Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Query Critique #4: THE PENDRAGON'S SON

My thoughts are added in redI may underline a sentence to draw attention for discussion. Every comment is my own opinion. Readers, feel free to leave your own comments below and help a fellow writer out!

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Original Version (with comments):

Dear Agent,

Based on your interest in fantasy novels, Im pleased to introduce (or you could say, “I’m pleased to submit for consideration”) THE PENDRAGONS SON, an adult fantasy complete at 111,000 words. Prince Vaeldhei, the son of King Arthur and apprentice to Merlin, battles to change the tragic prophecy ruling the life of his misguided half-brother, Mordred (I’m not 100% sure you need this sentence. Why not jump straight into the query letter?).

Prince Vaeldhei, an apprentice wizard, wants nothing more than recognition from his father, King Arthur (I think you could actually get rid of this name. Vaeldhei is a prince in Camelot and the title is THE PENDRAGON’S SON. I think an agent can connect the dots ;) Plus it would cut out a name in the very first sentence, which kind of bogs the hook down. Just an idea!), and a place in Camelot. When his unwelcome half-brother Mordred arrives, Vaeldhei seizes the opportunity to make his mark in Camelot by helping Mordred , despite the stigma attached to his name. The dire prophecy surrounding Mordred is (maybe “an infamous legend” or something like that. To make it sound more dire and mysterious) known throughout the land—Mordred is destined to ignite a war that causes the destruction of King Arthur’s kingdom. No one dares question the finality of his fate, except for Vaeldhei. (I don’t see how helping Mordred would help Vaeldhei make a positive mark on Camelot. In fact, I could see how it would make King Arthur very unhappy haha. Does Vaeldhei have a different motivation you could draw from? Maybe since Mordred doesn’t have a place in Camelot or recognition from his father, Vaeldhei thinks they could find it together? Or he feels sympathy for Mordred and wants to help? Just a thought.)

Realizing there must be a catalyst to spark change, Vaeldhei thrusts himself into the fierce battle for Camelot’s future. Though King Arthur and Mordred are both set on their dark path, Vaeldhei interferes (How does he interfere? One thing you don’t want in query letters is to have agents asking questions. How the book ends and what happens next—yes. How characters get from point A to point B—no), vowing to protect his broken family and his kingdom. However, provoking fate may prove fatal for the naive prince (I think you could make this sentence pack even more of a punch. Like maybe fate can’t be changed and Vaeldhei will be caught in its vengeful crosshairs. Or something like that! I’m sure you can think of something better).

An excerpt from THE PENDRAGON’S SON received Superior Awards from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Creative Writing Contest and the ACSI Regional Creative Writing Festival (Congratulations!). It will appeal to fans of Arthurian tales such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon and George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series.

I have a minor in Literature from Richard Stockton College of NJ, as well as a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and three Associate's degrees. Currently, I am a Dental Hygienist, and I live in Pennsylvania with my husband, my books, and my reptiles (I’ve heard a lot of things regarding author bios. The rule of thumb is to only add pertanant information that actually applies to your book. For example, I’d cut the other degree and your occupation, instead keeping the minor in Literature and how that experience prepared you for an Arthurian retelling).

I’d be happy to send you my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Final thoughts:
One thing that you really need to ensure is that your query letter stands out and screams to an agent, “PICK ME!” Of course, this is something every query letter should do, but since you’re doing a retelling that has been retold many times over, you have to show an agent how different your book is from everything out there. I think you’ve done a good job of that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a retelling told from King Arthur’s son before—or Mordred trying to avoid his fate!! You just need to hone the Prince’s motivation, since that’s what the plot is hinged on. Throw in a bit more information in the third paragraph and I think you’ve got yourself an awesome letter! Good luck!