Sep 5, 2009


Click here to read the original query.

Dear Mr. Agent:

A studious teen’s life has become the stuff of nightmares: not only was she created by aliens to save the universe, but her housecat is actually a werecat in disguise, and she has magical abilities that she has to learn to use on her own which get her mixed up in a dragon civil war, and through all this, dark fairies are hunting her.

We'd like to submit our young adult fantasy, The Chosen Ones, for your review. The completed manuscript is approximately 100,000 words.

Katie is an outcast, her sophomore peers are just too creeped out by her purple hair and glowing violet eyes. Instead of having friends, Katie has books as companions. When the dark fey find her on Earth, her housecat hides her on another planet and explains the truth. There she begins training to use her magical abilities and befriends a pride of dragons that are in dire need of help before their hatchlings die. Soon she realizes she can't help them alone and inadvertently brings Jack to her aid.

Jack was orphaned as a baby and ran away from the latest foster home. Normal people avoid him because of his glowing amber eyes and ability to know what they are thinking. His alley cat companion is telepathic and has been Jack’s only friend on the streets.

Immediately Jack and Katie butt heads. Katie was hoping for the boy in her dreams, and instead Jack is arrogant and awkward. He acts like life is a game. Now they must put aside their differences to save their new dragon friends and thwart the dark fey's attempts at destroying the dragons' planet. Will the logical Katie be able to see through Jack's defenses and learn to trust him in time?

While The Chosen Ones is a stand alone novel, it is also the first in a planned trilogy. We have started writing the second book, The Prophesy, and have a detailed outline available for review. The Alliance, the third book, also has a rough outline in place. This is our first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Natalie and Rick Nuttall
(email address)
(phone number)


gj said...

While it sounds like the book is a fun read, the query is too long, and needs to be cut by at least a third, perhaps a half. Especially since the word count for the book itself is close to twice what I believe is the expected YA word count (more in the 60K to 70K range), having a long query may suggest to the agent that the book also needs substantial cutting.

With respect to the substance of the query, beware of vague phrases, and also (with the length issue) beware of offering BOTH the vague phrase and the concrete example (in the query and in the story too; you may want to double-check to see if that's a writing habit you have across all forms).

For one example, the whole first paragraph summarizes the rest of the query; you can cut all of that and just start in on the query with the protagonist, without doing what in screenwriting is called a logline.

For another example, in the beginning, you call her an outcast (vague conclusion) and then give something of a concrete example (her appearance), and then essentially repeat the fact of her being an outcast (books are her friends). Get that down to one pithy phrase (that also differentiates in ways that are deeper than physical, from, say, Hermione in the Harry Potter series), and then establish her story problem. She's asocial, and she's been whisked away somewhere and been told that she has to save the world. How does she feel about it? What does she do about it? What are her stakes? What if she just says "no"? Make her care about saving the world, and make us care about her.

TLH said...

I agree with everything GJ said completely, but I have a little comment about substance.

I love fantasy, LOVE it, especially YA. But this query was too much, too fast, even for me. The story sounds like it would be fun and interesting (and the length doesn't really scare me, though some agents will balk at it), but the first paragraph of the query made my head spin.

If you're doing contemporary fantasy, you need to base us in reality first, then take us slowly into the crazy magical world you're building. You can't just throw us in headfirst or we get overstimulated! So back up with Katie and Jack, and take us in slow.

The synopsis part of your query is a bit too much. Boil it down... tell me what the basic conflict is without all the cool intricacies that would make perfect sense if we had 100,000 words to get used to it. You can include a teaser about the other extra magics going on in your world.

I hope that made sense. This really sounds cool, I would definitely take it home!


RCWriterGirl said...

The first paragraph also stumped me a little too. I see what you're trying to do. It's like giving an opening statement in a speech and using everything that follows to back up that statement. But, it doesn't really work in this query because the statement is too long.

While I agree with the things gj and TLH said, my main problem with this is the title/beginning of the query don't seem to have anything to do with what's happening.

It's called the Chosen Ones, yet I have no idea what they're chosen to do. This girl has special powers and trains to use them. Trains for what? Why? Who are these fey people after her? Why?

I'd like an overarching dilemma. If it's the dragons, you might want to leave all this other stuff behind about her school and being an outcast. Dragons don't really have anything to do with that. If the plot point is: girl saves her dragon kingdom from destruction, introduce the dragons upfront. Tell us Katie is chosen to protect light fairies and dragons from the evils of the universe.

Also, this Jack character was thrown in rather abruptly. Suddenly you say, Katie inadvertently brings Jack to help her? Huh? How did she know Jack coul be of help? How did she summon him inadvertently? Is he chosen, too? Chosen to do what?

I'm not trying to be discouraging or unfair. It's hard to put yourself out there for review, and I applaud you for doing it. I just feel a real disconnect between the title and what's being presented in the query. I feel like I should be getting a different story--one that explains why the people are chosen. I think that is more necessary than the backgroud about them being misfits and having magical cat watchers.

Good luck with your querying.

RCWriterGirl said...

I just went back and read your original query. The opening of that query was a weakpoint, but overall I liked it better because it explained why they were chosen. It was also shorter and more to the point about the dilemma Katie is facing.

That query might be a better starting point for revision than this most recent one.

I think your first query would work better starting off with something like: 15-year-old Katie wanted to be normal. But she couldn't once dark fey bent on universal domination tried to kill her. Katie learns she's the chosen one, a creature bred by aliens to battle the dark fey, and save the universe from their tyranny....

Anyway. Good luck. I think your story is really interesting.

Dominique said...

You can swing a 100k word count, but it'll be hard. Serious awesomeness is required to get an agent to look past it.

I enjoyed the query, but I don't think you can toss something like 'created by aliens' out there and then overlook it for the rest of the query.

Anica Lewis said...

You've definitely got tension here. I would hazard to say, though, that you might focus on a couple of elements in the query. Also, as Dominique said, you want to be careful about throwing in a phrase like "created by aliens" and then not elaborating.

I agree with earlier comments, too, in that you could probably cut the first paragraph and combine the first two sentences of the third paragraph.

I'd like to see more specifically how Jack comes into things and winds up helping Katie.

I have to say, as a minor note, that I LOVE the idea of a "pride" of dragons. I've never seen that before.