Mar 15, 2010

Query- Joshua and the Fantastic Forest

Dear Mr. Brown,

Your interest in middle grade fantasy fiction - and willingness to work with new authors - is what drew me to contacting you about representing my recently completed work. My manuscript, Joshua and the Fantastic Forest, is a 51,680 word contemporary middle grade adventure fantasy.

Twelve-year old Joshua Cooper enjoys nature treks but he’s about to find out how a walk in the woods can change his life – forever – or end it.

As the new kid in town on summer break he is desperate for adventure and he finds it in the nearby forest, but not with other kids – or even humans for that matter. He encounters fantastic, talking animals accidentally created from the DNA of their ancestors long before dinosaurs roamed the earth. He shares his magical world with two unlikely friends – a bully and an old man – and they vow to protect the secret of the amazing animals always.

But, when an evil fox creates an army to rule the forest – and destroy the world – Joshua must find a way with his new friends to raise their own army and defend themselves in the battle of their lives. When Joshua victoriously leads the animals in bloody war against the evil animal hoard he is struck down near death – and it is up to his friends to figure out how to bring him back to life.

I am the author of a self-published memoir (xxxxxx) and a freelance writer. Please find enclosed a sample chapter. I would love the opportunity to share the entire manuscript of Joshua and the Fantastic Forest with you.

Thank you for your time and consideration!


Rick Daley said...

It sounds like an interesting premise. Here are a few things I would change in the query.

- Don't say "recently completed work." It should be written, re-written, critiqued, revised, edited, and then finalized. Recently completed makes it sound like you've only gone through the first of those iterations. Just say "my novel JOSHUA AND THE FANTASTIC FOREST..." (it is proper form to use all caps for your title).

- Round your word count. 51,700 is fine.

- I would strike the dash before "forever" in your hook.

- This line raises a ton of questions: He encounters fantastic, talking animals accidentally created from the DNA of their ancestors long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Who accidentally created them? IF it was an accident, what was the creator trying to do? Were they created before the dinosaurs, or is it just from DNA from before the dinosaurs? I know we're dealing with fantasy, but there wasn't much in terms of mammalian life before the dinosaurs and I'm finding it hard to suspend this disbelief.

- And destroy the world by...I need something more than an evil fox outwitting all humanity and taking over the world. How will they do it? Are they creating weapons? Sheer strength in numbers?

- If your self-published memoir has significant sales (say, more than 5,000 copies) maybe you should mention it. Otherwise, it will have no bearing on the publication of a MG novel.

- I would use a comma, not an exclamation point, after Thank you for your time and consideration

Good luck!

Emily said...

I had a few suggestions after reading your query.

In paragraph 2 I think you have a hyphen problem. I believe you also need a hyphen after "year." I would check on this, I am a minimalist when it comes to hyphens but be sure you are using them correctly.

In paragraph 3 you need a comma after the word "break" in the first sentence. Also I feel that you are overusing the dash. Granted this is a pet peeve of mine but dashes should only be used when a more common punctuation mark does not suffice. The sentence "He encounters..." is difficult to understand. I read it as the animals were created before the dinosaurs, which would make them really really really really old. (A few more reallys actually) Also I had problems with the alliterative "amazing animals always" (and yes I know I just made it worse). I found it to be an awkward phrase.

And "evil" struck me as a generic adjective for the fox. Power hungry? Controlling? Moody? Tyrannical? Also you have more dashes here that just aren't necessary. And you may have included more plot than you needed to. Joshua needs to fight back against the fox, that seems plot enough without him winning, getting struck down, needing healing, etc.

Finally, don't include a sample chapter unless it is in the agent's submission guidelines. If it is though, by all means have at it.

These are just my suggestions though, feel free to take 'em or leave 'em.

Good luck querying-

Anonymous said...

thank you thank you! These 2 comments alone in all their wonderful detail have been extremely helpful...thanks for your time and effort to help a newbie...bring it on

writing the book was easy, this is agonizing!

Botanist said...

I am no query expert so please take anything I say with a pinch of salt.

Overall, this came across well to me. There were a few minor points which I think could tighten things up a bit, but these are only minor and humble suggestions.

In para.2, I think the word "forever" weakens the final "or end it". I think you can lose it, maybe "can change his life...or end it."

Similarly, in para.3 I think the final "always" also weakens the sentence and could be dropped.

The fox ruling the forest and destroying the world didn't sit well with me. It felt muddled. You can't easily rule something you've destroyed. I suggest being a bit clearer about what's at stake. Do you mean the world outside the forest? Or the forest animals' way of life?

Finally, I think the second half of para.4 could go too. The point of a query is not to tell the story, but to entice an agent to pick up the pages. In this case, I felt the "near death" bit distracted from the promise of epic battle.

I also echo Rick and Emily's comments, especially the liberal use of dashes.

Just my thoughts. Please use or ignore as you see fit. And I know what you mean about queries, they can be quite daunting at first!


Amy said...

If you haven't read my other comments - I'm going to recommend Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" for the grammar issues. Also, Purdue University has an OWL website with fantastic (free) grammar advice. You do overuse dashes and under-use commas. Ditch the exclamation point at the end and just use a period.

Round your word count to the nearest 500 words.

Okay, on to content. This is such a FANTASTIC and fantastical idea. I love it! I disagree that it's implausible. All you would have to do is add a bit about how scientists missed these ancient creatures for (insert made-up reason here). I could use one more sentence about how he hooks up with the bully and the old man.

Sorry I'm jumping around, but I'm conflicted on para.2 hook. The one sentence is enticing, but I would play with adding another sentence illuminating the plot just a bit more. I don't know what works better.

It's a personal thing, but I don't like starting a paragraph with But. I don't have a problem with the evil fox if you put in his motivation. Why does he want to rule the forest/destroy the world? Also, you say he's struck down NEAR death but his friends need to bring him back to life - either he's dead or he isn't. This sentence is shocking, though. I'm thinking fantastic battle for a kid's book, but maybe using the word death is a little harsh. It's not my area, though, so do what you think.

I have to second the comment about omitting the self-published section. I've read many times that it just looks bad unless your self-published sold realllllllly well. To boot, it's a memoir and agents seem to be sketchy about those. Bank on the strength of your story and your query and don't worry about having "credentials". Your credentials are you can write.

Don't include the sample chapter unless they specifically ask for it. In fact, I'd probably just drop that whole paragraph and leave it with "thank you for your time and consideration." Obviously you want them to read the whole thing or you wouldn't be spending 100s of hours on a one-page query, pulling your hair out over every word. (or is that just me...)

Hope this helps! Good luck and hang in there.

The Starving Writer said...

Just askin.
Why would an evil fox want to destroy the world. I can understand the need to rule the forest, but to destroy the world. Does the fox have a death wish? Doesn't it realise that it can get one or the other, but not both.

The query could be just as strong with domination of the forest.

Lose the sample chapter. ONLY give an agent whatever their guidelines state. Anything more or less gets your query tossed. So if they ask for 10 pages, unless your chapter is 10 pages long, don't send the chapter.

Why should it be the friends who have to save Jushua, what about taking him to a hospital?