May 11, 2011


Dear agent,

I’m seeking representation for my novel, STEALING A DREAM, a young adult fantasy adventure exploring the notion of balance in contrasts. It’s complete at 108,000 words, separated into six sections, each dealing with a particular theme.

The story centers around HAISMA Perell, a twenty-two-year-old woman whose parents are mysteriously murdered, leaving her baby brother, the only witness, traumatically insane. Years of searching bear no answer or cure, turning her hopelessly bitter. When a foreign healer suggests a Dream, Haisma latches onto the opportunity with the desperation of one with nothing left to lose.

But the Dream must be stolen from a world beneath the clouds, one governed by uncanny principles beyond the familiar logic and reason of hers. No guarantee she may survive the crossing. No guarantee the cure may work. What she needs is a guide, so she hires one, unwitting that he’s probably one she may be better off without.

Because FAZIEL De Garxia attracts trouble like honey to a bee. Charming but quixotic, he’s a stark contrast in personality and values to her, and worse, suffering a severe case of hero complex. So when they stumble upon the brink of a universal revolution, Faziel just has to poke his nose in. Granted, the terrorism is led by his one-time patron and best-friend, and bears linkages to the sect responsible for Haisma’s parents’ murder, but she’s never been the sort to appreciate complications.

With Faziel, nothing is simple.

Caught in a whirlwind of convoluted power games between two forces that use people as weapons and opportunities as assets, a simple quest to save her brother turns into a mission to save the universe. Haisma and Faziel must battle through betrayal, mind and emotional manipulations, worse-than-death torture, impossible choices, and madness, leaving them drained to the bones. Without combat skills or aptitude to magic, all she has is cunning as weapon and virtue as armour. But with Faziel’s unyielding love, support from unlikely friendships made throughout the journey, and the Dream as their shared beacon of hope, Haisma finds all the strength she needs to shine through the storm.

Thank you for taking the time to read.


Sarah Tokeley said...

I'll leave critique of the actual query to those better qualified but on a practical note I don't think it's necessary to capitalise character names.

The biggest issue is the age of your MC. For a YA novel the MCs need to be in their teens otherwise it won't fall into this category.

Best of luck with your novel!

Lydia Kurnia said...

Thanks so much, Sarah! Yes, I meant to take out the young adult audience. I am still rather confused about my target audience since the material is kind of borderline. I could easily change the age of the MC, she's just going to be a mature-thinking nineteen year-old (which works to her advantage, I think) :) I will decapitalise the names.

Kaleen said...

I just wanted to comment on your word count. At 108,000 it's way too high for YA. I know you mention that it's separated into sections, but this is still confusing. Here is a recent blog post by a lit agent that delves further into this:

Anonymous Author said...

Sarah's correct about the character names and Kaleen's correct about the word count.

The first paragraph is a buzz-kill. Don't talk about how your story is structured and don't talk about themes.

Try to rewrite this query using only sentences in which your main character or one of the other characters is the subject, and acts. (Pronouns are okay, obviously.) Right now it isn't till the end of the third paragraph that you have a sentence of which Haisma is the subject.

Does this matter? Hell yeah. It makes your MC look passive. Also, it sounds awkward. Agents may suspect that your manuscript reads the same way.

Anonymous Author said...

All right, there's something else I want to say too. Someone said it to me twelve years ago. Because I listened, I now have several books out with Random House. If I hadn't listened, I would still be unpublished.

Ready? Here it is.

Based on this query, you're not ready to publish yet. You need to work on your writing more. Join a critique group, join a writing workshop, read lots of books about writing.

It's possible you'll get angry at me for saying this. But it's also possible you'll listen, and five years from now you'll be opening your box of free author's copies from a real publisher. Hope it's the latter.

Beth C. said...

I've read this manuscript, and I don't think the query letter is doing the story justice. I won't nitpick here, as I'm sure I'll have the opportunity again sometime soon.
The other advice here is excellent.

Keep the faith!

Lydia Kurnia said...

Wow that bad, huh? And here I am, thinking I could be the next JK Rowling, ha! Thanks so much for your feedback. Very helpful. I'll keep working on it.

Beth! Yes, don't touch it yet, cause you'll have plenty of chance by the time I reach version 100 lol.

Right, back to the drawing board.

Anonymous Author said...

Lydia, there's no reason you can't be the next J.K. Rowling. But if the query is a fair sample of your writing (and it may not be) you've got to work on sentence structure, word choice, and stuff like psychological distance, which means the closeness we feel to what the character's experiencing.

JKR achieved near-zero psychological distance; we feel like we are Harry. And that's why the books were so successful.

JKR worked her butt off to become JKR :)

Here's an example of what I mean:

Caught in a whirlwind of convoluted power games between two forces that use people as weapons and opportunities as assets, a simple quest to save her brother turns into a mission to save the universe.

Let's shorten that to make it easier to work with:

Caught between two forces that use people as weapons, a simple quest to save her brother turns into a mission to save the universe.

The clause that starts the sentence:

Caught between two forces that use people as weapons,

is meant to modify "Haisma", so the next word should be "Haisma" or "she". But instead, the next words are "a simple quest", so that it sounds as if the simple quest is what's caught between two forces.

That's the sort of thing that you need to work on.

Lydia Kurnia said...

Thank you so much, anonymous! Ah no, I don't think I will ever become the next JKR :)

You are definitely right. I have loads to work on with this query. I understand what you're saying (thanks so much for the example) So the idea is to keep it as succinct as possible, drawing it down to the main character and her predicament. Got it.

Let me go back to the drawing board. I'm determined to get this right, even if it kills me.

So... how do we post revisions around here?

Rick Daley said...

Hi Lydia,

You can post your revision back at the Submissions post where you initially posted your query.

I've been meaning to provide some comments on your query as well, but the day got past me. At this stage I would be an echo of what the others have stated, but if you revise I'll try to get my $0.02 in!

Lydia Kurnia said...

Thanks so much, Rick, and thanks for this very helpful site! I'll go back to revamp this thing. Meanwhile, I'm going to start giving my $.02 on others' submissions too :)