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New Query VS old Query: Where did I go wrong?
Selina Fenech
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 5:29 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 12


I started querying with this, somewhat rough in my eyes now, query-

"Lost in a Victorian fairyland, the girl in t-shirt and torn jeans will do anything to find her way home, but there’s a catch; she doesn’t know where home is, or even who she is. Her memories have been magically stolen. All she knows right now is that she and some other girl are being chased by wizard hunters and their dragon. 

Even in the company of a princess on the run, “Memory” attracts attention.  From her scary ability to perform impossible magic, to the man with the glowing hand and the strange guardian-angel-cross-savage that follows her, there is more to Memory’s story than she could ever have guessed. Haunted by a violent past and hunted in a world where fairytales come true, she feels like an ugly duckling, inside and out. Memory fights to get her life and family back, even at the cost of new friendships and romances. Demons both internal and external must be overcome to discover where she belongs, who she was, and who she wants to be."

I sent out about a dozen queries, and got three requests for materials from rather decent agents (later rejected, sigh). While looking for more agents I joined Query Tracker, and work-shopped my query on their forums. This is what it turned into-

"The girl in t-shirt and torn jeans doesn’t care about runaway princesses, dead royals and evil tyrants. She just wants to get out of this weird Victorian fairyland and find her way home. But with her memories stolen, she doesn’t know where home is. She doesn’t even know her name. She’s dubbed “Memory” by the princess she’s gotten tangled up with who keeps trying to hog all the attention. Chased by dragons and wizard hunters, suffering magical amnesia, bruised and beaten- Memory thinks her problems are just as important.

When Memory finds out she’s connected to the man who killed the princess’s parents, discovering who she is becomes more important than ever. Desperate to break through the spells and lies that conceal her past, she’ll choose between her new friendships and the unknown family she longs for, at the risk of losing both."

I thought it was a decent improvement. More story, more voice... I sent it out to about 30 agents, many more suited to my genre than my first round, and have only had two requests for material from that batch.

So where did I go wrong? Is the first one more interesting? I'd appreciate any opinions, thank you.

Note- I've cut any agent specific sections or author bio, these are just the "synopsis" section of the queries.

Selina Fenech
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 5:32 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 12


Oh, and PS, totally happy for people to take a red editing pen to this, anything to make it better. I've only got a few *really want* agents left to query, and don't want to botch them.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2011 12:35 AM
• The girl in t-shirt and torn jeans doesn’t care about runaway princesses, dead royals and evil tyrants.

She probably doesn’t care about a host of things. The line tells me only that someone nameless, who may or may not be the protagonist, is wearing a tee and jeans.

Why not tell me what she does care about? Tell me her problem. Tell me why it’s a problem. Tell me why she has to solve it, and what happens if she doesn’t.

• She just wants to get out of this weird Victorian fairyland and find her way home.

What can the term “weird Victorian fairyland” mean to me? Sure, it points to images and memories in your head, but when I read it, it points to images and memories in your head.
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Here’s the difference between the first and second, other then what I mentioned: The first focuses on emotion and general thrust of the action. The second attempts a mini synopsis and there is simply not enough space to do that, so it’s disjointed to anyone who doesn’t already know the story.

Selina Fenech
Posted: Friday, May 20, 2011 3:09 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 12


Thank you for the reply. I wonder, just how much of the actual story can be properly fit into a couple of paragraphs? Almost all agents who discuss the topic say they want a query to tell them the story first and foremost, but it is so hard to fit everything into the small space (introduce the MC, introduce the setting, define stakes and plot). How do you strike the balance between giving too many details that feel disjointed, and the opposite end of the story simply sounding generic?
 

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