Jul 5, 2010

Query - The Silver Strand (Revised)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear [Agent],

The Silver Strand is a 60,000 word young adult fantasy novel, set in both the east coast of Australia (Terra) and in the mythical underground city of Agartha (the hollow earth). It follows fourteen year old Isabelle's adventurous journey to conquer the wounds of her past, and to reawaken the magic in her mind. I am currently working on a second book about Isabelle and her study at Mastermind Academy.

After a bout of bullying, Isabelle Johns gives up her love of art. Six months later, she struggles at school and is unable to draw. Now she must trust two complete strangers with a glowing strand of silver hair to help awaken her imagination.

Along the way, Isabelle is drawn into Agartha where the inhabitants fear human invasion to mine vast mineral deposits. When she and her mentors are accused of betraying Agartha, they are imprisoned. Under Agarthan law, her companions are helpless to use magic to open the cell lock, and earn injury trying. This rule does not apply to Terrans (humans), so she must tap into her magical imagination to escape. If she succeeds, she will fulfill her destiny to study magic in Agartha, and learn to manipulate energy using her mind.

As per your submission guidelines, you will find X pages below. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

5 comments:

Michelle Massaro said...

Although we now have the genre upfront, I don't think we need all the information up there that you provide. Don't mention the second book and maybe even not the setting here. Or at least trim the setting. Skip the parenthetical 'Terra' and 'hollow earth'. You can just say Australia and underground city of Agartha. Move the rest to the end or somewhere else so we can get to the Hook faster. As long as we know it is a fantasy I think that'll do. Here's my stab:

The Silver Strand is a 60,000 word young adult fantasy novel, set in both the east coast of Australia and the mythical underground city of Agartha.

Fourteen year old Isabelle Johns sets out on a journey to conquer the wounds of her past, and to reawaken the magic of her mind.

(This becomes your new Hook opening)

The first two lines of your Hook are weak. Phoenix Sullivan (www.phoenixsullivan.blogspot.com) recently posted about the dangers of "editing out voice" and I think it's especially easy to do in a query where words are cut ruthlessly. "Bout of bullying" and "unable to draw" are both particularly bland. Infuse some voice into those. Bullying itself does not come across as very painful (in an epic storyline such as this), as everybody is teased at some point. If this is the source of the "wounds of her past" you'll have to do better at painting a picture for us about the depth of her resulting pain- and of course still keep the word count down. A few strong word choices could do the trick. Same with her inability to draw. Does that mean she can't create realistic portraits the way she used to? Or that she can't make a straight line across a piece of paper? I have no idea.

Is the strand of hair important in the query? It doesn't seem to be and I would scrap it here. I'd just say the strangers are "supernatural" or some other such word.

Scratch the "Agarthan law"- it doesn't matter. You could skip to "she must tap into her magical imagination to escape." (although the double soft "g's" here sound a bit off to me). The agent will not be wondering why the strangers couldn't do the job. Keep the focus on your MC.

To be honest, I think a destiny of studying magic sounds anti-climactic. Is there a name for humans who achieve the abilty you describe? That might infuse more drama into the sentence: "... she will earn the right to study magic in Agartha, and fulfill her destiny to become an Energy Bender- a human able to manipulate energy with her mind". [Okay, so 'Energy Bender' sounds lame but you get the point (I hope).]

You have given us more information about your storyline here, and that should help us give you more pointed suggestions for your query so that's good. It might take time to decipher what is important to put in and what's not but don't give up. Keep working! =)

louisa said...

Hi Michelle. You're always on the ball! If I can repay the favor to you please let me know if your query is on here somewhere. Otherwise feel free to email it to me at lc7ultraviolet@gmail.com that offer goes for anyone else too.

Wounds of her past is really her shame, which I hope I've shown this time. GULP! Twiddling fingers nervously waiting for your next critique ;-) Just FYI - in the novel I've shown that by being ashamed of her artistic skills the MC accidentally switches off her imagination (the consequence) and must undo her shame (wounds of her past) to rectify the situation.

I've scrapped the other hook, but am unsure of the new one. Do you use a one liner for this as agent query recommends? Or do you just go with the first sentence of your query paragraph. The examples on agent blogs go with the later as opposed to the former.

Okay Version 3. Deep breath.

Dear [Agent],

The Silver Strand is a 60,000 word young adult fantasy novel, set in both the east coast of Australia and in the mythical underground city of Agartha.

Convinced by the school bully that drawing fairies is childish and that she should grow up, fourteen year old Isabelle Johns sacrifices her love of art to fit in at her new school. Six months later, she struggles with schoolwork, and her pencil hovers over the sketchpad, her mind blank. Now she must trust two supernatural strangers to help reawaken her imagination, and conquer her shame.

During her journey, Isabelle is drawn into Agartha where the inhabitants fear human invasion to mine vast mineral deposits. When she and her mentors are accused of betraying Agartha, they are imprisoned. She must find the strength to tap into her magical imagination to escape. If she succeeds, she will fulfill her destiny and become a Mastermind –a human with the ability to manipulate energy using the mind.

I am currently working on a second book about Isabelle and her study at Mastermind Academy.

As per your submission guidelines, you will find X pages below. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

louisa said...

I cracked up at energy bender. I guess it probably all means the same thing. But you're so right re: magic being overdone (Harry Potter etc). It does have more impact to word it a different way and I call them Masterminds in my query, but couldn't find a way to introduce it. Thanks for helping me see the light. ;-)

louisa said...

Hi Michelle. You're always on the ball! If I can repay the favor to you please let me know if your query is on here somewhere. Otherwise feel free to email it to me at lc7ultraviolet@gmail.com that offer goes for anyone else too.

Wounds of her past is really her shame, which I hope I've shown this time. GULP! Twiddling fingers nervously waiting for your next critique ;-) Just FYI - in the novel I've shown that by being ashamed of her artistic skills the MC accidentally switches off her imagination (the consequence) and must undo her shame (wounds of her past) to rectify the situation.

I've scrapped the other hook, but am unsure of the new one. Do you use a one liner for this as agent query recommends? Or do you just go with the first sentence of your query paragraph. The examples on agent blogs go with the later as opposed to the former.

Okay Version 3. Deep breath.

Dear [Agent],

The Silver Strand is a 60,000 word young adult fantasy novel, set in both the east coast of Australia and in the mythical underground city of Agartha.

Convinced by the school bully that drawing fairies is childish and that she should grow up, fourteen year old Isabelle Johns sacrifices her love of art to fit in at her new school. Six months later, she struggles with schoolwork, and her pencil hovers over the sketchpad, her mind blank. Now she must trust two supernatural strangers to help reawaken her imagination, and conquer her shame.

During her journey, Isabelle is drawn into Agartha where the inhabitants fear human invasion to mine vast mineral deposits. When she and her mentors are accused of betraying Agartha, they are imprisoned. She must find the strength to tap into her magical imagination to escape. If she succeeds, she will fulfill her destiny and become a Mastermind –a human with the ability to manipulate energy using the mind.

I am currently working on a second book about Isabelle and her study at Mastermind Academy.

As per your submission guidelines, you will find X pages below. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Michelle Massaro said...

Hello! Sorry for not getting to this sooner...

Ok, I wonder if her art has always been supernatural? Or does she only discover that later?

I think the sentence about her schoolwork suffering should express that it's an unnatural struggle- there's something else going on here besides normal "I don't get geometry" stuff.

'Conquer' might be too strong a word to use in connection to the shame of being bullied, but perhaps I'm nit picking there. Or perhaps shame isn't the best word. Humiliation? Self-confidence? Or just confidence? Hmm... thinkin here: how about she must 'find her confidence'? Or 'she must get past her humiliation'? I dunno. I think the line still needs a little tweaking though.

I'd scrap the mineral deposits (unneccesary).

I'd change "magical" imagination to "supernatural" or "enchanted" or something that flows together better. It's those double soft g's that are bugging me.

That's all I can find for now. This has improved!

I apologize for any typos, my toddler is pulling on me and making it hard to type or to concentrate! =)