- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 16 2011
By repeated request we’ve started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we’ll just have to see. We’ve received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don’t be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.
For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that’s great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I’m leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don’t make me feel the need to change that policy.
And for those who have never “met” Query Shark, get over there and do that. She’s the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.
Always address your query to a specific agent, not just the agency’s name. Queries that aren’t aimed at a specific agent will most likely be read by an intern first, or will be passed over quickly because the agent will perceive you as someone who didn’t do their homework. And, at any rate, it should be spelled “BookEnds.”
I am writing you in regards to my first novel. I am a 23 year old aspiring author. I currently work as a stonemason.
Honestly, I wouldn’t divulge any of this information to an agent or editor. Don’t tell me it’s your first novel. That makes the agent immediately think that you’re sending the first writing project to ever come out of your printer — whether that’s the case or not. Writing generally gets better with practice, just like anything else. Perhaps you’re the exception and have penned a classic the first time you sat down to write. It doesn’t matter, because agents and editors have preconceived notions. And you don’t need to give up that information anyway.
I also don’t need to know your age and occupation. When you’re coming to me with a book project, you’re a writer first. Unless your occupation plays into the credibility of the story you’ve written, it’s not relevant to the letter. Especially in fiction. If your protagonist was a stonemason and that played heavily into the story, then it would be worth mentioning.
Ben awakes from deep freeze, but not in the utopia he’d been promised; in fact it’s quite the opposite. He’s been shipwrecked on some undiscovered backwater planet. He thought his prospects were bad on earth. His job had been taken over by droid workers, the girl he loved left him and his last living family member just died. Now, however, this may be worse. There is no food, no shelter and his only companion is a shirtless old man who constantly rummages through the landscape for edible plants. Ben decides to preserve his own sanity by finding other survivors.
This setup is a little wordy, but intriguing. I think it would capture the reader’s interest even more, however, if I understood what world and what circumstances Ben was coming from. What caused the deep freeze? And why did he think he’d wake up in utopia?
Ben and Leon rescue others from starvation and begin to establish a small society. One day they discover a crashed military vessel. Could it be a rescue crew? The only passenger is an unconscious young man. When he wakes he is barely coherent, but in a rage tries to kill Ben, claiming Ben murdered his father. Ben left earth before this kid was even born and he certainly never murdered anyone. It’s assumed the young man is just some escaped lunatic – until they find Ben’s mug shot tattooed on the young man’s chest.
A flashback to earth presents the alternate reality that climaxes in a life and death scenario – not only for Ben, but for all of mankind as well.
Okay. Now the plot is starting to sound a bit convoluted, and I believe that’s largely due to the fact that I don’t have a frame of reference for this story. Is Earth still in existence? If so, why did Ben leave? If Ben left Earth before this young man was born, does that mean he’s been on this other planet for 20 years or more before the man shows up? If not, where was he in the interim?
Also, with that setup paragraph it really seemed like this book was going to be about starting a new society on this planet. Instead it sounds like the focus of the book is this mystery that actually took place on Earth. If that’s the case you need to focus much less on Leon and this survival story and more on the context of this world and the arrival of the young man and the mystery he carries with him.
START ANEW is a 45,000 word science fiction. It is my debut novel and the first in a potential series.
45,000 words is very short. Adult science fiction with a scope as large as the one you’ve described should be about twice as long. You should probably research the market a bit more and get a better grasp of what’s out there.
Thank you for your time and consideration.