Wednesday, October 27, 2021


Dear Query Shark,

When Wren’s weird dreams begin to take on a reality all their own, she finds a strangely addictive second life in her dangerous dream-world, Irisen

This doesn't really hook your reader, does it? There's no tension. There's no sense of wondering what will happen next.


Compare that to the first line of Leviathan Wakes by James Corey


The Scopuli had been taken eight days ago, and Julie Mao was finally ready to be shot.


Now THAT grabs my attention.


Back on Earth, things are unraveling; her father’s recent cancer diagnosis is fracturing her family and Wren’s painstakingly organized post-college plans now feel futile.


Still no tension. What's the problem here that Wren must deal with?

Feeling futile is not a problem. It's a state of being. (for many of us in publishing, it's just called today)


While exploring Irisen, she teams up with Jasper—a headstrong botanist with reality-defying experiments—and his band of gung-ho rebels bent on undermining the oppressive autocracy that controls the region. 


I kinda love the idea of a headstrong botanist!

But you've brought in oppressive autocracy here like that's all we need to know.


Are they censoring free speech?

Are they making you read Ayn Rand?

What's the autocracy doing such that they need overthrowing?

In other words: what's the problem with the autocracy?


Notice a theme here?

You need to get the problem these characters face on the page, specifically. That's the essence of plot. Without it you don't have a compelling query.


On Earth, Wren is powerless and reminded of it every time she tallies the furniture stains in the oncologist’s waiting room. On Irisen, she’s useful; it’s a relief to fight a fight she can shape.


This is interesting.



Despite the wear and tear of a dichotomous existence,


I suggest you take this out only because if you try to explain it (it's too abstract to have much meaning as it stands) you'll just get lost in the weeds.


living two lives proves to be the revival Wren needs. Learning to build bombs from botanicals and helping the rebels subvert the autocracy, Wren all but disregards the woes of her Earth-life reality—until those woes clutch and drag her back. The day her father’s diagnosis goes from open-ended to terminal, her ability to dream-travel to Irisen mysteriously fails. With time running out on both her father’s life and Jasper’s rebellion, Wren must find the link between her realities (tricky, but doable) and face her circumstances at home (way fucking harder) before everything she loves is lost. 


DREAMWALKER, at 250,000 words,



instant pass.


If you don't want to take my word for it, how about these two recent tweets from agents I know and follow:







is a multi-perspective fantasy novel and the first in a planned series. The conversational tone, along with the layered worldbuilding will resonate with the twenty-something set currently reading Black Water Sister.


My academic background is in biology, and I have a soft spot for botany and bending the rules. And though I’d love to tinker in Jasper’s lab, filled to the brim with magical flora, I work in healthcare rehabilitating broken and neglected bodies… by day. 


Thank you for your time and consideration,




1. I like thick books: GOT, Pillars, Mistborn (don't fret, not my comps), and I like them because there are plots, subplots, and what-the-heck,-where-is-this-going?-OH-DANG! moments. But I'm a nobody. Do I cut plots/ characters now to make the WC more appealing, or do I risk it for the biscuit?


No. You make this 250,000 word door stop into three books.



2. Wren is the MC, but the story is told through multiple POV. This isn't represented in the ‘hook’ of my query, should it be? The other characters add twists, turns, eyes and ears in different locations (ie: Jasper's POV in Irisen). Thoughts?


Even if I hadn't fainted dead away at the mere idea of 250,000 words, your query does NOT support the word count.


You've got one storyline: Wren


You need a lot more.


Querying epic fantasy (epic anything) means you have to give us a sense of the big picture.


What you have here is the Winterfell aspect of Game of Thrones.

You're missing the dragons.


You need to figure out how to present this Incredible Hulk word count in more Bruce Banner type ways.



And you need to make the story more Hulk than Banner. 


Kind of an interesting problem.


I look forward to seeing how you solve it.


Revise and resend.




1 comment:

  1. The premise is solid and now I'm interested in more of the specifics of it - what does this 250,000 word multi-POV novel actually look like? Is there really a way to satisfyingly split it to make it a shorter first in the planned series? I look forward to the next revision


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