Query critique 88

Chase Warner should be spending senior year at his elite Connecticut private school rejoicing the end is near. This hook sort of seems to focus on what should be normal. I think it would be stronger if you jumped right into the conflict and how not normal things are for Chase. But instead, he’s sneaking alcohol, dabbling in drugs, and watching his shoo-in acceptance to Yale, slip right out of his grasp. ‘Boys will be boys’ and ‘senoritis’ are expressions his counselors use to excuse his behavior. But they couldn’t be further from the truth. And Chase is fine with keeping the truth between just him and his sister. Not only does no one need to know he was raped by an alumnus, Chase is sure no one would believe him—or care. This is the main source of conflict, so I’d like to see it worked into the hook.

But when Chase (drunkenly) posts on an anonymous chatting app his secret, he finds solace in a strange soul: the headmaster’s super-senior son, Malakai. Malakai doesn’t ask questions, is comforting and most of all, a physical, as well as emotional, anchor for Chase. There are a lot of commas in this section, which make it a little hard to read. Consider using some em dashes. Something he didn’t know he needed until his rapist returns to school as an assistant football coach.

Chase knows if he goes to the school, they’ll crucify him and all his hard work at Harrington would be for nothing. I’d like a little hint at why he doesn’t think the school will believe him. Or why he hasn’t pursued other avenues to justice. Has he contacted law enforcement? If Chase wants justice, he’ll have to take the law into his own hands, no matter the personal, legal, or ethical ramifications that follow.

Chase’s favorite quote has always been, ‘When one goes on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’. But now, he wants to modify that. When one goes on a journey of revenge, bring one bullet. I kinda get what you’re trying to do here with establishing stakes and tying in the title. I don’t think you need to explain the title in the query, though. And I think you’d be a little better off just stating the stakes clearly. Overall, though, I think this is a great query with a lot of great potential.

THE BULLET PROVERB is a completed 75,000 YA novel that addresses male rape, vengeance, and the toxic ways people heal. It will appeal to fans of FAULT LINE and GOLDEN BOY.

Query Critique 87

Dear Ms. Kyra Nelson,

(Two personalization sentences). Without further ado, I would like to invite you to The Black Night Rave. This sentence seems sort of unnecessary. Just jump into the query.

At seventeen, Skyeler Anders is an exile, failed mage, and wanted for the murder of his missing best friend, who is a princess. Something about the wording on the last bit throws me off as it sort of sounds like you’re trying too hard to squeeze in extra information. Maybe instead try something along the lines of “wanted for the murder of a princess who happens to be his best friend.”

Only he didn’t kill her. To prove his innocence and find Jessica, Skyeler follows a cryptic letter to a magical rave, the deadly Black Night Rave. Again, I think the wording could be a little cleaner. Something to the effect of “follows a cryptic letter to the magical and deadly Black Night Rave.”

There he meets three other teens—the escaped freak experiment, the secretive hacker with earth magic, and the premonition-plagued actress. The four encounter the Guardians, elemental beings who reveal they are the Chosen, descendants of the hated mages who destroyed the home of all magic. I had to read this sentence several times, and I’m still not sure I know who the Guardians are or what they do or what their goals are. The teens all need something unusual and the Guardians will obtain it, in exchange for their aid.

Now Skyeler must choose. He can either help the Guardians defeat the dark mages attacking the rave or forsake his destiny to save Jessica. Either way, somebody will die. I almost like the stakes better leaving off this last sentence. I like the idea of ending the query with the main character being forced to make a hard choice.

THE BLACK NIGHT RAVE is a YA urban fantasy complete at 75,000 words. Though told in the alternating viewpoints of the Chosen, it focuses on Skyeler, who is mixed and out as gay. My novel will appeal to fans of Aimee Carter and Cassandra Clare, by taking well-known mythologies and flipping them to create something familiar, yet new.Good comp titles, but I don’t think you need the part about familiar, yet new. While I believe this novel has series potential, I am writing other novels, such as an LGBT retelling of THE LITTLE MERMAID. I would axe this sentence. Focus instead on the book you’re trying to pitch.

My writing experience includes an internship at The Dallas Voice as well as articles published with them. I’ve also interned with Paige Wheeler of Creative Media Inc. Summer 2013, I had the pleasure of was being mentored by Malinda Lo in the YA/Genre workshop at the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. Additionally, I’ve had short stories and poems published in my community college’s art and literature magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration. As per the guidelines on your agency website, my materials are pasted below. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Query Critique 85


I am writing to inquire about representation of my young adult paranormal romance, KEEPER OF SHADOWS.

A broken 17-year-old boy must break a Shadow Keeper’s curse before he loses his life, but with his fierce and stubborn neighbor helping he might lose his heart first.

KELLAN CASEY gave his heart to a girl, but instead she took his soul and traded it to a Shadow Keeper for her own survival. Capitalizing names is good in synopses. It’s a little weird in a query letter. Now Kellan is turning into a Shadow Keeper – a dimension hopping wraith creature that collects the souls of the living. It’s a little strange to me that you would wait until now to define what a Shadow Keeper is when you’ve already mentioned it twice. Hiding his transformation and resulting intense physical pain behind a bad boy reputation, Kellan has pushed everyone away including the one person who might be able to save him.

Desperate to save her childhood friend, ABBY MARINO forces Kellan to let her into his twisted world of hell beasts and betrayals. For a girl who thought not getting into the right college was the end of the world, the almost dead boy shows her what it’s like to really live and that there may be a fate worse than being average. In return Abby gives Kellan back the one thing he’s already lost – hope.

Now with a ticking clock on the Shadow Keeper’s curse, Kellan and Abby need to work together to find a way out or Kellan will lose his life and the one girl that he might actually be willing to die for. Good stakes, except that this is the first mention of a curse that we’ve gotten. I think that’s probably something that needs to be expanded upon earlier in the paragraph..

A combination of edgy and sweet, KEEPER OF SHADOWS would appeal to readers of Katie McGarry’s DARE YOU TO but with a supernatural twist. Put the comp title in italics rather than all caps to set it off from your title. The manuscript is complete at 89,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Query Critique 84

Baronet Brandon Shrike is in serious trouble. Too vague! Give me something specific in the hook. King Justin Capet has been poisoned and is near death. Tasked with finding the perpetrator, Brandon, the king’s trusted bodyguard, has instead gotten himself exiled. The information in this sentence is what should be worked into a hook. He knows he’s been set up by ambitious General Kalt, but Justin is too ill to listen, and Brandon needs proof.
In the north, Lady Bria Perregal’s mother has been murdered, and if her suspicions are correct, it was her father who committed the crime. This is an abrupt point of view shift. Even adding the word “meanwhile” to the beginning could help smooth it out. Earl Rostis Perregal seems poised to seize power if the king dies, but Bria has no proof, only fear and doubt. With her twin brother hundreds of miles away in the royal city, Bria realizes she must act alone in order to avoid becoming a pawn in their father’s power games. I’d like to see how this ties in to the conflict from the first part.
Major Michael LeVay has been ordered to arrest Bria on sight–to his great consternation, as he has been secretly in love with her for five years. If he is loyal to the cavalry, he must obey his orders. If he is loyal to his heart, he must defy them. On top of that, he must make his choice while facing down his old mentor–and his old nemesis–General Kalt. There have been enough people mentioned in this query that I had trouble making the connection between Kalt in this paragraph and the first paragraph. So again, I’d like to see at least a hint of how the different narratives will weave together.
Pursued by both human soldiers and monsters that look like men but aren’t, Bria flees south. Brandon, risking capture and torture, defies exile to stop General Kalt from destroying both king and kingdom. Michael struggles to stay true to himself while serving the king. Renegade baronet, rebellious noblewoman, and conflicted soldier are on a collision course as they attempt to thwart not only Kalt’s plans, but those of someone even more sinister…the supernatural Dark King. As I’ve mentioned, I’d like a little bit more indication of how these paths collide. Also, the Dark King kinda comes out of left field. We’re not given a chance to see why he’s scary, so there isn’t any real reason to fear him. Which means the ending lacks the punch it should have.
The Loyalty Factor is an adult epic fantasy complete at 145,000 words. I have a rough outline for a sequel and plan to write several books set in this world.
Thank you for your time.

Query Critique 83

I am seeking representation for THE PERFECT WIFE, a 70,000-word novel.  I noticed that you are looking for upmarket women’s fiction, and I think this book fits that genre very well. This would probably sound stronger if you just said “and I think this would be a good fit.” Be confident about your genre.

Shanta believed in love; she saw it from her parents, from her sister, and she knew that her husband would be her constant, caring companion.  She had a vision of walks through Bangalore, India with her new husband, sharing cardamom infused milk sweets and cups of chai on their porch.

Gandhi’s declaration of India’s independence and the onset of World War II shatters these dreams.  Her husband becomes dedicated to the freedom cause, quits his job, and leaves her, with two children and little life experience, to work with Gandhi. I’d almost like to see this worked into a hook. The last paragraph does a good job setting the scene, but this sentence has conflict. And it’s the conflict that’s going to make people want to keep reading. World War II sparks protests all over India, and Shanta finds herself caught up in it, faced with racism and violence that her parents shielded her from all her life.  In this increasingly unstable world, Shanta is forced to find in herself a protector and provider to survive in a way she never thought she would: on her own.  This is an okay ending, but it would be stronger with some stakes. A deliberate statement that tells the reader what happens to her if she doesn’t find a protector.

I am part of a mother-daughter team.  Dipti Ranganathan has written short stories and was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers.  This story is particularly important to us because it is heavily based on the life of my great-grandmother.  THE PERFECT WIFE tells a well-known story, that of the freedom movement in India, from a new perspective of the wives of the men who fought for their country.  I believe that this novel will help bring the perspectives of women to light in a way similar to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.  THE PERFECT WIFE is also similar in themes to the novel that you represent After the War is Over.

Query Critique 82

Ashlynn Weaver doesn’t know she’s a dream-walker, only that she can control her dreams So for this first sentence I would try focusing on the dream controlling aspect rather than throwing out this unknown term, especially since she doesn’t know what that is. Her waking life is another story—falling for her best friend who’s hung up on his ex, wondering if her missing mom is still alive, and worrying she’ll vanish next. Ash tries to hide her delusions, so similar to the ones her mom had before, but the monsters are getting harder to ignore. The monsters sort of came out of nowhere. Especially when a serpentine creature nearly drowns her in a pool.
When Ash finds a magic lamp and releases Rizian, a jinn made of fire, she’s ready to get fitted for a straight jacket. The jinn is interesting, and I almost wonder if it could be worked into the query sooner? Maybe even in the hook? But, surely hallucinations don’t introduce themselves, and who could resist three wishes on their eighteenth birthday? Rizian introduces Ash to a magical world she never knew existed, and she offers magic he’s equally unfamiliar with: friendship. Some good voice in these sentences. Together, they rescue Ash’s bewitched mom, but a fairy queen won’t let them return to the human world unless Ash agrees to unravel a twisted scheme that targets fairy children. The evidence points to witches and reveals secrets about Ash’s family that explain why she sees monsters—fairies—and why her dreams have turned deadly. Her emerging ability to dream-walk proves dangerous when an unplanned foray into her sister’s dream has effects on waking life.
After using two wishes with unexpected consequences, Ash is caught in a conflict between worlds and a romance with Rizian that’s literally too hot to handle. When it turns out her sister is the real target of the witches’ sinister plans, Ash must relinquish her last wish, one that could make an impossible love possible, unless she can dream up another way to save her. Great stakes!
WISHES OF FIRE is an 107,000 word young adult paranormal romance, with potential for a trilogy. Thank you for your time and consideration,

Query Critique 81

Dear Miss Nelson,

When music lover and Massachusetts native Sarah McPhee transfers to the London offices of Sixteen Magazine, she expects the number of miles between herself and her old life to be enough to repair her crushed heart. I like these opening sentences.

It’s been a slow process getting over Ben, Sarah’s boyfriend of six years, who left her without an explanation but with an abundance of self-doubt.  Having always understood her life in terms of music – her childhood shaped by her father’s passion for sixties rock bands and her adolescence influenced by Madonna and her older brother’s knowledge of everything grunge – she finds this stretch of years to be eerily silent.  Determined to make her heart sing again, Sarah plants herself in a new city, where she immediately struggles with the ups and downs of starting over.

Tasked with saving the magazine from declining sales and subscriptions, energetic and curious Sarah quickly meets a range of new acquaintances, including her offbeat landlady, the always friendly Megan, and Megan’s charming but arrogant brother, Rob.  From getting lost (which she expected to happen) to being taught how to drive on the left side of the road (which she didn’t), Sarah learns, thanks to impromptu afternoon cocktails, an adventure through Hampstead Heath, and listening to old mix tapes, about getting over heartbreak, trusting her decisions and how to hear the music again.  Even in one of the most exciting cities in the world, happiness, she discovers, isn’t something that can be found – happiness must be made from within. So I normally don’t like queries that end with “and the character will learn x” it sort of works since this query has a quieter tone to this. Even still, I don’t think it would be bad to make the ending have stronger stakes. In other words, tell me what the character stands to lose. Overall, I think the query looks very good, though.

I studied abroad in London during college and fell in love with the city.  The balance of an almost stubborn persistence to maintain tradition and the desire to be one of the more modern cities in the world struck me as unique and fascinating.  As I can no longer “up and move” to Europe, I decided to write a story about a girl who does.

A Song for Sarah McPhee is a new adult novel complete at 86,000 words.  Put your title in all caps. Per your submission guidelines, please see below for _________.  Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.