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Taking the Plunge

I am girding my loins, bracing for impact and ready to leap into the void...

That's right, I'm preparing to send out my query letters. I'm not going to lie, I'm rather excited, and deeply nervous. The familiar doubts are creeping in 'what if they don't like me', 'what if I'm not good enough'. I'm ignoring them. 

However, I would be extremely appreciative if anyone could offer some thoughts on my query letter and synopsis? I can tell the doubts to sod off, but it would be reassuring to know that they aren't right, first. I'll never hear the end of it, otherwise.

Therefore, I present to you all...my covering letter (below) and synopsis (attached). Any thoughts, feedback etc would be very greatly appreciated. 

Thanks in advance,

Rachel


I am writing to seek representation for my first novel, Reality Filter, a 90,500 word dark comic fantasy set in modern day West Yorkshire.  

An assistant psychologist discovers that magic is real, which makes her job even more difficult. What makes it extra hard, is battling the same ancient darkness as one of her patients. 

Kelly Donaldson leads a normal, sensible life. After losing several things that she has only just put down, she decides to investigate. She discovers that magic is real, and the world as we know it has been subject to a Reality Filter. Kelly has just smashed her own filter to bits and there is no going back. She can now see and hear things that are Really There, including three imps, who’ve decided to befriend her. This is extremely distracting, especially when she is trying to support people who see and hear things that AREN’T really there, or so she thinks. 

Kelly’s discovery takes a dangerous turn when she learns that one of her patients is plagued by an ancient being made of shadow, and it is up to her to do something about it.  She seeks help from imps and learns that she must risk everything to save her patients’ life; her job, her mental health, and her sensible life. 

I am in my mid-thirties, living in Yorkshire with my husband and three cats, and whilst I’ve been writing all my life, this is my first novel. I look forward to writing more in this series. 

I have worked in advertising, forensic and acute mental health services, and currently work as an investigator in a major crime unit for the police. My experiences in these roles have taught me that truth really is stranger than fiction, and have inspired me to write this novel. 

Please find attached my opening three paragraphs and synopsis of Reality Filter. I hope you enjoy the opening chapters, and I look forward to hearing from you. 


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Replies (30)
  • Hi Rachel, first of all well done on getting this far! And your novel sounds really intriguing. As I’ve never written a query letter before, I’m no where near there yet, I’m not sure I’m the best of help. It read quick and easy though, which I consider an asset as in this day and age nobody seems to take the time anymore for anything. If I could have anything to advise is that I would  mention Kelly’s name directly in the first alinea; I got sort of confused with the assistant psychologist and then the mentioning of Kelly asking myself if they were one and the same person..

    Good luck! C

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    • Haha, well, lockdown might be your friend! I don't think I'd have written this if I'd not been confined to my house for most of the year!

      I've not come across that series before, I'll have to have a look. Hopefully triggered in a good way :)

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      • Triggered in a very good way, because of that simple world “filter” which presents a scary or exciting future (depends how you look at it:) and because to my opinion you write in a flow,  so I read on.  Years and years is a British series with Emma Thompson and deals with the immediate future. It had me glued to the screen and I bingewatched it three times :))  it might not be your thing though, that’s the lovely thing about taste, we are many! 

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        • Hmmm Emma Thompson, eh? She's is awesome. I'll have to check it out.

          You know, I'd never thought about the word 'filter' that way before, thank you. Isn't it fascinating how words can mean different things to different people? 

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        • She is awesome, her role is important but not big. Enjoy it! And if you like, I would be happy to read your 5k first chapter.. it would feel like starting a new book:) 

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          • Emma T doesn't need a big role, she'll shine regardless

            Oh thank you very much! I can PM it to you, if you like? Full disclosure, there are no filters in the first chapter....

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            • If you feel like it, please do! 

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            • Hi Rachel, very intriguing ! Just a few very small points: I think you can tighten it a bit eg: lose the repetition of 'which makes her job more difficult' (next sentence starts 'What makes her job hard..." or simply: 'She must now battle...") My impression is that you could be more specific instead of using 'things' - losing 'things' (what sort of things?) and 'see and hear things' (what sort of things?). Also, smashed 'to bits' maybe be a bit too colloquial without adding much?? And a question: when she must save "risk everything to save her patients’ life" is this one patient (in which case the apostrophe is misplaced) or is she saving lots of patients? Just my opinion and these are very small points. Otherwise BRAVO!!!

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              • Great feedback, thank you so much for taking the time to read it.

                All great points, and I will definitely work on them.

                Thanks again!

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              • Hi Rachel, 

                Congratulations for taking the plunge! It's scary but it's something we all had to go through in order to improve.

                I think you've got a good starting base but both the letter and synopsis can be improved. They are both tricky and can take a while being tweak until they are just right.

                Something in both the letter and synopsis is that every word needs to earn its place and anything superfluous or that doesn't contribute should be cut.

                Letter:

                I am writing to seek representation for my first novel, Reality Filter, REALITY FILTER (title are either in italics or all caps, just choose whatever works and be consistent) a 90,500 word dark comic  urban (dark comic is not really a genre but from the info in your letter I would guess it's urban fantasy) fantasy, complete at 91,000 words (just round up the word count) set in modern day West Yorkshire.  

                An assistant psychologist discovers that magic is real, which makes her job even more difficult. What makes it extra hard, is battling the same ancient darkness as one of her patients. 

                Kelly Donaldson leads a normal, sensible life. After losing several things that she has only just put down, she decides to investigate. She discovers that magic is real, and the world as we know it has been subject to a Reality Filter. Kelly has just smashed her own filter to bits and there is no going back. She can now see and hear things that are Really There, including three imps, who’ve decided to befriend her. This is extremely distracting, especially when she is trying to support people who see and hear things that AREN’T really there, or so she thinks.

                Kelly’s discovery takes a dangerous turn when she learns that one of her patients is plagued by an ancient being made of shadow, and it is up to her to do something about it.  She seeks help from imps and learns that she must risk everything to save her patients’ life; her job, her mental health, and her sensible life. 

                That blurb comes across as a little flat and matter of fact. The normal person discovers there's a hidden magical is a known trope of the genre. Bear in mind agents receive between 60 to 100 submissions a week so your letter has to stand out and needs to show why your story is different and the one they should be reading. My advice would be to select about 10 to 15 books in the same genre as yours and study their back cover blurb.

                Also you are missing your comp titles. Agents would expect about 2/3 comparative titles ideally published within the last 5 years and bonus points if any are a debut.

                I am in my mid-thirties, living in Yorkshire with my husband and three cats, and whilst I’ve been writing all my life, this is my first novel. I look forward to writing more in this series.

                I have worked in advertising, forensic and acute mental health services, and currently work as an investigator in a major crime unit for the police. My experiences in these roles have taught me that truth really is stranger than fiction, and have inspired me to write this novel. REALITY FILTER is my first novel — a standalone with series potential.

                Please find attached my opening three paragraphs and synopsis of Reality Filter. I hope you enjoy the opening chapters, and I look forward to hearing from you. I would cut all that go for a simple — Thank you for your time and consideration.


                Synopsis:

                My main feedback would be to cut out any words and sentences that don't serve to the plot and use the word count that you've saved for being more specific. For example:

                — How does the shadow specifically affect Geoff and Kelly? What kind of deterioration does Kelly suffer?

                — How does she exactly defeat the shadow?

                — Why would the shadow accept a trade?

                — Why can she suddenly see the imps if there's a reality filter?

                And so on...

                I hope this helps and good luck with the editing!

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                • L, this is incredibly detailed feedback, thank you. It means a lot that you, and others, are taking the time to critique to such a detailed level.

                  I will take on board everything you have said and look at reworking this. I've struggled to make the short synopsis exciting, so the suggestion of looking at other blurbs is brilliant. I have several such books on my shelves at the moment, so it shouldn't be too difficult to get a good list.

                  I wasn't sure about the comparative titles, so left them out. I will now look at adding them in.

                  Again, thank you so much, it's greatly appreciated.

                  Rachel


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                  • Hi Rachel, your book sounds great! I don't have any experience writing query letters so my advice is purely from a reader's perspective.

                    The first paragraph raised so many questions as to be confusing. An assistant psychologist discovers that magic is real, which makes her job even more difficult. Wouldn't magic make things easier? What makes it extra hard, is battling the same ancient darkness as one of her patients. What's the ancient darkness, how does she battle(with magic?), and is she battling it together with her patient?

                    The next paragraph is where I got interested, but I really sat up and took notice when you mentioned the Reality Filter. As Laure said, the beginning is nice but nothing new. Could you start here instead? (I loved this whole part!)

                    The world as we know it has been subject to a Reality Filter. Kelly, an assistant psychologist, has just smashed her own filter to bits and there is no going back. She can now see and hear things that are Really There, including three imps, who’ve decided to befriend her. This is extremely distracting, especially when she is trying to support her patients, who see and hear things that AREN’T really there, or so she thinks.

                    The last para is good but vague, you can flesh it out now that you have more wiggle room. Kelly’s discovery takes a dangerous turn when she learns that one of her patients is plagued by an ancient being made of shadow, and it is up to her to do something about it. Why is it up to her? Why would she take this risk? 

                    Just some ideas for you to think about. Good luck subbing!

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                    • Hi Julie, 

                      Thanks for your lovely comments. Oh my goodness, you've cracked it! You bloody genius, you! Boom. Start with the reality Filter, it's only the title of the book, haha.

                      Thank you so much. Honestly, it really is amazing what other people see when you've been stuck in a rut.

                      Every comment on this post so far has been so helpful and eye opening. Your a wonderful group.

                      Thank you!

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                      • I'm glad to help! Finding the right words for giving feedback (and wondering if I'm blundering) is almost as hard as posting your own work, so I'm happy it was useful!

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                        • I know what you mean! I always worry that I'll offend someone!

                          Thanks again.

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                        • Rachel, I really like this. I am a GP and I too have seen that real life is often way stranger than fiction! I have various funny stories that may morph themselves into a book at some point. I am afraid I have no idea how to write a query letter so i would bow to the greater knowledge on here. However from your synopsis I would read your book. Good luck with it.

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                          • Thanks Kate. Life is really, really bizarre isn't it? I hope you're managing to stay safe in your role at the moment, it's all a bit nuts, isn't it?
                            Thanks for your kind words, just by yourself and others saying that the story sounds interesting is good to know, as that's half the battle won, right there.

                            As others have said, there is some definite work that needs to be done, but I feel like I'm not a million miles away. 

                            Thanks, Stay Safe Kate!

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                          • Hit 'em with the reality filter out of the gate. That's what will hook the reader.

                            Great advice, Julie! 

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                            • It sounds so simple now you've both said it. I started reworking it this morning.

                              Thank you!

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                            • I wondered if you'd tried using the JW Agent Match. I looked at it this morning and discovered that, of the 14 UK Agents listed for Crime Writers, 1 has closed completely and 4 are not taking submissions until further notice. Is this just in the crime field, or in other fields too? I presume it means that publishers are taking fewer new writers too.

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                              • Hi Georgina,

                                I have actually, I signed up to the trial on Sunday evening. Encouragingly, a lot of the ones I'd already short listed were on there. Of the ones I've looked at, the majority are open. 

                                Which ones are you looking at? The Soho Agency seemed to be fairly broad in terms of what they would accept, and they looked as if they were open for submissions. Might be worth a try?

                                Good luck with it

                                Rachel

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                                • Thanks, I’ll have a look at the Soho Agency. Good luck with your trial and submission 

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                                  • Thank you, and good luck with yours, also.

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                                  • Hi Rachel

                                    I'm a newbie too! Congratulations on crafting your query letter and synopsis. As others have already commented on the query, I have taken a look at your synopsis (devilish things that they are) and have made a few edits which you may or my not agree with. I am working on my own query letter and synopsis, so reading through your thread has been very helpful. I too have a fear of upsetting people, so am often hesitant to post but it helps enormously with my own work. I think you've done a great job at explaining a 'magical plot', my suggestions are simply to tighten it overall so that you can add more detail where required.

                                    REALITY FILTER - SYNOPSIS

                                    KELLY is an assistant psychologist working in a locked mental health hospital. (Edited details to gain word count - maybe include her age?) After several small items (maybe give tiny details on the items) go missing, Kelly expects to find them down the back of the sofa. 

                                    She does not expect to end up in the middle of a Hawthorne thicket with three imps, discovering that magic is real. (How does she get to the thicket? Also, is this where the reality filter needs to be explained?)

                                    Kelly begins to doubt her sanity and realises that responding to things that others cannot see or hear is why several of her patients have been sectioned. (Could this be moved up/combined with second para?)

                                    Kelly keeps her discovery from (boyfriend/husband) Rob, her best friend TIFF, and her boss, psychiatrist Dr ATCHISON. She must not act strangely around them, only speaking to the imps when she is alone.

                                    Kelly’s patient GEOFF, discloses that he has been plagued by a Shadowy being, who the magical imps realise is an ancient and dangerous foe. The shadow accompanies him everywhere, yet now it hides when Kelly is around. Geoff has a major review of his section order approaching, the Shadow could jeopardise not just his release, but also his life. (as it becomes more and more dangerous - what is the shadow doing?)

                                    With the help of the imps and the Queen of the Magical Realm (brief explanation), Kelly confronts the Shadow and offers a trade: herself for Geoff. The Shadow accepts, and Kelly struggles with intrusive thoughts, feelings of doubt, and her own self-worth. Kelly realises that, whilst the Shadow is unable to kill her directly, the spectre is pushing her towards suicide. Her rapid deterioration is noticed by those closest to her; Dr Atchison tells her take some time out, whilst Rob and Tiff stage an intervention at home.

                                    Kelly discovers her inner strength and that the Shadow is not all powerful. She defeats the Shadow, and earns the respect and gratitude of the Queen. (How does she do this amazing thing, where does the showdown take place?)

                                    Without the presence of the Shadow, Geoff flourishes and wins his review and his freedom. Kelly enjoys a return to slightly more sensible times, although she knows that her life will never be boring again. (with Rob or not?)

                                    Good luck with the revisions! It's by no means easy.

                                    Regards

                                    Alison




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                                    • Hi Alison,

                                      Thank you for reading through this all, and for taking the time to give such detailed feedback. I'm just about to start editing the synopsis, so this is perfect timing. Your comments are really valid, and having read back through it I can see that there are a good few gaps which need to be filled. Thank you for the edits and comments :)

                                      Query letters and synopsis writing are bloody tough, aren't they? Hope you're getting on OK with yours. I'm glad the comments on here have helped you, too. 

                                      Thanks again,

                                      Rachel 

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                                    • You are more than welcome. I'm going to post my query soon - after another rewrite - it's changing daily at the moment!

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                                      • I love the query letter - the dry humour shines through and gives it a real edge. I had a few comments on the synopsis, which I'm sending back to you as an attachment.

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                                        • Thank you, I really appreciate your comments, especially on the synopsis! That's the bit I'm struggling with.

                                          And you're the only one so far to pick up on hawthorn, so thank you! I shall amend my MS too. Could have been embarrassing! 


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