Revision # 1
Dear Query Shark,
Prophecies, Princess Willow Starmill has decided, are the worst. Especially the one that says she must marry a prince. The seer’s words prevent Willow from kissing her best friend, Finn Fields, the only mortal on Atlantis, but they don’t stop her from wondering what it would be like.
Let’s talk rhythm here. What you have is a long ass sentence of 29 words:
The seer’s words prevent Willow from kissing her best friend, Finn Fields, the only mortal on Atlantis, but they don’t stop her from wondering what it would be like.
Consider this revision:
The seer’s words prevent Willow from kissing her best friend, Finn Fields, the only mortal on Atlantis
. butThey don’t stop her from wondering what it would be like.
The shorter sentences are punchier, more rhythmic.
This is the work of revising. Everyone writes long ass sentences on that first draft.
It’s when you dig in, looking at each sentence and thinking “what can I do to make this more hard hitting.”
Timing is everything, and not just in comedy.
That cursed prophecy is all anyone can talk about when a prince unexpectedly visits from another realm. Prince George offers political strength, a marriage proposal, and eternal boredom. Willow can’t give him an answer until she sorts out her confusing feelings for Finn
And again, look at that last sentence. 28 words. Flab flab flab.
Unpredictable weather causes devastating damage. A fast-spreading illness affects half the population. Rampaging beasts, dormant for centuries, injure people beyond magical repair. Willow and Finn barely escape from a winged menace near the forest. Giant claws shred four young men in the mountains. The waters teem with deadly tentacles. Willow’s kingdom used to be a paradise full of bird-speak and flower-song. The only melodies floating on the salty air since Prince George arrived are dirges.
Let’s do a better job of connecting those two paragraphs. Often it’s as simple as repeating a word:
the more dangerous her beloved island becomes.Unpredictable dangerous weather causes devastating damage.
Then you just swan off into detail that doesn’t move the plot forward:
You can cut all of this:
Willow and Finn barely escape from a winged menace near the forest. Giant claws shred four young men in the mountains. The waters teem with deadly tentacles. Willow’s kingdom used to be a paradise full of bird-speak and flower-song. The only melodies floating on the salty air since Prince George arrived are dirges.
Without losing any plot.
People whisper about bad luck and ignored prophecies. Marry the prince and end this, they say. What no one understands is if Willow marries George, a piece of her, the Finn-sized piece, will die.
It’s not ignored prophecies, plural. It’s ignored prophecy singular. That’s a HUGELY important detail because one ignored prophecy that falls on Willow means she’s the only person who can change things.
Details like this catch my eye in the query. I really respond to meticulous writing.
Also for what’s at stake “the Finn-sized piece of her may die” is pretty low-rent. If I lived in Atlantis, I’d say “hey Willow, suck it up, people are dying here.”
And in fact, if she’s the noble hero, she’s not even thinking twice, she’s RUNNING down the aisle in order to save her people.
While Willow searches for proof that her prophecy is unrelated to the recent disastrous events, she discovers the truth about Finn’s past. A truth that could set everything right, or send Atlantis crashing into the sea.
So, Willow is trying to avoid her destiny, I get that. But the plans to get her hitched to Georgie better be proceeding full steam ahead, or there’s no tension.
In other words, she IS going to marry George unless she can figure out a way to save Atlantis.
THE LAST REALM is a completed 80,000-word YA fantasy novel that retells the story of Atlantis in the vein of ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
I had to look up this comparison, and it seems pretty apt, but it's also a TV show, and generally you want to use books, not other media forms as comparisons.
I earned my B.A. in English and my master’s in English education, both from Rutgers University. I taught 8th grade and 10th grade English classes. Currently, I am raising four readers who borrow a back-breaking number of books from the library, which makes me proud and my chiropractor happy.
YES YES YES!!! This is a lovely bio, with a delightful zing of humor!!! I knew you weren’t boring.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
So, we may have a problem with the book, in that Willow really needs to demonstrate her heroism by agreeing to marry Boring George to save her people. She can be searching for a way out, but what she can’t do is try to avoid her duty.
The essence of being the hero is that you Do The Right Thing even when it costs you. The hero runs IN to the fire, not away from it; toward the gunfire, not away from it. Make sure Willow does this.
Then revise the query and resend.
- 1) After reading 318 shark attacks, I have written about 318 drafts of this letter. I feel like this draft meets your criteria and has the most voice. My beta readers are split. My objectivity died a horrible death about 53 drafts ago. Is the writing coherent and the voice clear?
- 2) I am a SAHM and debut author. If a bio is required, should I just keep it to 2 sentences about my former education and teaching experience and stick it right before the closing? Does a boring bio turn agents off?
Let me stop you right there. I never EVER want to hear you refer to yourself as boring because you are a stay-at-home mom. You may not be curing cancer but you are raising readers, and by god if you don't recognize how important that is, I do, and I'm coming to your house to smack you around with the spiderpus.
Dear Query Shark:
Eighteen-year-old Willow Starmill hates shoes, heavy dresses, and the crown that her mother swears impresses other royals of the Seven Hidden Realms. Willow much prefers to roam the island barefoot, dancing or drawing swords with Finn Fields. When his mother dies, Finn is the only mortal left in the kingdom. Willow would give up her plant-magic, or worse, she would grow dandelions for the rest of eternity, rather than watch Finn wither over time. What good is being an immortal princess on an enchanted island if she can’t even save her best friend?
This isn't bad, or even not-good.
It doesn't clunk.
But it's also not compelling. It doesn't grab me. It doesn't make me eager to read on.
When Willow learns that Finn will become immortal if she marries him, binding souls on their wedding night, she almost starts planning his funeral. She can’t turn her back on the prophecy given to her on the day she was born, the one that says she must marry a prince. Everyone knows the first day prophecies are never wrong.
This is all set up and backstory. It's not bad, but it's also not that interesting.
Willow’s parents remind her of that fact when Prince George arrives from another realm, offering political strength and a marriage proposal. The longer Willow delays answering the prince, the more dangerous her beloved island becomes. Unpredictable weather causes devastating damage, a fast-spreading illness affects half the population, and rampaging beasts injure people beyond magical repair.
Rampaging beasts? That's kinda fun...but you just toss it in there like a carnivorous rhino with wings is a small detail. (Ok, I made up the carnivorous rhino with wings part but still..)
Are these things happening because Willow is ignoring the prophecy that she has believed her whole life, or is there something darker at work in Atlantis?
Right here is where you finally get to the good stuff, and I had to wade through a lot of set up to get here.
Time is running out for Willow to choose between the alliance or the friendship, her kingdom or her heart.
There's nothing unexpected here, there's no twist. There's nothing that makes me gasp with delight.
I’m seeking representation for THE LAST REALM, a completed 80,000-word YA fantasy novel about first loss and first love. It will appeal to fans of Matched by Ally Condie, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and to barefoot, sword-wielding princesses from any realm.
Matched was pubbed in 2011. The Selection in 2013. Thus both books are too old to be good comps for you. You want books published recently (within 2-3 years)
I chose to submit this to you because, being the only actual fish in the literary sea, you are uniquely equipped to answer my question: On a scale of dwarf lanternshark to megalodon, how necessary are sharks to the success of a novel? Asking for a friend.
For you and your friend.
Opinions may vary, but I'm right, and everyone else is wrong.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
As to your question: You can included anything you want in your bio other that the word boring. You can talk about your eduction. You can tell me you're a stay-at-home mom. You can mention you're a debut author. Yes, a boring bio turns anyone off, but you're a writer. Make it sound interesting.
As to whether the writing is coherent and the voice clear? Yes it is, but that's not your problem.
The problem with this query isn't that it's bad. It's not. It's good writing. But it doesn't do the job because it doesn't entice me to read the pages.
The problem is NOT the query; it's the book you're describing. It needs something (a twist of some sort) to elevate it above the pack.
Go back to the fantasy you love to read. What surprised and delighted you about the book/s? Now, do better.