Jul 16, 2009


Click here to read the sample pages.
A revision of this query has been posted, click here to read it.

I can handle large amounts of criticism. I'm just starting out writing and i am almost finished with my first novel. I have no ending paragraphs to my letter because I don't have any credentials or degree to mention - not sure what I should do with that?

Dear Mr. Agent,

I fell in love with your blog in my desperate need to learn as much as possible about writing a gold medal query letter. I am currently seeking representation for my Young Adult novel, UNTITLED, complete at 100,000 words.

Holly Flynn is a well respected English teacher and aspiring novelist married to her wonderful and attentive high school boyfriend. Her life is exactly as she always planned. That is until an old friend shows up at her door step handing over an item she hasn’t seen in ten years, her journal. Her eighteen year old self preserved in the form of a pink velvet notebook. As she opens the book, a photograph falls to the floor. A picture of herself embracing a mysterious boy who's face happens to be identical to the boy from her novel. A face she thought only existed in her fictional world. A face she’s devoted over 300 pages to.

After reading the journal she discovers her own written words tell a story different from the one she knows. Holly must decide to stay in the life she’s always known or to take a chance and leave everything behind. Is true love worth the pain? Her discoveries bring the conclusion that the world is much bigger than she ever imagined and the mystery surrounding the boy she loves is almost too much for any human to accept. The power to change the past is like playing God in a battle where right and wrong are not the only two sides competing.


Suzan Harden said...

This sounds akin to Peggy Sue Got Married, one of my favorite movies (heck, if Nick Cage is in it, the movie automatically goes to the favorites shelf).

That said...

The biggest problem I see in this query is the wordiness. Condense the first paragaph to one or two key sentences. Also, why does a friend have Holly's high school journal?

The second paragraph needs to be more specific. Does the diary tell a different story than Holly's novel or than her actual life? How does she get the power to live in her fictional world/past? What discoveries of Holly's are you referring to? Her ability to create new world's out of fiction? The ability to time travel? How does Holly taking control of her own fate/past play against Good or Evil?

I'm not sure if this is a paranormal YA or a inspirational YA.

Be specific in your query. You don't want your dream agent/editor stamping an automatic rejection because he/she is confused.

As for the bio paragraph, do you belong to a writer's organization like RWA? Do you have something that links your real life to your book? Whatever you do, DON'T MENTION YOUR AGE! Ageism is alive and well in the publishing biz. (And I've seen it swing both ways.) You don't want the potential editor/agent holding it against you.

If you don't have any connections, don't sweat it. End with the classic 'Thank you for your time.'

Best wishes on your submission.

J.B. Chicoine said...

My biggest question is regarding this statement: “she discovers her own written words tell a story different from the one she knows.” How is it different? This sounds crucial for understanding the conflict.

I also agree with Suzan’s observations, and I do think it sounds like an interesting story.

Anonymous said...

The last line of the first paragraph was my favorite. I'm a little unclear about the "two worlds" description. Are these "worlds" literally or metaphorically different? What are the stakes if she chooses one world over the other?

I like the concept, and I think the letter would be even more compelling with stronger conflicts clearly stated.

Julie said...


Thanks so much for your advice! This is definitely not inspirational. I would classify it as teen romance with a twist of science fiction.

It involves time travel as you guessed but I had thought I wouldn't give that away in the synopsis, but maybe I should?

My biggest struggle with the synopsis is in the first chapter the Main gal is 28 but 98% of the book she is 18. So I wasn't sure if I should write the synopsis from the 28 year old perspective or from the eighteen year old perspective.

I read somewhere that a synopsis is usually a summary of what happens in the first 35 pages plus a peak into the major conflict?

Anybody have any ideas on that one?

Julie said...


Can I post the first 5 pages somewhere? Maybe I could get some feedback that might help me with my query.

Rick Daley said...


If you can't post the pages in the comment box on the "Submit Queries Here" post (linked at the top-right of the blog), then you can email them to me rjdaley101071@gmail.com and I'll post them for you.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Julie: If this is a time-travel story, by all means say so in your query. Agents want to know the premise of the book, so don't hint at stuff: hit them over the head with it.

The last paragraph is almost entirely vague filler. You need to be a lot more specific about what the conflict is, what's at stake and what's actually happening. I have no clear idea what this book is about; you force me to try to piece it together from your query, and that's not the way to do it.

I like the premise, if I've got it right, that your MC's diary has different events than what actually happened in her youth. Are the events in her diary the same as the events in the novel she's writing? If so, you seem to have one book too many in your book, if you know what I mean.

Julie said...

Scott thanks for your insight! I'm getting the impression that I definitely need to mention the time travel in the query.

You are right on that the MC reads her journal in her own handwriting, but it is different than how she remembers her youth.

the friend is from the life in her journal (if it had played that way). But she knows him in both - just slightly different memories.

In the journal life she knew the mysterious boy from the picture.

The only thing her novel and the journal have in common is the face of the really "Hot" teen boy.

something horrible happened to Holly and her mother when she was young. The "Hot" guy tries to stop this event, which as a result changes the course of her life.

The only memory of Hot guy she is left with is seeing him "save" her when she was a child.

I guess I should just put all of this in my query.

Everyone's questions have helped me fill in the confusing spots and possibly sharpen the conflict. So, thanks to everyone!

gj said...

It sounds like you have a "frame" story, where it starts and ends in the adult character. Or are you interspersing scenes of different ages? I'm not a YA reader, but I'm not so sure that would appeal to YA readers, who are likely to think adults are aliens, and who want to read about people their own age doing stuff and learning lessons while they're still kids.

Beyond that, and probably more critical to the query: I'm not getting what actually happens in the story, because you're burying it in pretty, vague phrases. All I've got is that the protagonist gets her teen diary and reads it, comparing it to her memories of what actually happened. That sounds like 400 pages of a character sitting and thinking (reading). Definitely not YA, and problematic for adults too.

Drop the writerly, English-degree stuff. Just tell a story, in miniature form: Who's the protagonist, what does she want, what's she doing to accomplish it, and who's stopping her?

In a sense, you've got two stories, which complicates things, so, at least as an exercise, forget the adult part, just for a moment, and concentrate on the kid's story -- what does she want, what's she doing to accomplish it, and who's stopping her? Get that down clearly, and then you can add in the adult part, or not (since, if it's a YA story, what matters isn't the adult story, but the kid's story). Or vice versa if you decide it's fundamentally a story for adults.

As it is, you've got all sorts of nice details about the adult protagonist, but I have no idea of why they matter or who the kid is or what the kid does. Or what the adult does, besides read and reminisce.

Just as a personal nitpick, something that threw me out of the query: not all writers visualize their characters (and I suspect even fewer editors/agents do), so to say that a picture happens to look EXACTLY like an imaginary character -- well, that is pretty much foreign to my experience, although I know there are writers who do visualize with that level of detail. There's just something about the way you present it that made me feel that it's your experience, and you might think that ALL writers do that, which isn't the case, and it might be jarring to some of the people you're submitting the query to.

Julie said...


Thanks for your help with finding the focus on what age the main character will be in the query. I'm going to write another from the perspective of the 18 year old Holly which is 95% of the book.

I'm like you in the sense that I don't have a clear picture of my characters when I'm writing because the appearance is usually less important than their mannerisms.

But this main character did actually see this boy before, she just doesn't remember. I'm going to ditch that part in the query it's too confusing.

Thanks Again!