Sunday, April 5, 2020


Revision #1

Cinis Munimoh ripped her best friend’s teeth out on purpose, uttering thanks when the favor was returned.
As first sentences go, that's pretty eyecatching.
Horrifying but eye catching.
Mirroring her caretakers, Cinis clipped her horns, shed her skin, and seasoned her disguise with contacts, hiding her misshapen pupils. The 21 survivors of Amarith were no more. Now, they were just normal people walking the Earth, impersonating the very thing responsible for their downfall: humans.
I don't know what Amarith is, but at this point, I don't really care. I'm not going to stop reading to wonder about anything.

Even shrouded in disguise, the Amarithians are hunted down, struggling to survive and preserve their race.
This sentence doesn't connect to the next one. It's a good sentence, but it just doesn't fit well here. Thus: chop.
But Cinis craves more than mere survival. She longs  longing for the day she can rebuild her planet. that fell to humanity.
We know that her planet fell. That it fell to humanity is something the reader will intuit.  And that lets you cut that last part which improves the rhythm of the sentence.
 Just before Cinis loses hope of preserving her kind, she meets Sebastian, who reveals that

Then she learns Amarith wasn't destroyed.
I have a thing about main characters being told things. It's so passive.
Putting it as she learned makes it more dynamic.

In fact, hundreds of Amarithians and humans alike are held captive there, forced to harvest resources that Earth can no longer could provide. Now, Cin and her friends must find a way to liberate Amarith without blocking Earth from resources and triggering the extinction of thousands of species.

My science fiction novel, Human (115,000 words), is the first in a planned series. The work takes on the point of view of several characters, all of whom keep “war logs”, through which the story is told.
In a query like this it's important to say this novel can stand alone. It can, right?
Although most book deals have been for two or three books in the past, we're coming into a new norm, and single book deals may be one of the changes.

I’ve always been an advocate for the I'm active in the fight against climate change, and my fascination with the environment only aids my writing as ideals of preservation and human pollution can be traced throughout my work. Human is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


Is my bio too long? I've been struggling with it since I don't have any credentials or formal education as of the moment, but I do have some things I felt were important to mention.

Too long? It's barely there!
A good bio gives us (the reading agent) a sense of who you are.  You can mention pets, where you live, what you do when you need inspiration, your favorite kind of shark..anything that warms up the intro.

Telling us what you care about is fine, but it shouldn't be the only thing here.

Original query

Dear Query Shark,

Cinis was eating breakfast when the first bomb hit.
This seems like one of those sentences that should work, doesn't it?
But it doesn't really. Cause everyone is doing something when the bombs hit.
Breakfast is as good as any.
A good first sentence in a query needs to grab your reader's attention and makes them wonder "what will happen now?"
You've got a pretty good candidate for that kind of sentence. It's the last one in the paragraph

Everybody was caught off guard, sure, but they knew the attack would come sooner or later; the Humans had known about Amarith for decades now. But the day had finally arrived:
This one: The Humans had come, and they had not come in peace.

Cinis and twenty other Amarithians were forced to flee. With nowhere else to go, they ran to Earth,
this is a classic example of saying the same thing twice, albeit in different words.
fleeing and running are the same thing here.
You can revise this sentence:
With nowhere else to go, Cinis and twenty other Amarithians were forced to flee to Earth
 hoping to hide in plain sight.

Eight years have passed, and later, just before Cin loses has lost all hope of returning to her planet, a new friend reveals life-changing information.

 what is the info?

Now, Cin and her friends must make a decision, one that could decide the fate of two planets, and all who inhabit them.

What's the decision?

My science fiction novel, Human (115,000 words), is the first in a planned series. The work takes on the point of view of several characters, all of whom keep “war logs”, through which the story is told.

I’m a staff member of a popular (name) server which has over 500 members dedicated to reading and discussing each other’s work.

This is another one of those things that sound good, but my first question is do they BUY the books of the members? Discuss all you want, but you don't get paid (me either) until a book has a sales slip.

I’ve always been an advocate for the fight against climate change, and my fascination with the environment only aids my writing as ideals of preservation and human pollution can be traced throughout my work. I also would like to point out my unique position as both a member of the LGBT community, and a woman, making this novel a #ownvoices contributor, as several main characters share one or both of these traits.
You're not the only (ie unique) woman who's part of the LGBT community. Saying this makes me think you don't understand what unique means.

Words are your tools.
If you keep hitting your thumb with a hammer, I'm not hiring you to hang sheetrock.
Thank you for your consideration.


There isn't enough here to catch your reader's interest. It's all pretty bland, and that is death in a query. A horrible beige death of zero cuts.

There's no sense of drama or tension because you've said they get info, but not what it is, and have to make a decision, but not what that is.

Dig in. Be specific. Use vibrant language. And use it well.

**if you saw the post before Sunday 4/5/20 at noon, 
and perhaps commented, 
that was an early draft posted in error. 
Comments were deleted.


nightsmusic said...

Well, I'd made this comment on the draft post but I'll post it again now on the official post.

Why are the Amarithians running to the plant of their enemies to hide? That's just a TSTL moment for me and, while I'm not an agent, this is a big red flag. As a reader, the book would get deleted from my Paperwhite or tossed if a paperback.

There's no real stakes here since you don't give any information on why they stupidly ran to earth and what's going to happen when the secret is revealed. You've written half a book blurb and half a story I've seen in movies too many times to count.

I will say, I agree with Janet on what makes someone unique. I don't care which way you lean. I want to read a great story. I base my purchase on my interest in the description of the story and the reviews. Your bio makes me wonder if this would be preachy. If the reviews reflect that, I won't be reading it.

Write the best story you can. Write a story I can't put down. One where I want to learn more about the characters and what's going on every time I turn the page. Right now, I can't speak to how your bio fits in, but I don't care what happens. Your reader has to care what happens. Your query doesn't reflect why I should care.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

From the original first line of the query, my thought was "okay, showing that last moment normalcy and then the bombs, maybe cool" and then to find out LATER that our query POV is aliens and it's the HUMANS dropping the bombs was much more interesting to me than breakfast. Breakfast is a very human conceit.

And, as nightsmusic says, if humans are the enemy, why run AT the humans? I'm sure it makes sense in the narrative, but in the query it just seems really inadvisable. I wouldn't put the book down because of breakfast, but I might because of going to Earth.

I am white, female, and not LGBT+ but..."I am a woman and writing a woman character" isn't enough to claim #OwnVoices cred, as I understand it. If you are trans and one or more of your characters is trans, it is. If you are Latina, etc. Though I'm also not the #OwnVoices police; you know your novel, I do not.

Mister Furkles said...

Friends and I read a lot of Science Fiction and we do so to escape. One thing we wish to escape is political harangues. Such fiction is boring because it is predictable. Politically inspired fiction is like a math proof: it starts with something to prove and all the characters are scripted to behave according to plan. Works for math not for fiction.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I wanted to come back and add (something about how I left my comment didn't sit right, and I'm not sure I can even properly address it): A LOT of scifi, for years and years and years, has been straight, white, and male. And political. And I have enjoyed that scifi, definitely. Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS and THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS are books that I reread every once in awhile. Same with BRAVE NEW WORLD and 1984 and A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ and many many others. Books that changed my life, though, were books like the Earthsea Chronicles (okay fantasy, but LeGuin also wrote A LOT of scifi), and Mary Doria Russel's THE SPARROW and CHILDREN OF GOD.

I do want to read scifi that isn't from my point of view. I do want to read scifi that challenges my assumptions. I agree that I don't want to read preachy scifi (though I did read all of John Galt's speech the first time I read Atlas Shrugged), but I don't see preachy in your query.

I hope you revise and send it on back, and I hope that one day I get to buy and read the book!

Brittany said...

The line about LGBT identity seems to imply that queer women aren't writing sci-fi, which is gonna be a huge red flag that you're out of step with the genre. Marie Lu, Charlie Jane Anders, Becky Chambers, V.E. Schwab... Some of the most celebrated authors in sci-fi today are LGBT women. It would be more straightforward to say something like "I share an LGBT identity with several of the book's characters."

There definitely needs to be more specifics about the plot, especially the stakes. Right now all I know is there are aliens among us, but there's a whole lot of difference between Third Rock from the Sun and the Battlestar Galactica reboot, you know?

test said...

I think people are getting a little hung up on the "woman" part of the #ownvoices sentence and overlooking the other #ownvoices credential. The fact that you're LGBT+ and writing LGBT+ characters is the #ownvoices part of it. Maybe you could simplify the sentence to "This novel is a #ownvoices contributor, as I am a member of the LGBT community and several main characters are LGBT." As a fellow LGBT+ writer, that's how I'd handle it. When in doubt, keep it simple and clear!

I don't think that this query reads as inherently preachy or political, but I do question whether the first sentence of your bio is necessary. It doesn't illuminate an aspect of your story from what I can see or provide a writing credential.

Personally, I'd argue that this query might be starting in the wrong place. This is all backstory. Your story starts when Cin's friend reveals the information (what is it?) and Cin has to make a choice (which I hope is the beginning of the story and not the climax!). It's an interesting angle (human aggressors, alien protagonist, heck yes), so I'm hoping you can beef this query up with some plot. Good luck, writer!

TheLabRat said...

The problems with the query itself notwithstanding, I'm super into the Humans as the extraterrestrial invaders concept and hope you get this nailed down so that it gets published. Because I will read the bejeebus out of it.

R said...

Hey, I just wanted to drop a comment in here showing support for the author explicitly referencing her #ownvoices identity, especially since a tremendous amount of agents are incredibly interested in supporting #ownvoices work right now for important reasons.

One of the comments above has good suggestions on how to finesse the language to make it sound a little more professional.

But I just want to say that it’s a little unsettling to see an LGBT woman coming forward to own her identity, and then being nit picked and shot down on some very shaky basis. (She used the term unique? Language around these issues is hard enough as it is right now. This words doesn’t feel like a good reason to jump down her throat.)