Monday, August 10, 2009


Dear Query Shark,

What would you do if your whole hometown was wiped out? Your friends, your family, everyone was killed by a homicidal maniac. The only thing you can think of doing is running from the dying community.

The problem with these kinds of rhetorical questions is that you frequently don't get the answer that you need to generate interest in the book. For example if my entire home town was wiped out, I might be damn glad because after that house fell on my sister Munchkinland just hasn't been the same.

Your best bet is to tell me what your story is about.

Or what if your birth was the ruin of your mother? You were despised and alienated for years, but were able to finally find something that resembled shelter. Years later, you are forced to fight an unknown with all you have to keep that safe haven.

Again, these questions just beg for sarcastic answers (we're a tough crowd here in Queryville).

And the "you" second person is hardly ever the most compelling choice. So far, I don't know anything about what YOUr book is about.

In both scenarios, you have two real options. You can either curl up and die, or you can do what you can to survive. And having the ability to manipulate part of nature won't help you either. If you choose to live as either person, it won't be easy alone. You're going to need at least one miracle. Like, say, meeting the other person.

I'd stop reading here. I don't have a clue what the book is about. You're awash in generalities.

Fredrick Brown and Kathena Sahaara are lucky enough to get that miracle. They meet and soon after join forces. For Kathena, it's a chance to start over with someone who has the magical power to not be afraid of her and the ignorance to take her on. For Fredrick, it's his only opportunity to begin to understand the world his father came from and meet someone from outside that understands.

This is the closest you've come to telling me about the book. Remember the formula: Who is the hero/heroine? What choice does s/he face? What are the consequences of that choice/not making the choice. That's what your first paragraph should cover.

At first, it seems that they have found the answers to their problems in each other, but that maniac who destroyed Kathena's home has decided that he is eventually going to finish the job and throw in her new friend as a bonus.

Maniacs are boring. They're one dimensional and irrational. If you want scary, tell us why the villain is making this choice (remember, the villain thinks HE'S the hero of the story)

Fredrick and Kathena will have a few years to prepare before the attack and both have a knack for holding onto life. However, they are matched against a man who has destroyed their kind for ages.

It's a long shot, but they just might make it.

The rest of the story is in my book, Red Moon. It's about 100,000 words long and falls into the category of urban fantasy. You can contact me by replying to this e-mail, calling me at (redacted), or sending snail mail to (redacted) Thank you for your time and consideration.

Just list your contact info under your name. It's good to include it. Leave out "the rest of the story" because it's pretty obvious that's where the rest of the story is.

This is a form rejection.


McKoala said...

" For example if my entire home town was wiped out, I might be damn glad because after that house fell on my sister Munchkinland just hasn't been the same. "

I don't think I will ever be able to forget that sentence. Nor will my keyboard.

Aimless Writer said...

Could be a good story here but it's hiding under all the backstory. Make your first paragraphs about the heroine's immediate conflict. Insert the villan here too but give him a name and let us know why he's after her. Just cause he killed her town doesn't tell me anything. Is she the last in a line for something? Why is her death necessary to him?
We'll find out the backstory later.
Second paragraph is for the hero's conflict and motavation.

Re: The house that fell on your sister~~~Oh Lordy! This explains a lot! (But it's what we love about you and why this is my first stop every morning.)

Sheila Deeth said...

Thank you for the reminder about who is the hero/heroine coming first.

Buffra said...

"You're going to need at least one miracle. Like, say, meeting the other person."

I think that should be much closer to the start. The two of them together and the story, right?

The rhetorical questions don't work for me either. they don't tell me enough about what I'm supposed to know and I do have an unfortunate tendency towards smart-assery.

Also, there are only very vague hints in the query about the genre. I think that the fantasy element could be more clear.

Andrea said...

I usually don't post here but I felt compelled to note that like the Shark, I wouldn't have felt the same as the heroine. The two choices for example, curl up and die, or survive--I don't accept that. I would try to do better than just get by and survive. I would accept those are the only two available choices for the heroine with her resources and state of mind, but as a reader I'm not that limited, and I'd be concerned that the heroine wouldn't fight back, just run and run and run until the bad guy got himself killed somehow.

I also got no hint of the fantasy in this urban fantasy. If there was some sort of magical reason for why the bad guy wipes out the town and comes back for more, then this might be a story that could draw me in. Otherwise, it sounds too much like a slasher film.

Dan Krause said...

I couldn't resist:

Every Queryvillian in Queryville Liked querying a lot...

But the Agent, Who lived just north of Queryville, Did NOT!

By midnight The Agent detested these queries!
With a bottle of scotch, she feels terribly weary.
From letters that lacked a strong narrative voice;
Those punctilious pedants, do they do this by choice?
To deliver a query, they think is brimming with wit.
Little do these Queryvillians know: it is...

Whatever the reason, the letters they come.
And her bloated inbox reads 431!
Staring down from her desk with a sour, Agenty frown.
She thinks of the lighted monitors in that blasted town.
For she knew every Queryvillian down in Queryville beneath,
Was busy now, writing a query; and to her they’d bequeath.

"And they're capitalizing nouns!" she snarled with a sneer,
"Like ‘tomato’ and ‘aardvark!’ Do they want a career?”
Then she growled, with her Agenty fingers anxiously drumming,
"I MUST find some way to stop weak queries from coming!"

She just wouldn’t answer, grinned the Agent with cheer.
“Then when I open my inbox, I’ll have nothing to fear.”
But every day, queries continued to come.
She fought as hard as she could, but finally succumbed.
Was it the monitor that left her face aglow?
The answer is ‘no.’ Ten thousand times, no!

Some queries were good! Amusing. Concise.
When did these Queryvillians learn to be so precise?
She stared down at Queryville! The Agent popped her eyes!
She would request the full; she almost broke down and cried!

Southern Writer said...

I'm totally confused. Do these people have some kind of super powers or something? The plot sounds a like S.W. Vaughn's HUNTED

QS is right about using second person here, too. It doesn't work.

Stephanie Thornton said...

If my entire home town was wiped out, I might be damn glad because after that house fell on my sister Munchkinland just hasn't been the same.

And I just snorted wine through my nose. Thanks for that, Query Shark! :)

Jael said...

Also worth noting that the characters "will have a few years to prepare before the attack" sucks any sense of urgency right out of this. I don't know how the pacing goes in the book, but in the query, you don't want to give the impression that there's plenty of time to get ready for what's coming (or that your book is going to spend YEARS working up to its climax).

glovin said...

"You're going to need at least one miracle. Like, say, meeting the other person."

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BuffySquirrel said...

If my whole hometown was wiped out, I'd have some harsh words for the Armed Response Unit, that's for sure.

Imogen said...

"The villain thinks he's the hero of the story" is something I am going to post up on my noticeboard at home. I don't generally have a villain in the things I am working on, but I can profit from remembering this nonetheless. In a way, in fact, it sums up why I don't have villains (along with the fact that I don't write whodunnits). Thank you for yet another succinct and useful observation.

Sheri Rosen said...

I'm also confused about exactly where this is taking place. As someone else pointed out, if this was America, the government would respond. And magic? I'm guessing we aren't in our world, but I have no idea where we are. It seems like your setting is really important to your story, and that may help ground us a bit more if you include a few words on it.

Also, I think the paragraph about the birth is unnecessary. It doesn't seem that important the way you've included it, and it just sucks up space.

charles said...

Leave out "the rest of the story" because it's pretty obvious that's where the rest of the story is.