Query Critique 40

Dear Agent,

In SUFFER THE CHILDREN, Alex, a recovering alcoholic, is slowly regaining horrific lost memories, memories that could expose a decades old ring of human trafficking. I think human-trafficking ring sounds a little better than ring of human trafficking, but that might be personal preference.

Thaddeus Cahill lured thousands of Mexican immigrants onto his land, promising them a better life, and then betrayed them by using their bodies as fodder to create a formula, which could clone humans to anyone’s liking. If in the wrong hands, this formula which enables the cloning of humans of any gender, age, or level of intelligence, could be used to create an army of evil in a greedy bid for power, encompassing sexual trafficking and human experimentation. Thaddeus Cahill’s grandnephew is seeking the formula, and his intentions are vile and nefarious; and he’ll destroy and annihilate anyone who attempts to thwart him in his quest. Maybe I’m dense, but I’m having a little trouble wrapping my mind around how cloning works. Also, I’m not sure the history of how cloning came to be is as important to the query as establishing the problems that it is causing now.

Alex must find the formula and destroy it before Cahill’s grandnephew does. If Alex fails, the consequences will be disastrous. So I’m assuming Alex is the main character, but he/she (I’m not sure, because it’s common name for both genders) doesn’t even get brought up until the very end. He/she should be in the query from the start. Also, rather than saying the consequences will be disastrous SHOW me. Give me something tangible.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is a thriller/suspense novel, intended for the adult reader and is complete at 76,500  words.

Sincere thanks for reading this query,

Author 2.0

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Q&A Presenting Alternating Viewpoints in a Query Letter

If your novel has dual POV, like the one above, is it necessary to indicate this in the query? Recently I read that it’s best to present the query concisely from the POV of one character (the primary). If I do that, is it jarring to then mention that there are two viewpoints?

When I try to include both viewpoints in my pitch paragraph, it gets too wordy and bulky, though the alternating voices–one male and one female–are important to the book.


So I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, and I’m not really sure I have a great answer. Dealing with multiple viewpoints is tricky.

I’ll start by saying, that I think whether the novel is written in first or third person makes a big difference. If you’re writing third, the issue of switching perspectives isn’t as big of a deal, because switching perspectives in third is a lot less jarring than it is in first person.

In first person, it’s more problematic. While thinking about this question, I went through my inbox and looked at all the queries that I’ve ever requested partials from. Only one had first person alternating point of view. This was mentioned in the query, though most of the query did seem to come more from the perspective of one character.

Another thing to consider is how the characters share page time within the story.POV may alternate, but how frequently? Does each character narrate the same number of chapters? Or is the story dominated by one character with bits from another character interspersed?

This will probably be an unsatisfying answer, but I’m not sure there really is a correct way to do this. I do think it’s something that needs to be considered. I also think that POV in the query letter is something to play around with. Maybe trying to write from two POV’s does make it too complicated, but you don’t know until you try. In other words, crank out as many versions of your query as possible, then sit down and consider which one works best for your story.

Coming up on Thoughts From the Agent Desk

Now that it’s February, I’m finally thinking about the directions I want to go with the blog this year. Here’s what I’m planning:

More query critiques Of course. We love the query critiques, right? I love them. I’ve got critiques scheduled to live throughout the rest of February and March. I’m still accepting submissions for queries to be critiqued on the blog (see the Query Critiques link on the left side bar). I don’t always get to them quickly, but I am still reading and responding to them!

A series of posts focusing on voice: Agents are ALWAYS saying that they want manuscripts with voice. Strong voices, fresh voices, unique voices, authentic voices. Yet nobody seems to know how to describe what “good voice” is. We just know it when we see it. I’m going to attempt to demystify this a little bit. I’ll be posting weekly exercises to improve voice and character, as well as posting recommendations for books to study.

A series of what happens after you query I focus a lot on the querying process. Later this year, I want to do a series of post that talk about what happens when your query is successful. What are things you should take into consideration before signing with an agent? What happens if more than one agent offers on your MS? What are retainer agreements? What is the submission process like?

More Q&A I guess I can’t promise this feature as it’s kind of dependent on whether or not people ask me questions. But I do hope to get some questions from the readers (post them in the comments, email me, tweet me. Get in touch however you want!). I want to address issues that you want to know more about. So ask away.

Contests I just did a contest and don’t have another one planned immediately. But they are fun. I’m hoping I have time to do a Twitter contest, because I really like them. But am also overwhelmed by the quality of submissions.

I’m excited for the upcoming year! I hope you are too. Let me know if there’s anything I haven’t mentioned that you would like to see on the blog.

Query Critique 39

Dear Ms. Agent:

Suji thought her abusive stepfather was bad, but life in the streets of New Delhi isn’t much better. Especially after she’s kidnapped by an Indian since you’ve already mentioned New Delhi, I’m not sure you need to specify Indian. cult who believes she’s the reincarnation of their goddess. Maybe include the name of the goddess. Now she’s expected to have a hunger for sharp swords and human throats, but worse, can’t keep her promise to rescue her sister. The bit about “hunger for sharp swords and human throats” is a little confusing for me.

After her escape leads to a near death experience that trashes her memories, Suji wakes in Hong Kong. With no idea how she’s gotten there, her confused mind soon finds a surrogate sister to rescue. When the young woman is murdered, Suji discovers an affinity for sharp objects, a knack for death, Maybe killing, this makes it sound like she has a knack for dying. and a burning desire to stop the prostitution gang responsible.

As the body count increases, Because Suji is killing people, or because others are killing to get to her? she’s hounded by visions of diabolical figures chasing her to a watery grave. When ritual sacrifices make the local headlines, Suji decides she can no longer tell reality from fantasy, and seals the horrors of her past deep within her mind—along with her burgeoning childhood memories.

Free of her nightmares, Suji journeys to America, where she will manipulate the CIA to destroy the gang. The “will” in this sentence is making the tense do funny things… But to avenge a sister she no longer remembers, Suji has become what she never wanted to be: Kali, goddess of death, bringer of change.

Sometimes destiny is just meant to be. I’d like to see a closer that has stakes attached.

BLACK RAIN is a 100,000-word suspense novel set during Hong Kong’s monsoon season. I’d like some indication of the age range. Is it YA? Adult? How old is Suji? Also, is it the first in a series, or a stand alone? Good overall sense of conflict, though.

Story Guru