Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Current Query

So I got my critique back from the awesome Rachele Alpine from Freckle Head last night. I know this is going to sound crazy but I haven't looked at it yet. Normally I would have torn it figuratively open and devoured her feedback but then I decided to turn this whole thing into two posts, because I'm lazy like that.

So, I'm going to share my current query letter with you all, analyze it a little bit on my own, and then read Rachele's critique. I will put her advice up on Thursday because tomorrow will probably be another Glee post if I feel like it.

This query, as you will see, is 1000 times better than you ones you have read here previously on the blog. That being said it is still not perfect. There is still much room for improvement. I have not worked on it for a few months (since getting some great feedback on Nathan Bransford's forums, here) and don't really know about revising it when the manuscript is in the middle of such a massive re-write. Hopefully Rachele's advice will allow me to tighten and brighten it and then I can mold it to the new manuscript once that is done.

The query:

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent,

Fifteen year old Lee Ruccio is a reluctant juvenile delinquent who arrives at reform school fearing the worst but soon discovers esoteric mysticism and arcane magic hidden beneath the hard-knock surface.

After the death of his mother, in which his father was incarcerated for her murder, Lee's aunt and uncle ship him off to Rocky Mountain Academy, a reform school in the bitter wilderness of northern Idaho.

At this strange and wonderful school he learns Aikido, Kenjutsu, East Asian Calligraphy and Meditation; eventually developing the ability to manipulate Ch'i energy and defend himself from his Katana wielding classmates with his Bo staff.

As he learns more and more about the secrets of life as a warrior monk the industrialized world outside of the sheltered campus continues to fall apart. Elemental Creatures of fire and stone have been attacking mines, oil refineries and other industrial locations for years but as Lee arrives at school the attacks begin to increase dramatically. He and his fellow students are eventually asked to investigate the source of the creatures and their skills come into play critically as they fend for their lives.

WARRIOR-MONKS is a young adult paranormal fantasy with elements of romance and a bit of jaded humor (I've left out the Word Count becuase I'm in revision, the current MS is still WAY too long). I'm told it sounds like a cross between Harry Potter and Naruto, and though that wasn't necessarily my intent I have to admit it does fit.

This is my first novel.

I would be happy to submit sample pages of WARRIOR-MONKS upon your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Matthew Rush

So I didn't want to break that down in between paragraphs because I wanted you all to get a feel for the whole letter, its pacing and whether or not it builds well on itself without interruption. The first three things that I will point out are these:

- This query is lacking voice. There is a hint of it and as I said it's dimensions better than the earlier versions but this NEEDS MORE VOICE!

- This query is lacking conflict. In fact the story lacks some conflict until too near the end. I'm working on this in revision but I need to find a way to work in the rising action of social conflict, the stress of classes and so forth. The real conflict against the creatures is all in the last few chapters.

- This query needs a better pitch/hook. The idea of Lee being a reluctant juvenile delinquent is a great piece of characterization. It connects the reader to him from the get go, but it is not much of a pitch as far as what the book is ACTUALLY about. As Query Shark will tell you over and over ... what the hell HAPPENS in this story?

- The best thing about this query is its length. It is relatively short and sweet. If I could figure out a way to make it shorter and incorporate more voice, more conflict and a better pitch, that would be ideal.

Proofreading my own post it turns out that was four things. Oops.

So what do you guys think? Much better right? Do you agree with my assessments of what needs to be improved? Did I miss anything? Looking forward to Rachele's feedback?

Me too.


Vicki Rocho said...

Matthew, this is amazing! You have come such a long way! I love the reluctant delinquent line. Keep that at all costs!

Looking forward to the rest!

Old Kitty said...

My Goodness!!

You're so hard on yourself! Not that I know much about querying - sorry!! but I thought this query was succint and to the point and I love that it had linked to Harry Potter.

Did you really add that bit about the word count in your query letter?

I'm all waiting to discover what Rachele's take on your query is now.

Take care and good luck

Slamdunk said...

I like how it is much more concise than your earlier attempts, yet still provides the needed information. I agree about the hook--but that can changed with not too much effort.

Nicely done.

Matthew MacNish said...

Old Kitty, hah! good question. No I just put that in there for Rachele. I would never write something like that to an agent (though I have been dumb/tricky enough to leave word count out before, it didn't really work).

JE said...

This is SOOOOO much better than the first! YAY to you!!! I agree with your points. I can't wait to see what Rachele thought.

I have one little thing, though. Did you notice that your first three paragraphs are each just one sentence? I, personally, have a thing about that. But, maybe it's just me...lol ;-)

Good job!


Anne Gallagher said...

Truthfully, I think you should leave the query letter until you finish the revisions on the book. You'll get a better feel for the hook, conflict, goal of the protag and resolution that way.

My newbie mistake -- I queried while in revisions and then an agent wanted a partial. I sent them the new one, they requested the full, I panicked. Sent them the both new and old and got rejected. They said the story didn't make sense.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think that this is a HUGE improvement over the querries you've posted as 'bad examples' in the past. You've come a long way. Your beginning is strong, short and sweet. I would consider taking out the details in exactly what it is he studies and keep it to the point that the powers he acquires are going to be needed to fight the 'bad guy'. kwim? I also would reconsider comparing it to other books. Bookends has posted about this and actually they just reposted about it today: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2010/05/making-comparisons-part-ii.html

But all in all, it's really shaping up Matt!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I missed the first version, Matt, but this one has a lot of potential. Voice: you can tweak just one sentence to add that. Put it away for a few days and then read it again. Sometimes the 'missing' element in the voice speaks louder that way. LOL

India Drummond said...

I think one thing that would help is shorter sentences. Also, your first paragraph/sentence is passive. Finding a way to rephrase it as an active verb will punch it up quite a bit. It's one of those things we don't notice, but it can silently drag prose down and lessen the impact.

Candyland said...

I agree-you are way too hard on yourself! You've come so far! I'm looking forward to the critique notes!

Jessica Bell said...

You are pretty damn good to have spotted your own flaws. If you can do that, and then fix your query successfully based on your points you have definitely come a long long way.

Yes, it'll be interesting to see what Rachel has to say, especially if they are similar to your own points. If they are - that'll be awesome!

Hannah said...

That sounds great! But I think you should be finished with revisions before sending any more. Otherwise, I think most people will think, "he's not done."

Mia Hayson said...

This is aces :~) I think the things you picked up on are the only things I can see. You are hard on yourself though because this is a great improvement! :~D

It'll be interesting to hear Rachel's thoughts.

Matthew MacNish said...

Just an FYI - I'm not currently sending out queries. Just put this up because of Rachele's awesome critique.

Jaydee Morgan said...

You're query has evolved ten-fold. Keep up the good work - your effort is definitely paying off. I'm looking forward to Rachel's comments as well :)

Sarah Ahiers said...

oh this so much better! You're right in that it still needs improvement, but all the stuff that needs to be imporved are easy fixes!
I also got a query crit from Rachel and she verified the areas in my query that i knew needed work

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Hey, Matthew - well done!! Such a big difference. My only suggestion would be to break up that first line - and PUNCH it up! Turn up the volume so we can SEE Lee and his reluctance; get a read on him at a glance. (Oh, and I'm on Team Reluctant Delinquent. Love the phrase - please keep it!) Looking forward to seeing Rachele's crit.

Unknown said...

Matthew this was great!!! It gave me an idea of what I need to work towards when I'm done revising and ready to query. You've really grown with each letter you sent out and it was very smart not to include word count since it is really long you are still revising.

You're well on your way and I think the tips you made for yourself are perfect, you are more of an expert than I am!

The pieces on my blog come from the link I give you to access the story. They are just to show people other books that are great reads and I have enjoyed or would like too! It's something easy to do for my blog and I love it!

Unknown said...

I'm glad I explained it better! I know that some people still don't understand so I do periodically try and explain that it's not me who wrote them but those who wrote the books. It's basically a cop out on Tuesdays to get away from not having to do a real tough post!

Happy Tuesday!

Emily White said...

This is a lot better! I feel like I have such a better idea of what your story is than I did with the previous queries. I'm excited to see what Rachel has to say.

Hannah said...

I gotcha! Well then hurry up and finish revisions, this sounds like a YA novel I would LOVE! :)

Talli Roland said...

I love it when you analyse queries, Matthew! I agree with what you've said. I think you have some great material there but it needs to be zingier! Can't wait to see what your critique says.

Unknown said...

You're right, this is much improved from the early versions I saw. I agree with your assessment that it needs more voice and more conflict.

All we really learn is that the mc learns a bunch of martial arts stuff and he and his classmates are asked to investigate outside catastrophies.

What I want to know is, what obstacles does he face?

Ie does Lee want to stop the bad guys, but finds out that his father is the Darth Vader of the bad guys and feels conflicted? Or, does he want to stop the bad guys, but the adults think he's too young? Is he afraid?

Are the bad guys fighting against them in some way? Sabatoging their powers or something?

Unknown said...

I really like the opening sentence with the 'reluctant juvenile delinquent' phrase - it says a lot in three little words! I didn't see your earlier query, but I thought this one was decent. It sounds like you just need to knock down the word count - or split it into more than one book.:)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Think you've about got it down!

Lydia Kang said...

Hey Matthew,
This query sound great, but I agree it could be tweaked a bit. I like Zoe's comment, I think the first line needs to be broken up so the hooky line really packs more of a punch.
The story sounds AMAZING. Keep at it!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Much stronger, I agree. I think Creepy Query Girl and India make some good points. I thought the sentences were too long at times and could be broken up a little. That will add to the focus and strengthen the overall paragraph.

It's looking food, Matt! :-)

Matthew MacNish said...

Several people made the point about the first paragraph and other long sentences. This is great advice and I have to agree. I forgot that I had changed it into one sentence for a contest. Doh!

MBW aka Olleymae said...

I agree with all your comments. I can't wait to see what Rachele has to say. Just my two bits, but I think you could cut out the 3rd paragraph "At this strange and wonderful school..." All facinating, but I already had a feel he would be learning things along those lines, so you could keep it concise without that part.

So brave of you! I'll def. Check back on Thurs :)

Lindsay said...

Wow, this has changed so much from the previous ones.
Can't wait to see the feedback on it. :)

Shannon said...

Wow, Matt! A lot of improvement here! I can't wait to see what you do next.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Matthew, I have taken the liberty of writing a sample query that might help you write your own query letter :

If you are emailing this query, you might want to do the Subject Header in this sort of fashion :

Query for Stella Trueheart_WARRIOR MONKS_90,000 word YA fantasy.

(This tells the agent in a quick fashion just what she is looking at.)

Dear Ms. Trueheart :

When is a prison not a prison? When it is run by monks. When is a problem teen not a problem? When those monks heal the bruised heart within him.

Fifteen year old Lee Ruccio has a lousy role model. His father murdered his mother and is now in prison because of it. Lee is shipped off to Rocky Mountain Academy by his aunt and uncle after the death of his mother. To them it one step removed from a reform school. To Lee it is a path to a better way.

As the world outside the academy disintergrates into chaos, Lee learns every known martial art plus some he never suspected even existed. He grows more centered. The world grows more shattered. Industries and mines have ignorantly set free fire elementals from their buried prisons.

The reputation of the academy's teachers draw desperate business and world leaders to the school. And soon Lee and his newly made friends are drawn into a struggle of life and death, madness and chaos. And he finds out that sometimes the good guys lose ... unless they are very, very good at what they do.

Thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to submit sample chapters or the full manuscript.

phone number
blog address

Missed Periods said...

I am no expert, but I think that your critique of your query letter is pretty spot on. It's pretty amazing that you have the ability to be so objective about your own work.

Matthew MacNish said...

Holy crap Roland, that is really good!