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Taking the Plunge Version 2.0

Hi Everyone,

After all the very helpful advice and feedback you gave me on the previous post, I've had another go. I'm a lot happier with the query letter (although I am still not sure about comp title), but I've written the synopsis several times, and I just cannot seem to nail it. I've attached the latest version, and would love some feedback on this. I've tried to use all the advice given, however I think it's flat, and doesn't quite sell it.

The letter is below, and please ignore the formatting, I've copied and pasted from Word and it's gone a bit 'wibbly' (technical term). Thank you in advance!

I seek representation for my first novel, Reality Filter, an urban fantasy, complete at 90,000 words, set in modern day West Yorkshire.  

The world as we know it has been subject to a Reality Filter. Kelly, an assistant psychologist, just broke her Reality Filter and now sees what’s 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 Kelly always thought. 

Her discovery takes a dangerous turn when Kelly learns that a patient is plagued by an ancient being made of shadow, one which has been hiding from the magical folk for centuries. The Shadow does not suspect that Kelly has broken her filter, which makes her the only one able to trap it. With help from the imps, Kelly must risk everything for the safety of her patient; her job, her mental health, and her sensible life. 

It will appeal to readers of Mark Hayden’s The 13th Witch, Tom Holt’s Little People, and Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London.  

I am in my mid-thirties, living in Yorkshire with my husband and three cats. 

I have previously 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, the first in a planned series. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Kind Regards (NB - is this too formal/stiff? Would you go with 'best wishes', or another sign off? I always default to 'kind regards')

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Replies (21)
  • That's pretty good, Rachel.

    Now, I'm no expert on cover letters, so I can't comment on the overall structure (though it appears to match what I've seen others mention). I will instead call out a few points where verbeage/punctuation could be tighter, or you are repeating yourself.

    I am not sure you need to mention the W. Yorkshire setting, unless that is relevant to the story. That it's modern-day can be inserted as contemporary urban fantasy.

    The first paragraph of story summary doesn't work for me. …

    The world as we know it has been subject to a Reality Filter. This is weak in seveal ways. It suggests that it is entirely in the past, whereas it is present (for all but Kelly). Also, technically it is passive. Personally, I'm not a fan of the capitalisation of Reality Filter, unless it's a specific device that people are individually fitted with at (or near) birth by some controlling entity.

    Kelly, an assistant psychologist, just broke her Reality Filter and now sees what’s Really There, including three imps, who’ve decided to befriend her. Again, the capitalisation of Really There doesn't work for me. It feels like a cheap hack at trying to circumvent not being able to describe the obfuscated reality. I would also break the imps out into a sentence of their own.

    This is extremely distracting, especially when she is trying to support people who see and hear things that AREN’T really there. Or so Kelly always thought. The first of these sentences is fine, though the capitals as emphasis somewhat undermines the reality. And the second sentence throws a curve ball as it confuses that Kelly now knows as reality without her filter, and what she thought was reality before it broke.

    In the second, one of those niggly choices in …being made of shadow, one which has been hiding…; the good old which/that decision. The best explanation I ahve seen is that that should be used without a comma when the following subclause is wholly pertinent to defining the subject of what precedes, and which, with a comma, should be used when the subclause could be dropped without losing significant meaning. As your previous clause is the word one,  it should be …one that has been hiding…. Or drop the one and go with …being made of shadow, which has been hiding…

    …for the safety of her patient should be followed by a colon rather than a semicolon. Also, in the list, I wonder if her mental health should be the last in the list, to give it more emphasis. In Kelly's shoes, as a psychologist, isn't that more important than her sensible life?

    The living in Yorkshire sentence is, I believe, irrelevant; only the Yorkshire element might matter if the story couldn't be transposed to some other location without destroying it.

    Where you say Reality Filter is your first novel, you are repeating yourself (mentioned in the first line). I would be inclined to keep it here and drop the initial mention. Also, saying it's a planned series apparently is better states as "has series potential."

    The synopsis… I haven't got that far.

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    • Okay, the synopsis.

      Yep, you're right. It lacks even the body of the two-paragraph summary, so will definitely work against you. To make it work, I'm going to have to mark up the file. Though before I do that, a key questions: who is your target audience? The capitalisation of Reality Filter and Queen of the Magical Realm are both screaming children's, whereas the overall story suggests more YA, and your letter says neither, implying it aiimed at adults.

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      • Third person, but mainly Kelly. It's her story, anyway.

        I more meant if I write a synopsis as if I were Kelly or the imps, it may give me another angle to play with, perhaps bringing out a bit more of the style of the book rather than just being...  Dull and vague. I'm not explaining myself very well.

        By looking at it from a different angle, it may reveal something more to about about the story, that I can then turn into the third party voice synopsis.

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        • That makes sense.

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          • I think it may have worked! Thank you for all your help and advice with this, Rick.

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          • Hi Rachel,

            The letter has definitely improved, but the blurb lacks voice to give the agent a flavour of the book. At the moment it feels a bit flat and I can’t say from reading it if the story is a dark fantasy or a comedic one. Also the world seems very generic due to the choice of words i.e. imps, magical realm, the queen. It lacks the specificity which makes your world and story unique.

            Rick is correct as well, with series the best phrasing is “a standalone with series potential” agents like to know that the first book works on its own.

            I’ve had a quick look at the synopsis and the two things that jump at me are again the lack of specificity, for example how does she exactly defeat the shadow (again The Shadow feels generic) and also wasting words that could be used instead to give better details about the story. I can remember the exact sentence but there is one at the start of a paragraph that for example could be reduce to 4 words “Kelly doubts her sanity”. Also one quick way to lose a few words is take out all the unnecessary “that”. Because most agents ask for 500 word or a 1 page synopsis you have to make sure that every word counts.

            I hope this helps.

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            • Thanks Laure, it definitely does. I need to inject a bit more personality into it! A bit of life.

              I think I've got bogged down. As I said to Rick, I think I'll take a few days off from it all, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

              Thank you for taking the time to look through it, and reply!

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