Successful Queries – Day 3 – Brianna Shrum

Hello gentle reader,

Welcome to the Successful Queries Blog Series! The idea is to share with you Queries That Worked and to find out what made them stand out in the slushpile. My hope is that it’ll help you, querying writers, to write an amazing query for your own manuscript and to find Your Agent.

Today the ever interesting Brianna Shrum is sharing her query and answering a few questions. Brianna writes YA and NA fiction and she’s represented by Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary.

Brianna Shrum



The kidnapping was a quiet one. In fact, most people mightn’t even have called it a kidnapping. You see, the victim went willingly, and his captor was only a child, a child the world knows as a hero.

On James Hook’s thirteenth birthday, Peter Pan entices him away to Neverland, a world made of adventure and built from children’s dreams. But very soon after, Peter Pan reneges on his promise to take James back home after his holiday. Trapped in Neverland under the harsh care of Peter, and faced with a future of shattered make-believe, little James can do nothing but break Peter’s number one rule: No growing up.

When Peter can no longer deny that James has rapidly grown into a man, Pan sentences him to death. James escapes and finds refuge among a band of pirates, stepping naturally into the role of their Captain. Despite that, James is obsessed with only one thing: returning home. Something Neverland does not wish him to do. His single-minded endeavor is thrown off course when he finds himself falling in love with the beautiful Tiger Lily, a woman whose heart is torn between the pirate Captain and Pan, the boy Neverland has destined her to love.

Trapped against his will in a place where love is twisted, children are happily heartless, and dreams are killed, Captain James Hook struggles to not become consumed by hatred and revenge, and to survive as a man in a world that hates men.

Currently, most of my work has been hastily scribbled on a chalkboard and speed-read by the students in the middle and high school writing classes I teach.

Drawing from J.M. Barrie’s darker Neverland, NEVER, NEVER is an upmarket retelling of Peter Pan from Captain Hook’s perspective. It is complete at 78,000 words.

The full manuscript and synopsis are attached, as per your request.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


How long did it take you to write this query?

I wrote the first draft of this query in a day, but then it went through maybe two or three more drafts, I think, before it ended up like it is now. So, all in all, probably a few days.

Did you have beta readers or CPs (or did you enter contests or workshops) to help you with your query?

I did have CP’s and betas. A couple CP’s, then a couple peeps on Twitter who were rockin’ enough to exchange queries with me. Plus, I entered Pitch Wars, and my lovely, fizztacular mentor gave me some pointers on this query. So yeah, safe to say I had some help 😉

What was the hardest part to get right?

Hmmmmm. The hardest part to get right…I’d say plot. There is kind of a lot going on in this story, and in this query, I had to get across the whole, “Hey, so, Peter Pan is a totally psychotic kidnapper, not a beloved little elf-guy, trust me,” thing, and get across an unfamiliar backstory to a very familiar character. The love story was important to me too, but I didn’t want to clog it with excessive stuff. Definitely getting enough details to intrigue, but not so many that it was cluttered, was tricky, and something pretty much anyone who critted it brought up.

Any advice for querying writers out there?

Number one, research. Research agents, research their books, research alllll the query resources you can. Two, don’t be afraid to ask people for crits! Mine was soooo much better because of it, and more often than not, people, especially writers, are cool and wanna help out. Last, don’t. Give. Up. On the day after New Year’s of 2013, I distinctly remember getting a rejection from a dream agent, and just bursting into tears. Well, my dad was a wisdomous dude, and he said, “Someday, you’re gonna get an agent, and you’re gonna love that agent so much that you will be glad this one rejected you. Three weeks later, I signed with Bree, and learned that my dad was absolutely right. So, ya know, what he said. To you.

Thank you so much for taking part in this blog series, Brianna!

GIVEAWAY (closed)

Querying Writers! Brianna is giving away a QUERY CRITIQUE to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill in the form below with your name and email adresss, and inlude the genre of your mansucript. Good luck!

The giveaway is open internationally until Sunday 9th March 2014 at 11pm BST.

Any questions? Ask below!