Author Topic: Query letter help  (Read 2953 times)

Offline weestro

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Query letter help
« on: September 17, 2013, 08:26:01 AM »
This is my first attempt at writing a query letter, and from the looks of things I need some help!  Any advice is appreciated.  Thanks!


Dear Agent,


Sam Beasley is the pride of Ridgeton, Virginia. The town has never let him go. From the state championship in high school to a hall of fame career in the NFL, his past has been there, waiting.

Now, divorced and retired at 42, Sam returns home for the funeral of his little league football coach, Mike Ryan. While giving a heartfelt eulogy he's overcome with emotion. After all, it was Coach Ryan who believed in him when he was a timid 9 year old boy living in squalor with his alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend. And it was his coach who took him in following the aftermath of a horrific car accident that leveled his childhood.

With the only man he’s ever trusted laid to rest, Sam stays behind to help his adoptive mother get the old house ready for the market. What follows is an introspective journey through the jangled childhood memories left behind in a town where so much has changed yet remained the same. Sam enlists the help of an old friend, stumbles upon secrets of his youth, and rekindles long forgotten feelings for his childhood crush. As he yearns to forge ahead with his life, he must first make amends with the past.

Set before the scenic backdrop of The Blue Ridge Mountains, RIDGETON REDEMPTION is a 75,000 word sports novel with touches of humor and themes of family, forgiveness, and hope.

Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: Query letter help
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2013, 10:32:18 AM »
W -
I want to start off by recommending Query University. It consists of the following semi-non-elective courses:

1. The query guidelines provided by this site and also Agent Query.
2. Nathan Bransford's wonderful archive of replies to would-be query writers.
3. Query Shark's (Janet Reid's) just as wonderful archive of the same.
4. Elana Johnson's concise guidelines on writing queries, found here -

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/123185124/From-the-Query-to-the-Call-by-Elana-Johnson

Next, I'll pass along some suggestions.

1. The hook (that short opening paragraph), could begin by working in why Sam is the pride of Ridgeton - his athletic prowess. Next, I'd put in that it's in the Blue Ridge mountains right up front too so we have a picture in our minds, instead of having it crop up at the end.

2. " a horrific car accident that leveled his childhood" is telling, not showing. I don't know the stakes. I gather later that his mother died, but I have to guess. Let us know what happened in a way that we get the fallout, as that will be more powerful.

3. Who or what is Sam's antagonist? How does his past athletic prowess fit into the problem/conflict?

4. Drop "with touches of humor and themes of family, forgiveness, and hope" as it's telling again. The key here is to let the reader draw their own conclusions, not try to put your interpretation on them.

5. Lastly, what makes this novel different? What is the twist that's new or intriguing? At this point, it sounds like a fairly familiar story.

So, I know all that is tough to hear. Enroll in Query U, study hard, and then try us again. I will tell you nothing is easy about writing in this query form, as it's different than anything you've likely done before. But it's just a learning process, and as you learned how to write a novel, you can learn how to do this very well also. Good luck,

Mark
Stories are equipment for living - critic Kenneth Burke

Offline weestro

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Re: Query letter help
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2013, 01:12:25 PM »
Mark, not tough at all, I apprecitate your advice!  I was trying build intrigue (and telling in the process), but in doing so made my story rather bland. I will look into the link you provided.  Thanks again!

munley

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Re: Query letter help
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2013, 10:36:55 PM »
Just a comment on "" a horrific car accident that leveled his childhood" is telling, not showing."

It's the novel itself that must do the showing. There isn't room in a quick query summary for showing a lot, and that is not the query's job.  It's good to have a tad of showing just to capture the flavor of the writing and some feel for maybe one scene, but it's pretty hard to apply a show-don't-tell rule throughout the query.

The problem I have with " a horrific car accident that leveled his childhood" is that it is too vague.
It should specify how it leveled his childhood. 
Did it kill his father?  Did it kill his mother and her boyfriend, and is that why he went to live with the coach? Not clear if his father was ever in the picture or if the boy even knew who he was.

I agree with other problems pointed out. This first query attempt has a lot of interesting ingredients but need to be focused with the most important details that indicate significant turning points in the book, mostly what the main character is facing now.   A detail like how he broke down during the eulogy is good in the book but takes up space in a query that could be used give us a broader understanding of what the book is about.

Good suggestions, Mark, for resources for learning about query writing.

Offline weestro

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Re: Query letter help
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2013, 08:25:52 AM »
Munley, thank you for your imput!  Sam was the only survivor in the wreck with his mother.  She's drunk and crosses into the other lane and kills a mother and her three children.  Later in the book (years later, upon his return), he meets the father of the family that perished in the accident.  Do you think this should be included or should it be more of a teaser?

Thanks!

Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: Query letter help
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2013, 10:41:10 AM »
W -
I think adding the detail that his mother was killed in the car crash may be sufficient. Adding in meeting the father of the family killed in the other car doesn't seem to be an important piece here. The important bit is that Sam ends up living with the coach, it seems.

Mark
Stories are equipment for living - critic Kenneth Burke

Offline weestro

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Re: Query letter help
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2013, 11:15:33 AM »
Thanks again Mark!  I'll get there!