Ask Daphne! About My Query LX

June 18th, 2010 • Kate

yellow_shoesDaffodil yellow shoes for Mel J.’s query today, which follows below. Please add your comments in the appropriately-named comment section!

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

High in her castle, shielded by an immense stone wall, the Princess Mairwen hides from her starving people. Orphaned by the plague, she desires only to avoid the filthy commoners and their fatal diseases. But when her interest in the outside world begins to blossom, her loyal advisors insist on complete isolation—and Mairwen begins to wonder if she’s a beloved princess, or a prisoner.

Meanwhile, on a far mountaintop, timid Eirian has enjoyed a simple pastoral life with her father, who is determined to shield her from a secret past and an uncertain future. Having had only her beloved sheep for company throughout childhood, she is utterly unprepared when tragedy thrusts her into the thick of a famished society on the verge of revolution.

Two maidens kept from the world. Two lives turned inside out. Two separate paths that will soon converge, for when Mairwen chooses to defy her oppressive caretakers, she will need help to save not only her people, but also herself. And that help must come from a shy mountain girl who has no idea of the power she holds.

Drawing on Welsh mythology and geography, When Daffodils Bloom is a Young Adult novel complete at 80,000 words. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Mel J.

I like the set-up! The opening line is very strong, but I immediately want to know more about what brought about her blossoming interest in the outside world. I also have to question just how “beloved” a princess she was, if she thinks the commoners are filthy and she needs from them. It seems to speak to her self-delusion, if nothing else.

When we get to Eirian, I had to stifle a laugh when I read about her beloved sheep — I may have lived in England for too long, but I can’t help but think of several dirty jokes about people loving their sheep. I don’t think you want that in your query. I’d also be aware of some possibly unintentional alliteration: “tragedy thrusts her into the thick”, for instance.

The repetition of “two” in the penultimate paragraph is nice, but I’d aim for a more aggressive end to that cycle, maybe “Two separate paths that must converge” or “Two separate paths that will crash together”.

I’d love to have a little more detail about why Eirian needs to help Mairwen, and what power you hint at, but maybe that’s me. In all, I think this is a pretty strong query! Readers, your thoughts?

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10 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LX”

  1. Jess Says:

    I mostly like it, I just want a better sense of how and why their paths cross, and why. I think the writer does an especially nice job with tone in the query, from the word choices I do get a hint of the voice and writing style.

  2. Becky Mahoney Says:

    Great, now I can't stop snickering like a five-year-old at "beloved sheep!" (Though for what it's worth, I didn't notice until Daphne pointed it out.)

    I like this! I see a lot of YA romance these days, so a story centered around a female friendship is a nice change for me. I'd mostly like to know more about Eirian's power and why she's in a position to help Mairwen, and I'd like to know more about Mairwen's personality in general. Like Daphne, I'm wondering why she's so beloved if she thinks the commoners are filthy, and I want to know what brought about her change of heart. Did she have some kind of encounter with a commoner that changed her mind? I'd love to know more.

    Great work, and good luck!

  3. Carrie Harris Says:

    I'd be interested to hear how the myth comes into play. If this is a retelling of a Welsh myth, I'm not familiar with it. So for me, that phrase doesn't add anything if you don't elaborate a little.

    Although I'm always intrigued by books based on myth, so that's a good thing!

    Best of luck!

  4. Olivia Says:

    I want to read the book now. But of course, it's fantasy. I love straight-up fantasy like this. It was a well-written query, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I'd like it. I'd suck at being an agent, as I'd accept pretty much everything…lol.

  5. Mel J. Says:

    Thank you so much! Your comments have been incredibly helpful. After reading this, a friend stepped forward and volunteered to be my Inadvertent-Crudeness Editor. It looks like I need one!

  6. Adam Heine Says:

    I think the biggest thing I want more of is what Daphne said, about Eirian's power and her secret past. Like, why is she the One Who Can Save the World?

    And the first paragraph might come across more sympathetic if Mairwen's opinions about the outside (e.g. filthy commoners) were things she was taught to believe, rather than opinions she formed herself. Blame her self-delusion on her advisors 🙂

  7. Olivia Says:

    I don't think more information needs to be given about her power HERE. The purpose of a query letter is to get the agent's attention. All of us here want to know more, so didn't it get the job done? The specifics are more suited to the synopsis.

  8. Genny Wilson Says:

    Wow. This is great! Congratulations.

  9. Adrienne Says:

    I agree with Olivia, the query provoked all these questions in all of you, isn't that what's it supposed to do? If she gives everything away in the query what's there for the agent to read?

    Great job, apart from the sheep, it was awesome.

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