Sunday, October 31, 2021


WYSTERIA Wysteria Collins

don't cap the names of your characters in a query. That's for synopses and film scripts.

 is the twenty-four year old owner of a magic shop in downtown Olympia, Washington. She runs it with her familiar, a turtle named PANTS Pants. Things are her normal brand of chaos until her dear friend PRISCILLA Priscilla calls in a favor.

The Fae


In a short form work like a query, it REALLY helps if you don't call characters two different things in short order. Were you worried about using Priscilla's name twice in short succession?

You can avoid that by paring and combining the sentences:


Things are her normal brand of chaos until her dear friend Priscilla calls in a favor


can’t break her promise to go on a date and  

persuades Wysteria to go on a date in her place. It’s supposed to be a one time event, except that Wysteria likes ARIEL Ariel and he didn’t seem put off by the way she had to chase her turtle across the restaurant floor.


The story is told in a series of vignettes, ranging from comforting a grief-stricken student with a request for necromancy, to an excitable baseball coach. There’s a visit to the beach that ends with bartering with mermaids, and the time Ariel shows up unannounced with a lost snake.


Well this sounds fun and all but there's NO PLOT.

Even a series of vignettes needs a plot, and worse: each vignette needs one, plus you need an overarching story arc.


WYSTERIA AND PANTS is a 60,000 word adult fantasy

I'm not convinced you have enough word count here.  The previous Query Shark post is about a book that's got too many words.


You've got the opposite problem.  Fantasy needs world building. World building takes words.

And not having a plot means you're going to need to add words too. You can double the word count here and still be ok.



 #ownvoices novel with series potential featuring a diverse cast of queer characters.

 #ownvoices is being replaced with #specific under represented voice you mean.

Here's the announcement about that:

We Need Diverse Books announced that it will no longer refer to books using the term #OwnVoices. Instead, they will use "specific descriptions that authors use for themselves and their characters whenever possible (for example "Korean American author" or "autistic protagonist").  They write in the release that the hashtag was originally created "for readers to recommend books by authors who openly shared the diverse identity of their main characters," but has since become a "catch all marketing term" and caused problems with its vagueness.



Most agents now want to see comps in a query. Effective comps are recent books (no earlier than 2018) and published by a trade house (ie not self published), and on the same shelf you envision for your book. Don't use YA titles as comps for books for the adult trade market (or vice versa.)


I moved from California to Washington to live with my shouty cat Icarus where I enjoy wandering around in the greenery and eating blackberries from my bush. I’ve been involved in a writing and critique group since 2015 and together we have published several collections of short stories.


Nice but NOT a publishing credit. Leave that for your website.


Thank you for your time and consideration,



Fae/faer or they/them






    I want to be clear that the chapters are a little disconnected but still related without sounding like they’re short stories all to themselves.


"A little disconnected" strikes fear in even my sharkly heart. You don't want your novel to feel like a pinball game where the reader caroms about.  That's NOT an immersive reading experience.


A novel in stories is very much a thing, and are lots of fun to read. Is there any way to make that happen?




    Will it put agents off to include my pronouns?  How should I handle this?

Put off?


I'm tickled fuchsia to have writers indicate their pronouns.

It's helpful for gender fluid names (Dylan!) plus if you are non-binary, I'd like to respect that.


While I don't have a clue what fae/faer is, I do recognize they/them. How you have it listed is just right.


Any agent who is put off by pronouns in a query is NOT someone you want to work with.

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.