Ask Daphne! About My Query L

April 2nd, 2010 • Kate

ghostshoeOMG, guys, I misnumbered all of the AMQ posts in the 40s. They should have been “XLwhatever” instead of “XXXXwhatever.” Will the ancient Romans ever forgive me? Anyway, on to today’s back-to-normal AMQ post, with ghost shoes.

Dear Daphne Unfeasible,

I am writing to you to consider my 80,000 word young adult novel, GHASTLY NIGHTMARES because of your interest in YA fiction and impeccable taste in shoes.

When Lily Fowler wakes up in her coffin in the tiny town of Ostrander, Minnesota as a ghost and is told she is now a mix of electromagnetic fields, belief, and soul, she panics and immediately takes the fastest route home. Unfortunately, this means sprinting straight through a political rally in a parking garage full of ghosts, poltergeists, and boggarts, causing their first impression of her to be somewhat on the negative side. This impression strengthens when they find she still spends time with Jake, her next door neighbor who believes in ghosts.

To top things off, she is arrested for breaking and entering her own home by two bumbling idiots, and sentenced to a year of work in a corporeality research lab and with a local political campaign. When Lily finds herself linked to a person who has recently been killed, and then attacked by someone with an axe while she is trying to go bungee jumping with her best friend Jake, she must find a way to balance finding out who is trying to frame her as a criminal and why, doing all the things she never got to do while she was alive, and quashing a burgeoning crush on Jake, the only person who has always stood by her.

This is my first novel.

Thanks for your time,
N.N.

In the case of this query, I almost want to know more about the WORLD that the book is set in, and a little less about what happens. I mean, it seems like ghosts in this world are vastly different that the accepted understanding of what that term means. Plus, there’s a whole bureaucracy about the afterlife, or so it seems. Who tells Lily that she’s a ghost, after all? What does a bad first impression with a “parking garage full of ghosts, poltergeists, and boggarts” mean for her? Who are the “two bumbling idiots” that arrest her?

N.N., I have no doubt that you KNOW all of this, but I think the query could use a few more clues.

With that said, I think Lily as a character is a little short-sheeted as well. We get that she “panics” when she’s first told she’s ghost, but beyond that, we have no sense of how she reacts to her new circumstances, and what she feels. How does Lily take it that Jake can still see her? What does that mean to her, and by extension, how will your reader feel about their relationship?

Going back to the format of the query, I’d love to know a little bit more about you. Even if you don’t have any publishing credits to include, I think most agents are always happy to get a short bio from the authors querying them.

Readers, what do you think?

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9 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query L”

  1. Jordan Deen Says:

    Spot on Daphne! The idea is interesting, but it feels like I'm missing a huge/important part of the story by not knowing the world. Also, I think the first line is repetitive- she wakes up in her coffin as a ghost. I'd move the ghost part or the coffin part, but it struck me as overkill. (Excuse the pun) 🙂

    Some agents say they don't want anything unless you have credits and others say they want to know something about you. I doubt it could hurt including a little something of yourself… it attaches the writer to the query and puts a piece of you out there. Just IMO.

    Jordan~

  2. Rissa Watkins Says:

    The first sentence is too long with too much info. I would break up the sentence more. Take out the tiny town and maybe add that as a second line. Definitely need more info about her and what is going on. You tell us she panics, but we need to be shown more about how she feels and what she is supposed to be doing now.

    Like if she is a ghost- can the axe hurt her? Before she got in trouble, what was she supposed to do?

    The book sounds like it could be really good, but the query needs more to make us connect to her and her circumstances.

  3. Georgiana Says:

    It's an interesting idea but the query is sloppy, which would make me worry that the book is also sloppy, esp as it is a first novel. Did you try reading your query out loud? This can really help make you aware of where it needs to be tightened. Conversely getting a friend to read it to you can also be illuminating.

    One pet peeve – when I entered the business world a friend told me never start any correspondence with "I am writing". The recipient knows you're writing so don't waste everyone's time with reiterating. Also you say "I am writing to you to consider" when you meant you wanted Daphne to consider your novel (an example of what I mean by "sloppy") so I would rewrite the opening sentence completely. (I very much like the part about impeccable taste in shoes. So true!)

    Best of luck!

  4. Krista V. Says:

    You have a nice, reader-friendly voice, and if this same lighthearted tone persists throughout the manuscript, I'm in. But your pitch skirts around the three essential elements of a query – character, conflict, and stakes – so I'm missing the story.

    As Daphne mentioned, we need a better sense of Lily, but we also need a better sense of the plot. The entire first paragraph and first sentence of the second are mostly extraneous details that don't have a lot to do with the main story arc, as least as far as we can tell. We get a hint of the conflict and stakes only in the final sentence, but we need more.

    What's Lily's biggest problem? Is it being framed for a crime she didn't commit? (How can she be framed for a crime when she's dead, by the way? Any why is being attacked with an axe a scary thing? Isn't she already, ya know, dead?) Is her biggest problem her relationship with Jake? And whatever it is, what are the consequences of not overcoming it?

    I hope that helps. And good luck with this. It definitely sounds like something I'd read, so I hope to see it on the shelves someday:)

  5. Kimber An Says:

    "I think most agents are always happy to get a short bio from the authors querying them."

    Really? I assumed you all could care less, unless we had degrees in Creative Writing and had won the Rita or something.

    As for the query, I think it's good if it's not a character-driven story. The author needs to consider her potential audience. What will they care about most in this story?

  6. NN Says:

    Hey guys!

    It's my query that's up right now.

    I just wanted to say thanks for all your comments. I'll definitely be taking them all into account as I revamp my query. Now, reading it again after Daphne's comments, I see where you guys are coming from

    Thanks again!

  7. Kimber An Says:

    P.S. Love the title.

  8. Mork Says:

    Am I the only one who is bothered by the character's name? Lily Fowler is a bit too close to Lila Fowler from SVH for me. She's a pretty well-known name, and with the upcoming reissues of Sweet Valley, it concerns me…

  9. NN Says:

    Mork-

    Yeah, I've decided to change that. Originally, I named her Lily, because I've always loved that name, and then gave her the last name Fowler, after one of my friends who has always wanted to be a character in a book.

    But then I remembered the SVU character as well, so I won't keep that name. I just didn't want to send a whole new query if only the name was changed. Good catch, though!