Writing Wednesday - The Evolution of Erica's Query

So, today, in honor of our blogfest week, I'm (erica) introducing something I have a love/hate relationship with.

My query letter.

To be honest, my first query letter wasn't a query - it was a pitch. I got my novel, A New Day (more about my love/hate relationship with titles later, btw), ready for a contest, and needed a 300-word pitch. Here's the losing one I came up with, along with my own version of redline comments:

McKenzie (Kenz) Grayson is moving to back to Vespa, Wisconsin, the hometown she and her mother fled from after her father's death seven years ago.  That's a lot of really boring words strung into one sentence. She's determined to finish her last year of high school and leave town again as soon as possible. Unless, of course, her mom's prediction of finding an all-new life and love suddenly comes true. And this would make her stay why? Also, note: 2 critiquers saw the word "prediction," thought it was a psychic ability, and wondered why I didn't play that up (nope, no paranormal here!).

Lincoln James spends every moment enjoying sports, friends and girls. Umm, he's 18, big deal. Fully recovered from a life-threatening illness, he is determined to have fun with everything life has given him. Why is everyone around here so determined? The last thing he expects is to find a love that makes him question all of it. What in the world is he questioning? He seems to be enjoying everything - now he thinks he needs to hate it because of some girl? Downer!

Kenz and Lincoln find themselves drawn together from their first meeting and soon learn to discover themselves, each other, and the power of love. Cliche, anyone? The summer brings unexpected challenges, including a devastating car accident and a sexual abuse allegation, that threaten to destroy the new relationship. Not information we need right now, but I can't help it, I love all these parts! When they later begin to suspect that Lincoln's mother, a nanotechnology specialist, illegally altered the methods used to save him years ago, Kenz must decide if the truth about Lincoln's perfect life is too much for her to accept or if her future still lies with him.  What just happened? Is this sci-fi?? And holy heck, that's a long sentence!!

A NEW DAY's theme of teenage romance is balanced with positive views of family, friends, work, and healthy living as seen through Kenz's eyes. Ah, yes, all good things teenagers love to read about (blech). Scientific theories of nanotechnology are used to determine a possible, although currently fictional, explanation for Lincoln's miracle recovery. Doesn't sound bad, until you find out later that this is only a very small part of the book and maybe shouldn't even be mentioned, especially twice, taking up almost 1/3 of the query!! (double blech) A stand-alone book at approximately 60,000 words, it spans only one summer and offers the opportunity for a sequel following Kenz and Lincoln through their senior year of high school. Eh, probably not needed.

Current version, in blue, without redlines. I let you put those in the comments section! (and yes, the book's now longer - part of the revision process I went through this summer)

Dear Ms./Mr. Name,

It's the summer before McKenzie (Kenz) Grayson's senior year of high school and instead of spending it with friends, boys, and the beach, her mom's making her move to Wisconsin. Back to the town where she buried her family's secrets, along with her father, seven years ago. With little hope for the year ahead, she goes, and watches another chapter of her life close behind her.

Everything changes when Kenz meets Lincoln James. He's fun, smart, gorgeous and - even though she's warned that he's a serial dater - irresistible. One date leads to more and before she knows it, they're almost inseparable and she's happier than ever. Then comes a devastating car accident, a sexual abuse allegation that could land Lincoln in jail, and the truth behind an experimental surgery in his past. Kenz is well known for choosing flight over fight. But after all that's happened, will she find the strength to run back into Lincoln's arms?

A NEW DAY is a YA contemporary romance, complete at 62,000 words. It will appeal to smart, fun readers who enjoy books such as (blah, blah).

I'm submitting this to you because (read your blog, blah, saw an interview, blah, whatever)

My (whatever you asked for) are pasted below according to your submission guidelines. Thank you for your time and consideration.

erica (I usually capitalize this part, though! With contact info. and everything - yes, I'm very professional :)

Okay, so onto comments! What do you love/hate about mine? Yours? What do you do when the *%#@ thing just doesn't sound right??!!


  1. Much better! Gotta say though, the second sentence "Back to the ..." -- I just don't think it works like this. I mean, it's a fragment. Reading it, I was expecting something to come after it, but it just ended.

    The paragraph describing their relationship and the problems they face got me interested. It sounds full of suspense.

    With my query, the problem was that the book was part of a planned 5 book series. It was really hard summarizing the first book when the plot was so heavily tied into the rest of the series. My solution ... I wrote a new book -- one that would be easier to query. Once I get an agent, I can go pull out the other one.

  2. I mentioned you guys in my blog today and put a link to your website! : )

  3. Erica,

    Loved the revise. So much better. I felt the hook in the back of my spine. I can see why you're getting asked for partials. Good job. I am almost scared to send out queries again. I never was before, but that was before ABNA. I've learned so much this past year, now it's time to jump back in!

    Look for your name in the pitch round ... it will be there.


  4. Quinn - Thanks for the fragment advice. My first beta reader suggested I split it into two books - one romance, one sci fi, but I'm not ready for that yet. I'm working on 2 new projects and hope to come back to AND with fresh eyes. And yes, a series would create lots of new querying frustrations!

    Megan - Thanks!

    Michael - I also have a love/hate relationship with ABNA. ;) But thanks and good luck!

  5. Wow, you've put a lot of sweat and blood into this. I really appreciate your compassion for us aspiring writers. You deserve *HUGS*!

    I really enjoyed your process. Glad to find you on the blog hop!

    ~Elizabeth :)

  6. Thanks, Elizabeth!! Sweat, blood, heck, I offered up my first born (but no one would take him, shhh)! Wishing you luck, too!

  7. It's so much better. I don't like the line watches a chapter of her life close behind her, that sounds cliche to me. You could tighten it up a bit. Maybe: Reluctanctly she goes, with little hope for the year ahead.

    I love the way you have parred down the scientific part but still get the point across.

    Nice one! Happy Christmas!


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