Ask Daphne! About My Query 8

October 21st, 2016 • Sara Megibow

AboutMyQueryToday’s About My Query comes to you live from New York City! I’m drinking coffee, eating a bagel and watching the city buzz…

Dear Agent,

In a futuristic world divided by disease and controlled by wealth, Nia, a 16-year-old prodigy, has only ever known a life of poverty, amateur fighting, and a dying mother. Until the day she receives a package with a last will and testament and a hologram addressed to her. In its message, Nia is indicated as the sole beneficiary of a wealth beyond her imagination, inherited from a now dead father that she hadn’t known had even been alive. What’s more? He’s the man plastered on all of the Breaking News screens… and he’s white.

Her father was Oliver Grant, the infamous billionaire and engineer of the HYPE injection that cured the world of a pandemic disease and further enhanced human capabilities. But the injection is only affordable to the rich and given to the poor in controlled portions. Now Oliver is dead, suspected foul play surrounds his death, and Nia holds the only evidence that confirms there actually was.

Because there is another injection, one more advanced than its predecessor, one worth killing over. As a condition of receiving her inheritance, Nia is commissioned to infiltrate the wealthy division and destroy her father’s research before it destroys the world. First, she must join Match Masters, a superhuman fight club, in order to gain the trust of the only person who knows where the injection is hidden. But there was no strategy for meeting Legend, the young and illustrious Match Master fighter who pleasantly distracts Nia in ways she hadn’t prepared for. But it’s Legend who may reveal the most deceptive secret of all.

Complete at 75,000 words, I am seeking representation for my YA, Science Fiction MATCH MASTERS and believe you may be interested. Thank you for your consideration and I hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,
XX

Thank you so much for sending in this query – great work! I love young adult science fiction like FALLS THE SHADOW by Stefanie Gaither so I read this submission eagerly. There’s a lot of potential here and a great story with a ton of meat on its bones. I have three general observations in terms of query critique so let’s dive in…

As with every query, the number one thing I’m looking at is quality of writing. There’s a ton of action and excitement in this pitch but there are also some moments of choppy grammar. Choppy grammar is a red flag for me. Avoid incomplete sentences like this, “Until the day she receives a package with a last will and testament and a hologram addressed to her” and avoid run-on sentences like this, “But there was no strategy for meeting Legend, the young and illustrious Match Master fighter who pleasantly distracts Nia in ways she hadn’t prepared for.” A query must demonstrate superior craft in order for me to request sample pages so do another round of edits here to make sure the writing is as flawless as possible.

The second thing I notice in this query is that I’m not sure what is the inciting incident. At what point does the story launch? Is the inciting incident when Nia receives the last will of her previously unknown father? Or is it when she’s commissioned to destroy her father’s research? Or, is it when she joins Match Masters? My guess is that the inciting incident is when Nia is told she must destroy her father’s research (although I’d make sure to point out why she has to do this – is it just so she can inherit or is there more at stake). If I’m correct then my suggestion would be to reorganize this query to focus on that moment and trim back on the backstory. The query could be edited like this:
“a 16yr old prodigy is commissioned to destroy the research of her previously unknown father. She could say no but that would condemn her to a life of violence and disease” or something similar.

Finally, the query has a few other hiccups that fall under the umbrella of “writing isn’t as strong as it could be.” For example, avoid describing Nia as, “16-year-old prodigy, has only ever known a life of poverty, amateur fighting, and a dying mother” as a recitation of details like this feels weak. Also, work on making Legend’s character more of a focus. He’s introduced at the very end of the pitch in a way that makes it hard to know if he’s a major character or how his character influences Nia’s plot.

In short, there’s a ton to love here – great work! Edit the grammar to make it as strong as possible, focus on introducing the inciting incident and trimming back on the backstory and make sure the overall writing is as strong as possible. I hope this helps and happy querying!

-Sara

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