have those, you can add the sinew and muscle of adverbs and the haberdashery of adjectives.




I thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


Form rejection.

-------------------








Dear Query Shark,

Inaroha Rein De’Arc knew she was an excellent swimmer from a young age.

It really helps your reader (me) if there are not three unusual names to remember right from the get-go. Use one name.

Her world was turned upside down when she is forced to leave her life in Ireland behind due to a horrendous paranormal event she can’t begin to understand.

This sentence has nothing to do with the preceding sentence. Thus, it's jarring.

I She will soon discover a war in another dimension and she is the reason for the conflict.

I She? Either you've introduced a new character with the worst possible name, or this is a typo.

Here's where I stop reading.

Those who side with her, see her as a savior. Those who oppose her believe she’s an abomination. Her life is in danger and she has a destiny to save the paranormal and her world. Inaroha will face new challenges in her life beyond that of a normal young lady and battle with trying to understand who and what she truly is.

This is so general as to be cliche. It doesn't give us any sense of specifics.

Ronan was sent to guard Inaroha, unbeknownst to her, to save her after the paranormal event.
He is tasked to guild and train her.

task is not a verb. I know you see it like this sometimes (like gift) but it's just not. You don't task someone with a mission. You give/assign/force someone on a mission.

I also think you mean "guide" not "guild" If I hadn't stopped reading before, I'd stop here. This is just careless.

Ronan was trained for over 600 years as a warrior where there was no space or time for human emotions, especially love. An emotion he closed off and saw as chaotic, imbalanced and weak.
Will there be room for the both of them to survive in her world?

I'm sorry, but this does not make sense to me. If you're talking about a 60o+ year old guy (geezer?) who doesn't have space or time for love, surely the question you want to ask is whether he's going to fall for the heroine, NOT whether there is room for them both to survive. Clearly they HAVE survived.

FALLIN’ a series of paranormal fantasy book one ending at 77,000 words.


This sentence does not make sense. This is again, I hope, sloppy proofreading. If you did proofread this letter, and thought this sentence worked, there's a bigger problem.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


And to top this letter off you sent it on a green background with the pretty pictures you see here.

The problem is threefold:
(1) it makes your query harder to read;
(2) the query shows two "attachments" when it arrives (the pictures);
(3) it demonstrates you are clueless about one or both of these:
(3a)how to manipulate your email program;
(3b)how to read directions for queries.


Queries need to be black font on white background. NO fancy email stationery, I don't care how much you love it or think it makes you stand out. It does make you stand out, but not in a way you want.

This is form rejection.

36 comments:

Melissa said...

There's a tense shift in the middle of the second sentence -- that was my first big red flag.

QS, Merriam-Webster disagrees with you about "task." It has an entry for the word as an intransitive verb and says the usage dates to the 14th century.

Catherine said...

"guild" might not be a typo. I think she's trying to say that he is going to teach her the ways of his guild. However, it doesn't really have a place in a query.

Melissa said...

Whoops -- sorry. Transitive verb.

julian said...

re Task.
If it's a transitive verb, doesn't it mean there should be an object after it?
Anyway, even if it is a verb it's a bloody ugly one and should be banned from all writing on punishment of something extremely painful.
In my humble opinion.

Tintin said...

If I found this on a shelf, I'd stop at the point of Inaroha's name. There's nothing about it that makes me say, "Oh, yeah, Ireland," for pretty much any time period in history. I have no grounding in when this story is taking place pre-dimension-crossing anyway, but the only other example of the name Inaroha I can find on the internets is a jewelry shop. And the company's name was derived from the Maori word for love.

It would be pretty cool if the character was Maori-Irish--I'd be significantly more likely to read this book--but I'm guessing that's not the case here. Is there any logical reason her name's so unusual (the whole thing--I don't see a lot of De'Arcs either), or is it just because it makes her "stand out"? Because I think ideally the crazy stuff she's the cause of will do that, even if her name's as common as Katie O'Sullivan.

alaskaravenclaw said...

The Shark mentions the lack of specificity. Specifically, I'm bothered by the repeated use of "paranormal". This could mean a lot of things: alternate universes, vam(yawn)pires, time travel, necromancy-- what, exactly, is the paranormal?

_*rachel*_ said...

Start over, and this time proofread. Also, be more specific; aim for something between synopsis and this current version.

If you did proofread this initial letter, find someone brutally honest to proofread both your query and your novel.

If it's just the query that's the problem, read through the archives here and at Evil Editor's blog. The more you read, the better.

Querying can be hard, and I know you can do better than this. Now go and do it.

kygans said...

I am wondering if the writer might not be someone for whom English is a second language. The nature of the strange sentences reminds me strongly of the ESL papers I help to edit.

No matter what, this writer needs a good editor!

jjdebenedictis said...

This sounds like a new-ish writer, so new writer? Congratulations on finishing your book! That's a great accomplishment, and yes, either it or the query letter needs more work, but we all start out in that state. Keep working at it! Success comes to those who never quit trying.

To add my nitpick to the list, De'Arc sounds French, but if so, you would spell it D'Arc. The apostrophe means letters are missing, and in French, they knock out trailing vowels when the next word also starts with a vowel. E.g. "de Arc " (of Arc) becomes "d'Arc" and "le eau" (the water) becomes "l'eau".

Finally, despite the word errors, etc., you have a good voice and can write some smooth sentences. Do keep working at this--all these problems can be fixed, and you have talent. Good luck!

Joseph said...

As a rule of thumb, if I'm going to chide someone on grammar, spelling, or the like, I double-check to make sure I'm correct. While usually it just confirms what I already know, sometimes it saves me from eating crow later.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I was wondering why the Shark had decorated her post today.

I want to know why the author's being so vague about what this "paranormal event". Seriously, the whole "sucked into another dimension" thing is done so often, you can only help yourself by spelling out what happens to your character.

Why does it matter that Miss I-can't-pronounce-her-name is a great swimmer? What about her makes this 600 year-old cold fish start to thaw?

I'm going to assume from the brief plot and the (horribly spelled) De'Arc, that you intended this to be a paranormal fantasy take on Jean D'Arc. If so, you should be able to create an engaging character with a captivating story.

You've done neither. You haven't given anyone a reason to care about your characters or what happens to them.

Malacara said...

I've read most of the queries critiqued by the Shark, thus I feel empowered to opine. This query is awful on so many levels that I'm not sure why it was chosen in the first place. Janet, I look forward to your insight, but when you pick substantially sub-par queries like this one I don't learn anything. I don't wish to question your criteria or your motives, yet I beseech you to pick out winners or near winners instead of these still-born attempts. I assume the purpose of this blog is to inform/educate. The critique for this query does neither since it's apparent to everyone- except, perhaps, the author- that the whole thing is one intransitive verb short of a catastrophe. Dear Shark, hear my plea: your time and input are much too valuable to squander of stuff like this.

Irene Troy said...

I also have the impression this may be a newish writer, perhaps even a young writer. (The use of cute stationary rather indicates this) This is hardly a handicap, except for understanding and following the rules of the craft. The first two sentences of the query – minus Janet’s remarks – left me lost and completely disinterested in reading further. Having read the query through, I think that behind the poorly executed query and the use of “cute” stationary (Huge NO-No!) there may be the bones of an interesting story. To the author: don’t give up and don’t assume because your query was trashed you should turn away from your dream of writing and publishing. What I would suggest (and Janet, please, if this is out of line, I humbly apologize) is that you consider joining a writer’s group (either online or in “real” life) and/or enrolling in a writing class. The reason? I’ve found both to be of great value in helping to work through some of the more challenging aspects of my writing. A good group or class will help you identify problem areas in your work and will help with such thorny issues as grammar, spelling and structure – areas in which many writers struggle.

Despite having written for years (mostly dull-ish non-fiction in keeping with my work) I continue to be a horrific speller and often times mix up syntax, grammar and punctuation. My writer’s group is great at helping identify these mistakes prior to my sending work to clients. This help goes a very long way toward making my work appear professional and polished.

Claire said...

Congratulations on getting to the query stage in your writing. And I thought writing the book was the hardest part! I was so young and naive. So, good job there.

I agree that the name is very odd and if I read this book, I'd be calling her "Ro" in my head.

The paranormal event needs to be defined.

I agree with Ms McQuein--what the heck does the swimming have to do with anything?

I look forward to reading the rewrite. Best of luck! You're braver than I am!!

Beth said...

I have to know. Is this a real query letter or did someone make this up?

Tom said...

I concur with earlier comments, the writer seems young and possibly not a native English speaker.

Hey! No problem. Keep at it. I assume you do actually have a finished novel that makes more sense than this query. That is why you came here, to figure out how to write one of these queries. Try again.

Next time run your query through a grammar-checker and spell-checker before submitting it. Obey them. Grammar checkers are not always correct, but they can get you out of a lot of problems.

Kate Evangelista said...

I've heard task or tasked used as a verb, but I agree that it sounds off somehow. It's definitely a word choice worth rethinking.

Theresa Milstein said...

Instead of listing paranormal events, we need more grounding. What are these paranormal events and how do they relate to the characters and the story? Good luck with the rewrite. Have someone look it over for you before submitting. Sometimes we can't see our own lack of clarity - after all, we know the story we've written.

Margaret Yang said...

I have to agree with Malacara. I'd rather see the "almost there" queries than the absolute beginner queries. So many of us are almost there, and it helps to see the revisions.

As for this query--the writer took it upon him/herself to submit to query shark, and that takes guts and not a small amount of savvy. The writer is on the right track, even if he or she has a long way to go.

StudentofLife said...

- Malacara

I think the Shark often picks a query when a specific mistake stands out in some way and she would like to address it. Somewhere on the blog it states that the Shark doesn't want to keep correcting the same mistakes over and over, so she looks for brand new mistakes to chew on. In this instance it may have been the use of stationary background for a query.

Mark said...

I really enjoy these entries and it shows me how much I still have yet to learn. I wonder though, why almost everyone states theirs is the first of a planned series.

Naturally every author wants their book to be so wildly popular that readers would be clamoring for a sequel, but I always thought that if I brought up the idea of a series too early to an editor I would get a grumpy "let's see if this one is any good first"

Does proclaiming that a book is part of a proposed series give the submission any extra weight or is it counter-productive in that it raises the probability of a book that doesn't stand alone very well?

lauradroege said...

If the author is young or a non-native English speaker, there is hope that he/she will grow as a writer, master the language, and learn to proofread. Who knows? Maybe this author will one day send QS a fabulous query letter!

There are some interesting elements in the story, though they don't fit together well or at least I can't tell how they fit together.

Author of this novel, if you're reading this, don't be discouraged. Keep writing and reading and learning. We all had to start somewhere, even QS herself.

JS said...

Also, the window for mermaids and other aquatic spirits (I am guessing that Inaroha's Big Secret is that she is a mermaid or a selkie or a water sprite or something of that ilk) appears to have passed; I have three mermaid books in my in-box for reviews right now.

Get in on the next publishing trend: were-slugs!

L. Scribe Harris said...

I agree with kygans. I've been teaching English in Japan for three years, and the mistakes in this are common for non-native speakers. It's also possible that it was written by a younger person, but I doubt that someone who is young enough to make these kinds of mistakes in their writing would have finished a full-length manuscript, and have made the business leap towards trying to sell her novel. I'm assuming the author is a girl.

If the writer is a kid, however, she would be the most pragmatic one I'd ever met.

alaskaravenclaw said...

I was an ESL teacher for 12 years, and the writer does not sound to me like a non-native speaker. She may well be one, but none of her errors are noticeably characteristic of non-native speakers. The omission of the verb "is," for example, could happen to anybody.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Ah, now I see the omission of the verb "is" is a stylistic choice. Mm. Not such a good one.

The shark hasn't updated the sidebar on the right in ages.

Josin L. McQuein said...

You're still WAY to generic about the specific happenings of the plot. Stop boxing around it and just tell us what happens.

Irene Troy said...

Josin – I think you may have stumbled onto something all of us could benefit from remembering: sometimes simpler really is better – lots better. Reading the revised query I come away with the impression the writer is trying very hard to impress the reader with words, far too many words. This is a mistake many of us (well, at least I did…) make early in our writing careers. I think Janet’s idea is excellent: rewrite the query leaving out every adjective and adverb. Don’t write to impress, write to show us the core of the story. Don’t worry about giving us every tiny detail or telling the whole story in a few short paragraphs. Instead, give us something that will entice us to read more for that is exactly what you are selling to a potential agent: a story worth their time to read. If the query doesn’t catch the imagination or interest no agent will give you the time of day.

Zargis said...

ok, i know this is off topic but i can't seem to find a better place to post this question. Also, i did not want to bug 'Ms. Shark' with a frivilous comment she probably has already answered a million times.

If i send an email query, should i still have the following at the top of it?

The Date
Agent's Company Name
Street Address

I do this in all of my formal letters so that the reciever can immediately see I've done some sort of research to know who they are.
Is this something i should trash in a query or keep?
(Unfortunately, Query writing is very conflicted depending on where you find the information for their creation.)


Thank you,

~Zargis

Buffra said...

Zargis,

Most things I've read seem to indicate that you leave the header off of email queries -- put it at the end.

Lehcarjt said...

Zargis -

QS has addressed this specifically sometime in the last couple of months. Personal info goes at the end.

JS said...

Dear writer of this query:

It really seems like you need some remedial help with Standard Written English. I don't know if English is not your first language, or if you are a native speaker of English who has some personal challenges around expressing yourself clearly through the written word, but you are going to need to master the mechanics before you can sell a novel.

Would it be possible for you to take a course in Fundamentals of English Composition or something similar, either at a local college or online? The University of Utah has made its Introduction to Creative Writing course available for free online; working through that on your own might be helpful as a last resort.

If you actually do have a strong mastery of English grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, and for some reason you're just freezing up when trying to write your query letter, let me recommend this: see if you can make an audio recording of yourself explaining what happens in your book as if to an interested potential reader.

Then transcribe (type up) what you said and use that as a basis for your query letter.

Best of luck to you.

Ethereal_buddha said...

JS-I don't think it's just a matter of needing remedial english. Although it can never hurt anyone, even the most seasoned of writers-published or not.
I do think she's young in her writing career. The last query revision was vaguely better than the last two, but its still not good.
What I'd love to know is this-is this writer afraid someone else out there is going to steal her book concept for their own?
Angels are nothing new in literature. Add to that that after vampires, almost everything I see on agent blogs comments on the fact that they are receiving a lot more angel/spiritual fiction.
To whoever the writer of the query is-it's not new. You're one of many people trying to publish their angel books.
Just say it. After being attacked by sirens, Inhora finds out she's a demi-angel (or whatever you call it). Furthermore there's another universe at war and it threatens hers(otherwise, why should she care, right?). She can walk away from it and leave the fighting or she can join the battle to save lots of people/demi-angels/sirens/goldfish.
Publishing is a business. If you wouldn't put it in a business letter to a collegue, or client, or customer, don't put it in a letter to an agent.
At least, that's the lesson I'm learning from shark.

Theresa Milstein said...

I think this writer is trying to come up with an unusual query, but each one falls flat for different reasons. Just write from the formula and go from there.

What does she want? What's preventing her from getting it? How does she overcome it? What's the next obstacle/what's at stake?

Good luck!

Stephanie Barr said...

Rev 3 - I love fantasy, especially the epic kind. I should be all over this story.

I don't even know what it is.

Throwing different events and lines at us isn't working as a revision.

Stop before the next rev and think. You obviously care enough to keep trying. Good for you.

Now stand back and give us only what's important. Is it moving to AZ? Is it her swimming prowess?

The key here, I think, is that our heroine is no normal girl, but an __________ who's characteristics keep everyone from touching her. That the world of magic and humanity is colliding in ways that might threaten both sides. That she is the key to saving them, if she can do the right thing. But you have to tell us why and what it is.

Ronan, I would think, is important as the only person who can touch her, but won't. How does that play into the conflict?

Focus on what's important. Keep is simple and clear.

CharlFK said...

I think we need to give this writer a break. I edit real crap in my, probably mistaken, choice of work, and this person has the makings of a good story. There is little anyone can write today that is original, from Cinderella through to Hamlet and all those in between. It's daunting for the most seasoned writer to do a query or synopsis. I can do them for other people, but I'm damned if I can get my own right. This person should join Book Country, www,bookcountry.com it's a great website to get your work critiqued by very competent and caring writers. Some are brutally honesty, but that is good.
I have just discovered Query Shark. It was recommended by an agent that rejected my query LOL
It's great, well done and it sure gives me a giggle.