if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXI

fall-bootsIt may not yet be officially fall, but why not celebrate the season (or at least September) with a lovely pair of fall boots? Personally, I can’t wait to have a legitimate excuse to pull out my Duo Boots! But that’s still likely a few weeks away. Until then, let’s take a look at F.K.’s query, shall we?

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

I would like to introduce you to my first novel entitled, LOVE IN HUNI VALLEY. A contemporary young adult romantic suspense that is fully complete at approximately 51,000 words.

You can warn a good girl off a bad boy. But what if it rather piques her interest to meeting him? What if she finds out badness is not all he’s made of? LOVE IN HUNI VALLEY is this unlikely love story between Evelyn Kallin and Henry Raw, students at Huni Valley high. Henry was a recalcitrant boy and a desperate folk living up to dreams and his family’s reputation, a legacy that expected him to make good grades and be a womanizer all together at the same time and not flopping somewhere in the middle. In his quest, there’s one thing he needed to keep in mind–that as a Raw, love comes after legendary status. Evelyn was a daughter born to a Catholic Father. Sure, she lived life on different standards. But when she’s paired with Henry–a boy she’s warned off–in the high school most beautiful contest, their coupling became something that couldn’t be separated. They formed a bond that even the pressures of family, friends, and past mistakes couldn’t break. Being with each other led them to things they never thought would happen, to feelings that reached deep and changed everything around Henry Raw–in a story that will touch the strength and weakness of your deepest emotions. LOVE IN HUNI VALLEY stands up with wry humor, romance, and a genuinely passionate conclusion–a fast-paced novel that will grip you from the first to the last page.

Thank you for your time.


I’m going to be brutally honest, F.K. This is rough. To start, the second sentence of your query isn’t a full sentence, but a fragment, and “fully complete” is redundant.

Moving on to the bulk of the book’s description, you’ve got two rhetorical questions following a hook sentence I’d rewrite as “You can try to warn a good girl off a bad boy,” although even that is rough. And “What if she finds out badness is not all he’s made of?” is poor grammar, among other issues. I’d cut the first three sentences of this paragraph altogether, and start right in with your characters: “LOVE IN HUNI VALLEY is the [not ‘this’] unlikely love story between Evelyn Kallin and Henry Raw, students at Huni Valley High [not ‘high’].”

When you get into the detail of Evelyn and Henry, beware switching back and forth between tenses: Henry or Evelyn was, versus “when she’s paired with Henry.” More specifically, this paragraph doesn’t really tell me anything about the characters beyond some gross generalizations — Henry’s expected to live up to his family’s reputation as a “legend”, whatever that means, and Evelyn is a good Catholic girl. Tell me more about how these two students live in vastly different social circles, never meeting until the contest that names them both “Most Beautiful” pairs them together. What does that mean for them personally? What is it about what they see in each other that causes Evelyn to disregard the warnings she’s heard about Henry? And how does that change him?

In general, I dislike queries that promise to “touch the strength and weakness of your deepest emotions”, because I’m an ornery old cuss, and a cynical New Yorker to boot. In addition, you dive right back into clich‚ with “a fast-paced novel that will grip you from the first to the last page.”

Finally, you don’t tell me anything about yourself, and in this case, given what I’ve seen already, I will admit that it makes me wonder how old you are, or if English isn’t your first language. Most aspiring authors have some relevant credits to list, even if it’s just a degree or time spent on a school newspaper or literary magazine.

Readers, what do you think? How would you fix this emotional Romeo & Juliet-esque story? And am I the only one who expected some Native American color with a title like LOVE IN HUNI VALLEY? To the comments!

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