Query Feedback: Bornless

Copies of Lorin and Brenda's feedback are available for download in the Resources for Writers section under Extras. 

If you're interested in submitting your first page (up to 250 words) for feedback, please email a Word doc or text file copy to erin_anderson@free-expressions.com. 

Feedback sessions are also open for QUERY LETTER submissions (up to 400 words)! Email a Word doc or text file copy to erin_anderson@free-expressions.com to participate.

 

Query Letter: Bornless by Suzanne B.

Original:

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA Fantasy Trilogy. The first novel, Bornless is complete at 119,000 words.

The prophecy says a willing sacrifice can break the darkest enchantment. High Queen Lilias prays this is true, for her heart’s desire is that her children shall be saved. But it has never been done before. No mortal has ever escaped the Realm of Fire and Ice. After seven years in darkness, the hour has come. She prays to see one thing, the light of the Morning Star. In a realm with no sun or moon or star shine an impossible wish, but she wishes it all the same, for somewhere beyond the cold vast void, the Morning Star still shines, and Thyrian horns blow, if Thyria has not fallen, if her kingdom lives.

A heavy veil lies over Thyria. The War on Mortals rages. But when the royal twins are found alive, hope returns. Still, Julian and Sarah’s battle has just begun. Separated during the escape, they return to a cursed kingdom, where dark omens spring forth, and deadly powers live and breathe with flesh and bone. No longer do they hear each other’s voice, and the curse upon their land makes reuniting impossible. The sun grows ever colder, the long dark night draws ever nearer. They are Thyria’s last hope.

Julian bears the heart stone, both blessing and curse, for to see into other’s souls is a burden few men can bear. As Bearer King he must find the three hidden relics which will lead him to the White Stone, the source of unlimited power in the Realm of Men. As Poet Warrior, Sarah’s songs must restore the poisoned waters and call the Remnants to battle. They face the realm’s darkest curse, mortal’s greatest enemy—an ancient evil born from immortality and forbidden love—the Watchers, servants of the Bornless One. They too seek the stone, to control the Realm of Men and regain their immortality. The Watchers have nothing to lose, and there is no power they will not call upon.

When the Watchers ensnare Julian in their deepest enchantment, a forgetfulness that leads to madness, the price for saving Thyria is Julian’s soul. Sarah faces an impossible choice—the kingdom or her brother.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is available upon your request.

Sincerely,

Suzanne B.

Lorin's Feedback

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA Fantasy Trilogy. The first novel, Bornless, is complete at 119,000 words. [If possible, you might identify your reasons for seeking out the particular agent or editor in question.]

[You might spend a bit of time establishing the world of the story here. Help us understand how your fantasy world is different from other fantasy worlds. Give us a sense of some friction in that world, a feeling that things aren’t right with it.]

The prophecy says a willing sacrifice can break the darkest enchantment. High Queen Lilias prays this is true, for her heart’s desire is that her children shall be saved. But it has never been done before. No No mortal has ever escaped the Realm of Fire and Ice. After seven years in darkness, the hour has come. She prays to see one thing, the light of the Morning Star. In a realm with no sun or moon or star shine an impossible wish, but she wishes it all the same, for somewhere beyond the cold vast void, the Morning Star still shines, and Thyrian horns blow, if Thyria has not fallen, if her kingdom lives. [I’m afraid that though this is artfully expressed, it feels too abstract, lacking in context to make us understand whose story this is, who we’re rooting for, etc.]

[Consider a more simple formula of world, protagonist, protagonist’s problem, and the obstacles standing in the way of his or her solving that problem, along with his or her motivations for wanting to do. Give us a one-paragraph overview with, perhaps, a question at the end—a sense of what the character may have to sacrifice along the way. Leave us with questions but a concrete sense of the story arc.]

[As a great plotting tool, you might look up “Gary Provost Sentence” online and start with that. It will help you crystallize your novel’s arc for greater clarity here.]

A heavy veil lies over Thyria. The War on Mortals rages. But when the royal twins are found alive, hope returns. Still, Julian and Sarah’s battle has just begun. Separated during the escape, they return to a cursed kingdom, where dark omens spring forth, and deadly powers live and breathe with flesh and bone. No longer do they hear each other’s voice, and the curse upon their land makes reuniting impossible. The sun grows ever colder, the long dark night draws ever nearer. They are Thyria’s last hope. [Again, while you have some compelling elements in here, my feeling is one of being a bit unmoored in terms of whose story you’re telling, where I’m supposed to invest/put my focus. I know it’s so tough in a novel that has an epic scope, but remember that the point of a query is to merely tantalize, and that you can save many of the nuances of the story for a synopsis.]

Julian bears the heart stone, both blessing and curse, for to see into other’s souls is a burden few men can bear. As Bearer King he must find the three hidden relics which will lead him to the White Stone, the source of unlimited power in the Realm of Men. As Poet Warrior, Sarah’s songs must restore the poisoned waters and call the Remnants to battle. They face the realm’s darkest curse, mortal’s greatest enemy—an ancient evil born from immortality and forbidden love—the Watchers, servants of the Bornless One. They too seek the stone, to control the Realm of Men and regain their immortality. The Watchers have nothing to lose, and there is no power they will not call upon to achieve their ends.

When the Watchers ensnare Julian in their deepest enchantment, a forgetfulness that leads to madness, the price for saving Thyria is Julian’s soul. Sarah faces an impossible choice—the kingdom or her brother. [Great, tantalizing conundrum.]

[You might include a little bit about yourself here, your inspirations or writing experiences, any publications, workshops attended, etc. Give the agent a peek into who YOU are.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is available upon your request.

Sincerely,

Suzanne B.

Hi, Suzanne!

Thanks so much for sharing your query with me! I know how tough it is to encapsulate a whole story in just a few paragraphs, and it’s especially challenging when you’ve created a sweeping, speculative work.

That said, as you’ll note in my comments above, my sense is that you’re trying to include too much of the story here in the query, at the expense of providing helpful context about the world of the novel, who the characters are, what’s motivating them, etc.

I also feel a bit concerned that you’re not spotlighting those elements of the story that set it apart from other works of fantasy, so I’d challenge you to dig in and identify those. How is the world of this story different from other worlds in speculative fiction? How is the main character’s quest a different kind of quest? What sets this apart from other works in the genre, and where is the real heart of the story? What’s the tough emotional terrain your character must traverse in order to achieve what he or she wishes to achieve?

I realize that feels like an awful lot to put in one or two short paragraphs, but if you hone in on one character--your protagonist--and on the journey he or she must make, the query will no doubt be stronger for it.

You have much rich material to work with here, and I know you’ll create something great!

Best,

-- Lorin