But we thought it might be beneficial for our blog readers to also see the process of breaking down a query and then rebuilding it into something absolutely amazing. So I
Hopefully, you can learn something that you can then apply to your own query letter.
Dear Ms. Dream Agent,
Ten months ago, Calleigh Clarkson (Oh my heck! I knew a girl in high school with this name. It was spelled different, but still. Freaky!) was a star on the high school swim team. But after a fan assaulted her, she quit swimming. Unwilling to tell anyone the truth, she buried herself in her studies. Now it’s summer vacation. She wants to be the fun-loving girl she once was, the one her friends miss. (Okay, I like all of this, but it’s sort of ho-hum-ish, you know? I get that you need to give it to me to set up the query, but I’d sort of like to be hooked in first. Can we start with the present and go back to the past?
Maybe something like: “Calleigh Clarkson has a new plan for summer vacation, and it doesn’t include studying or burying herself under the truth of what happened ten months ago.” Or something along those lines. Something that makes me go, “Oh, dude, I have to read on to find out A) what this new plan is and B) what happened ten months ago. You know? Yes? Maybe?
And then I might go into: “Once a star on her high school swim team, Calleigh quit when a fan assaulted her. But that’s history, and she wants to be the fun-loving girl she once was.” Or “Once a star on her high school swim team, Calleigh quit with a fan assaulted her. But she wants to put the past behind her and become the fun-loving girl she once was.” That establishes A) the new plan and B) what happened ten months ago. So then we’re ready for the next graf.)
Great plan, right?
Then she meets Aaron. (Blah. This is blah. I want to have a better transition here. A better connection to the dreams/flashbacks to Aaron. You’ve got this whole second paragraph about the dreams/flashbacks, and then they’re never mentioned again. How do they relate? So you need a segue here (and I did a little rearranging/combining): “Aaron, a former competitive swimmer, helps Calleigh deal with her disturbing dreams. But he has a secret of his own: his sister committed suicide. As a romance develops between them, Calleigh realizes that for either of them to heal, they both need to return to swimming. Only someone doesn’t want that to happen.”
I have to say that I’m not sure about the “that” in the last sentence. What don’t they want to have happen? The swimming? Or the healing?)
He’s a former competitive swimmer, haunted by a secret. As a romance develops between them, Calleigh discovers Aaron’s sister committed suicide. She realizes that for them to heal, they both need to return to the sport they love. But before she can do that, Calleigh has to push past her fear, and find the courage to swim again. Only someone doesn’t want that to happen.
LOST IN A HEARTBEAT is a 76,000-word young adult contemporary novel, which will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler.
A member of the SCBWI, I’ve attended New York City and Los Angeles annual conferences for the past three years. My writing credits include several parenting articles published in CALGARY’S CHILD and THE WESTERN PARENT. (Nice! Great creds.)
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Okay, overall, I think it reads fine and all, but you have a spot or two with great voice, but the rest of it is lackluster. I think you could really shine it up a bit, add in some more voice and it would be killer.
Got a query you want the ninja to look at? Email Elana at elanajohnson(at)querytracker(dot)net.