Query Letter Critique

Orignal Query Letter

 

I am submitting my query for my young adult novel THE COMPOUND for your consideration. Complete at 80,000 words THE COMPOUND is a thriller with science fiction elements and could be said to be a cross between X-men and Divergent in a more contemporary setting.

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Williams was told those with abilities—‘metas’—were a myth. But, when she wakes up in a strange room covered in blood with no memory of how she got there, she learns ‘metas’ are very real, and that she is one. Informed of her parents death Jamie is now an orphan, rescued by the caretakers of the Compound as their latest recruit. The Compound’s mission: to keep newly orphaned ‘metas’ safe while teaching them defense and respect.

 

 

Still coming to grips with her parents’ death and the fact that bone spikes shoot through her skin Jamie begins to acclimate to her new life. She befriends Octavia who uses her acerbic wit and mental ability to shield her from her past, and Ross whose boisterous personality hides more than his frustrations with his on-edge girlfriend.

 

And then things change.

 

Training goes from exercise to combat. Recruits disappear. Death becomes a reality. Behind the caring façade their caretakers have secrets. Namely, where ‘metas’ come from and what the recruits role will be in an impending war to end the myth of their existence.

 

When the truth is exposed, the recruits must decide if they’ll escape to save themselves or if they’ll become the soldiers the Compound trained them to be.

 

Query Letter After I Got My Grubby Paws On It

 

I am submitting my query for my young adult novel THE COMPOUND for your consideration. Complete at 80,000 words THE COMPOUND is a thriller with science fiction elements and could be said to be a cross between X-men and Divergent in a more contemporary setting. I prefer this at the end of the query before salutations but I doubt it matters that much.

 

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Williams was told those with abilities<What kind of abilities? We don’t find out anywhere else in the query either, except to say she has bone spikes (?). This is important. —‘metas’—were a myth. But, when she wakes up in a strange room covered in blood with no memory of how she got there, she learns ‘metas’ I don’t think you need the quotation marks around metas after the first mention. are very real, and that she is one. Informed of her parents death comma Jamie is now an orphan, rescued by the caretakers of the Compound as their latest recruit. The Compound’s mission: to keep newly orphaned ‘metas’ safe while teaching them defense <Defence against what? What is the outside threat? and respect.

 

Still coming to grips with her parents’ death and the fact that bone spikes shoot through her skin comma Jamie begins to acclimate to her new life. She befriends Octavia who uses her acerbic wit and mental ability to shield her from her past, and Ross whose boisterous personality hides more than his frustrations with his on-edge girlfriend.<I don’t feel like this paragraph adds anything integral to the query and it’s a bit (honesty alert!) dry. We learn about her friends but none of this relates to the larger plot. I would ditch it.

 

And then things change.

 

Training goes from exercise to combat. Recruits disappear. Death becomes a reality. Behind the caring façade comma their caretakers have secrets. Namely, where ‘metas’ come from and what the recruits role will be in an impending war to end the myth of their existence. I feel like this could be written in a more exciting/bold way. It’s hard to give an example since I haven’t read the book, but if you can be more specific, it doesn’t hurt. Vagueness is rarely intriguing like we think it is!

 

When the truth is exposed, the recruits must decide if they’ll escape to save themselves or if they’ll become the soldiers the Compound trained them to be. For the stakes to be truly exciting both options need to seem equally dangerous and/or unappealing. When you pit going to war for a cause she doesn’t agree with versus running away, the choice seems pretty obvious.

 

Another issue is that Jamie seems to be a passive character in this query. It’s as if she’s witnessing things happening around her but nothing is happening to her. What’s at stake for Jamie? What does she want? What/who stands in the way of getting what she wants and what does she stand to lose if she fails? It may seem like pretty vague and utilitarian advice, but for a query letter to really work you have to make the reader care about your main character. Getting a better sense of Jamie’s goals and the risks she’s up against could help with that.

 

 

This query would also benefit from more voice. The writing is undoubtedly good, but it could be more vibrant. Make your words come alive!

 

I think that about covers it. Thanks for sharing your letter with me, and good luck with your querying endeavours! 

 

 

Posted in query critique, writing advice

7 Responses to Query Letter Critique

  1. Brandy A says:

    Nice crit, Michelle. Great advice.

  2. I’ve heard really mixed directions from agents on whether to start straight into the plot or introduce the book first. They must get a lot both ways so I bet it doesn’t matter that much.

    Also, I just have to tell you–I *love* the now blog look! (Don’t know how new it is…I haven’t been around the blogosphere much lately…) But yeah, it looks AWESOME! :D

  3. JNB says:

    Thanks, Michelle! This helps a lot. I got conflicting advice since it’s multi POV there was request for more info on the friends and then some said ditch the friends. Argh. I’ll figure it out but I REALLY appreciate your help with this.

    [Bows in gratitude!]

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