Query help

Hey guys! I’m trying to write a query letter for A Caregiver’s Last Lesson and I’m working on getting the first paragraph down. I’d love to hear what you guys think of this.

For as he can remember, Will has wanted to be recognized as a true citizen of his government, a privilege that would give him the right to be politically active, receive consistent wages, and marry. However, Will has been told that all these possibilities can be taken away from him if he is assigned to be a lab rat after he leaves the orphanage he’s grown up in. To ensure that he is never assigned to be a lab rat, Will has trained diligently so that he can impress the judges and secure his dream. He even decides to break the rules of his orphanage just to tip the odds in his favor, only to learn that he’s been lied to all his life.

I would suggest an edit along the lines of ———

Only True Citizens of (insert country or world’s name) are granted the governmental privileges to be politically active, receive consistent wages, and marry. For as long as orphan Will (last name?) can remember, he’s wanted to be designated a True Citizen. However, if upon reaching the age of maturity he is given the title of Lab Rat, none of his long dreamt of goals will be within his reach. To ensure that he impresses the citizenry judges and avoids a doomed designation, Will trains diligently. While trying to tip the odds further in his favor, he breaks the rules of the (Proper Name) Orphanage, and that’s when he discovers that he’s been lied to all his life…

Awesome! Thank you!

So I had heard that you should avoid putting too many of the names into your query. Do you think we’ll be throwing too many new names at agents with this version? I also have a name for the orphanage, but I fear using it because of that advice.

You’re only naming one character. Leave off the proper name of the orphanage if you like.

But you need to orient the agent a bit in the world you are creating. Kind of hard when you didn’t even name the world.

Saying “his” government is strange. It’s not “his” as he didn’t design it, nor is he actually a citizen of it (as per your description)

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Also you are naming things with a simple straightforward explanation.

True Citizens = privileged
Lab Rats = no rights

You’re not naming multiple things with vague or no description that the assistant or agent would have zero clue what it meant.

You shouldn’t rattle off a list of names that mean little to nothing to the person reading the query.

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Thanks. I really do appreciate this!

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Hi there :slightly_smiling_face:

As you’re asking for query help, this thread looks better suited for the Industry Insider club. A forum moderator will be along shortly to move your thread there.

Thanks for understanding,

Hollie

Community Ambassador in Training

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Hi. I suggest you follow the typical query guidelines. Personally, queries are my nemesis. :rofl:

Absolute Write Forum has a Query Letter Hell forum that was super helpful for me. They do line by lines. But you have to have a tough skin. They’re ruthless!

Dammit, Az. You’re faster than me

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QueryShark is pretty good too, isn’t it?

Query Shark should be required reading – beginning to end!!

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Agreed!

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Okay, so Will’s initial story goal is to become a True Citizen with a designation that grants him the privileges he has been denied as an orphan.

  • Is that the overall story goal, or is there a new one once he finds out he has been lied to?
  • Who is trying to stop him from achieving the story goal? (Who is the antagonist?)
  • What terrible thing will happen if Will fails to achieve the story goal?
  • What really difficult choice does Will have to make in order to achieve the story goal?
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To add…

What you have now is a “back of the book blurb.” A query pitch is NOT a back of the book blurb. It’s similar, yes, but they’re not the same. A query pitch needs to show the agent that your story has all the elements of a commercial novel and that it has enough meat to carry the story through a full-length novel.

The questions I asked above include the rest of the info you need to show. Don’t worry about spoilers. This isn’t a synopsis, so no, you don’t have to tell the whole story, but we have to know what the story conflict is, what’s at stake, and why it matters.

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That’s great help! What if the antagonist is more of a rival and the real antagonist is just the cruelty of fate? Like don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of person v. Person conflict, but overall it’s kind of a story about fighting against a system. It’s a rags to riches type story in that way. I want to emphasize how breaking the rules is a hard choice cause it could cause him to be made a lab rat. Also, if he’s made a lab rat, not only does he lose any chance of a better life, he’s imprisoned and experimented on until he dies.

Fighting the system is fine – as long as there are stakes, a choice, consequences, and so on.

Yeah, I’m aware. I’ve heard that for years. What I don’t know is what it should be. I don’t think it’s feasible to have the entire plot written out in 250 words. However, it’s my understanding that I don’t have to. Brandon Sanderson suggests simply finding one interesting thing about your novel and centering this part of the query around that. Is my interesting thing the world, then? Is it the protagonist and his problem? Is it the amount of deception used in the novel? These are the questions I have and why I have a hard time writing queries. I have many different versions of this same query, though I don’t know which are good and which are bad so I’m trying to work one from scratch with feedback.

Also, thanks. I really appreciate this help. It’s the best help I’ve gotten so far! You know your stuff and have really encouraged me! Thank you!!

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As the author, you’re the only person that can really say where that center is.

For me I tend to prefer focusing on character.