Query Critique 23

Dear Mr./Mrs….

Most people believe that Luna Nimue is a normal girl just like any other ten-year-old Irish girl in the twenty-first century. However, she knows better: She is a witch. Don’t tell me she’s normal. Jump straight to her being a witch. Read why in this post.

After Luna’s parents were abducted, together with all other wizards and witches of Ireland, she was placed in Clare Abbey to grow up to become a nun. She must hide from the person who kidnapped her parents and at the same time discover her powers. So she doesn’t know she has powers. Does she know she is supposed to be hiding from somebody? If she’s living in complete ignorance of what’s going on around her, she needs an inciting incident to transport her into the world of magic. Since Luna is the only witch in the monastery apart from one of the older nuns, she has to use her own means including time travel and the transformation into an animal to aid the monastery by saving the holy water and reviving the old school building. Luna’s greatest wish is to converse with the moon and to find out where her parents might be. But most importantly, she needs to pretend to be an ordinary child. This part could be smoothed out with some cleaner transitions. The jump from time travel to talking to the moon was a little jarring to me.

THE MOON WHISPER – AND THE CELESTIAL FRIEND is a Children’s novel/Fantasy I would say a fantasy middle grade. Middle grade is more specific than “children’s.” completed at 51,000 words and the first book in a small series. This is my first fictional book, and it is my first time seeking a fiction literary agent. No need to state that it’s your first time searching for an agent.

Thanks for your time and consideration.


Bella Luna

Awhile back I did a post about how pitching fantasy is hard. I mentioned that when pitching fantasy, it’s important to focus on the thing that is most unique about your fantasy. I’d reiterate that here.  It is very important, and very difficult, to set yourself apart from other fantasy writers.

Read What You Write

If you’re a mystery writer, chances are you’ve read a lot of mysteries. If you’re a romance novelist, you’ve probably read a lot of romance.

Everyone knows that reading a lot in your genre helps you write better. The same is true of queries. Reading queries will help you write queries.

That’s part of the reason I wanted to do query critiques on the site. Not just to benefit the people receiving the critiques, but the ones reading the query letters as well.  When you read other people’s query letter’s you notice things. You can see how your own letter stacks up.

Read as many as you can. It will help you when you go to write.

Query Critique 22


After arriving on Mars with no memory of her life on Earth, a young girl must uncover the mysteries of her past while attending an institution training the red planet’s next generation of leaders.

When she arrives at the Academy, her file only contains her name — Aurora — and she is one of many students learning how to survive on the strange, lifeless planet.  She develops friendships, competes on the gymnastics team, and…

…there’s a boy…

Over time, life seems to find normalcy. I’d condense these two lines in with the second paragraph so that the letter follows more standard formatting. I also don’t think the part about the boy needs to be that set apart, since the romance doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to be the focus.

Until students begin to have strange, seemingly unrelated injuries.  The Administration claims these injuries are “accidents,” but Aurora and her friends are convinced that someone is attacking students.  To uncover the truth, she must dive deeper into the society developing on Mars.  She soon finds that the shadows lurking beneath its surface are intertwined with the mysteries of her past, and that her arrival on this planet may hold the key to its future. I’d elaborate a little on the elements in this last sentence. Be specific.

I am looking for an agent who believes — like I do — that young adult audiences are feeling fatigue with dystopian novels, and that an original concept can engage readers with adventure, mystery, and suspense without relying on a totalitarian setting.  I don’t love this part. Because 1) I think it’s better to focus on what the novel is rather than what it isn’t. 2) To me it shows a little ignorance about what is on the market. A lot of successful YA books recently have been genres other than Dystopia (The Fault in Our Stars, Throne of Glass, Code Name Verity, Dangerous…. To name a few). In fact, right now the NYT Best Sellers list for YA is ruled by contemporary.

At my day job in the nonprofit healthcare industry, I’ve excelled in organized and disciplined technical writing.  However, I am left with a yearning to flex the left-side of my brain, which I do by crafting stories about the adventures of a young girl on Mars.  I thought it was the right-side that was creative? When not writing, I also enjoy chasing around my beautifully opinionated, two-year-old daughter.

ADVENT MARS: THE ACADEMY is a young adult, science fiction mystery, complete at approximately 110,000 words.  If successfully published, it would be a debut novel. Just say this is your first novel. Don’t say “if published.” Be confident!

I have included the [required sample] below.  Thank you for your consideration.

Mister Martian

Elements of Style

When you write a query letter, you’re trying to condense a lot of information into a short amount of space. This often involves using more complicated sentence structures. Which, in turn, often leads to clunky sentence structures.

If you think this a problem for you, I recommend finding a copy of William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s Elements of Style. This is the book used by just about every writing and editing class I’ve been to at BYU. And the advice is phenomenal.

The tips on forming smooth sentences will not only help your query, but your entire manuscript. So get your hands on a copy if you can. It’s a great resource!

Diverse Books and What it Means for You

“Oh no! Everyone wants diverse characters, and my protagonist is heterosexual, white, and able-bodied.”

I understand. My main character is also heterosexual, white, and able-bodied. Mostly because the setting is based on Rococo period France. That setting and the fact that she’s white and straight are natural to her. That’s who she is.

I don’t believe in making characters diverse just for the sake of making them diverse. It makes the character lose authenticity. And it’s not fair for the character to just be the “token” LGBTQ or ethnic or whatever minority of the novel.

Yes, agents and editors are looking for diverse books. But they’re also looking for well developed characters, just like they’ve always been. If your character is diverse, do a happy dance. Because that’s hot right now. But don’t panic if your character isn’t diverse. Those characters still matter, and they’re still getting published!

The idea of diverse books is to make publishing inclusive of all races, cultures, abilities, sexual orientations, religions, body types, ect. Last I checked, caucasian is still a race, and heterosexual is still a sexual orientation. Those characters are still welcome.

At the end of the day, agents and editors are still looking for good books of all varieties. So let your characters be themselves, whoever that might be, and focus on making them awesome.

Query Critique 21

Well, this looks suspiciously like one of our contest winners 🙂 It’s cool to see the Twitter pitch turn into the full query.


I am querying you because of your interest in women’s fiction. PROJECT MATRIMONY is a 52,000 word women’s fiction that will appeal to readers of The Suitable Boy. I’d include the author’s name for your comparative title.

When twenty-four year old Neha is left standing alone at her wedding in Mumbai with nothing but henna designs on her hands as humiliating souvenirs, she has to swallow her pride and do the unthinkable – embrace the age old Indian tradition of arranged marriages. Try tightening this sentence up a little. I don’t think you need to specify Mumbai, since it’s clear from the rest of the query that the setting is India. I don’t think you need to specify that the henna is on her hands. Taking these out would make the sentence a little shorter.

Thanks to her nosy relatives, rumors spread about her scandal. Worried the stigma will adversely affect her younger sibling’s prospects, her parents place matrimonial ads in leading newspapers. While Neha is not entirely thrilled about being reduced to ‘Hindu software engineer girl, slim, fair seeking alliance with highly educated engineer or doctor in Mumbai’, she goes along with it for the sake of her parents. This sentence does a great job of giving the reader a lot of information very fast. Good job. With her stressed father is on the brink of a second heart attack,she agrees to marry Sameer – a man she barely knows and yet Neha knows in her heart that here is a man who would never walk out on her. This sentence is a little clunky to me. Play with it a little.

But when Neha is sent to New York on an IT consulting gig, somewhere between battling snow storms to I think this to should be an and getting mugged, she falls for another man. Now Neha is having second thoughts about her impending nuptials. But with the potential love of her life planning to marry a U.S citizen to permanently stay in America, Neha must choose between traditions and her own desires. Good. Establishes stakes.


Writing: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

The past couple weeks have been a little busy.

That’s an understatement. The past two weeks have been beyond hectic.

As a little life update, I started my MA program in linguistics about a week and a half ago. And I’ve hardly had a chance to catch my breath since.

School, and especially grad school are naturally busy. But this semester I’m particularly overloaded. Due to a weird scholarship thing, I’m taking an extra class for a total of sixteen credit hours (9 is considered full-time). I’m also working fifteen hours a week. And interning at the agency.

I also seem to have developed shin splints, which doesn’t really affect my writing but is annoying anyway.

What I’m getting at, is all this stuff has zapped both the time and energy I have for writing. Even when I find a spare minute to write, I feel too tired. I basically wake up in the mornings and start a count down to when I can sleep again.

This is really discouraging, because this summer I had a lot of time to write. And I have a novel that’s so close to being ready. I can hear my rather sassy protagonist saying, “Pardon me, but don’t you think you ought to finish revising my book? I’m not getting any younger.” I can practically taste the book’s potential.

I just can’t manage to finish writing the book.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post, but I think I should probably wrap it up so that I can take these precious moments and write rather than about writing. And yeah, I guess that writing this post has made me feel a little less guilty about not writing.

No doubt some of you have found yourself in similar predicaments. So if any of you have advice on how to keep the creative juices flowing when all you really want to do is sleep for a year… Let me know.

For now it’s four months in the fast lane.

Wish me luck.

P.S. I had the great foresight to build up a back log of posts for this blog. So there will be new posts about twice a week til the end of the year. So that’s good.