Thank you, M.W., for submitting your query letter! I hope that the comments you receive will help you get tons of positive responses!
Critiques are welcome from anyone and everyone. Just remember our rules: Be nice. Be constructive. Be specific. Be polite. In this case, we would appreciate comments from writers who have gone through the process, or at least have looked into the art of writing a successful query letter. If you’re not familiar with how query letters work, you can still comment on the blurb!
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Title: The Chess Club
I am currently seeking an agent for my first novel, THE CHESS CLUB. A YA mystery novel, which is about 70,000 words. The idea for this book derived from my interest in chess and a love of the Nancy Drew stories. I wanted to write a feisty, intelligent, female character for today’s young adult audience, as well as include humour, eccentricity and Skittles. The story follows the anti-social Penelope Featherstonehaugh (pronounced Fanshaw) as she starts a chess club without realising just how much that will change her life.
Penelope is forced to come up with an after-school club and she chooses the Chess Club, hoping nobody plays chess any more. Her solitary world is instantly invaded by four quirky characters who drag her out of her comfort zone, whether she likes it or not. Things are made worse when their chess pieces go missing, as well as objects from other after-school clubs. The headmaster asks Penelope for help and the Chess Club members rally around, eager to dive into an adventure. In the meantime Penelope’s attention is divided between her alcoholic mother and robberies committed in town. Though she is armed with her intelligence and sarcasm, she doesn’t realise how close to danger she truly is.
I have a BA in English Language and Culture from the University of Utrecht and recently received my MA in Creative Writing from the University of Kent. I have had one of my short stories published in the University of Utrecht student magazine Phoenix.
I have added a synopsis to this email. I chose to approach you because you have a broad taste when it comes to fiction, just like me. A partial or full manuscript is available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I feel awkward commenting on your letter when you hold a BA in English, and I’m not even a native speaker. But one thing I have faith in is my instinct, so I’ll offer my bit, and hopefully you’ll find it constructive.
I felt that the language you used throughout the letter was more of the conversational type when you need “tight” original language that will brand you as a good writer. For example, the second sentence is not full (no main verb). My suggestion for your opening:
“I am currently seeking representation for my first novel, THE CHESS CLUB, a 70,000-word YA mystery novel.”
I’m not sure that the two sentences where you talk about what inspired you to write the book and your intentions regarding the heroine would be of interest to the agent. If your inspiration was highly original e.g. an Andean trek inspired you to write a wilderness thriller, I’d say include it, but an interest in chess and Nancy Drew isn’t that exceptional. Also your intention to portray a feisty heroine does not guarantee that you’ve succeeded, but what if you present her character’s attributes through a behaviour rather than tell us (show not tell)? My suggestion:
“Penelope Featherstonehaugh (pronounced Fanshaw) is a ??-year-old high school student who likes people as long as they keep their distance. When she is assigned the foundation of an after-school club, she goes for a chess club, assuming she would be its sole member. But her solitary world is instantly invaded by (names) who, in no time at all, drag her out of her comfort zone.” (The phrase “whether she likes it or not” is redundant; nobody likes being dragged out of their comfort zone.)
The rest of your blurb is somewhat fragmented. You say “things are made worse” when objects go missing, but then we learn that Penelope has an alcoholic mother, which makes the missing objects sound trivial. Then there is mention of robberies and danger but how does that connect to the chess club? My suggestion (but I’m speculating here, as I don’t have all the facts):
“Having to deal with an alcoholic mother and a wave of robberies that sends ripples through the town, Penelope needs a tougher armour than intelligence and wit.”
As for attaching a synopsis, make sure you do it only when the submission requirements specify it.
I wish you the best of luck with your endeavours, and, once again, thank you for participating in our event.