Query Critique 58

Dear Ms. Nelson, 

Seventeen-year-old Isa Rousseau isn’t in love with her cousin Coral. She’s in love with Coral’s life. For some reason, this hook was a little confusing to me. I like the idea of it, but think it might be better if it were a little more specific.

While Isa barely breathes, suffocated by her dinky hometown, and that “textbook” overbearing Asian mom, Coral inhales life, traveling to exotic places; living the free spirited existence that Isa yearns for—that is, until Coral and her parents vanish while sailing on the Pacific Ocean.  It’s interesting to me that you say the way you say she’s a “textbook” overbearing mom. It’s like you’re using a trope, but you’re aware of it. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.

Consumed by Coral’s death, Isa spends most of the year trying to cope; leaning on Brett, her gay best friend, instead of the girlfriends her mom encourages her to have. Because for Isa, having girlfriends holds a different meaning, one she’s certain her mom won’t ever accept. I think this is a really important idea, and I’d like to see it brought up sooner. This paragraph has a lot more conflict than the last paragraph, I think. So I’d like to see some of this conflict woven in more early on.

Then, one phone call changes everything. Miraculously, Coral is alive. In just a few days, Isa will have her back. But the Coral that arrives is broken, a shell of the girl she used to be—a stranger.

As Isa attempts to save Coral, all the while fumbling through her journey of sexual awakening, Coral’s story of survival on the deserted island will unfold; ultimately revealing that survival isn’t always just about life and death, but that sometimes surviving the demons inside can be the greatest challenge of all. 

SAVAGES is complete at 85,000 words. Written in dual points of view, this YA contemporary novel will appeal to readers of I’ll Give You the Sun, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in screenwriting from Boston University, and worked in children’s educational publishing in New York City for ten years.

A few lines about why I chose said agent.

Query Critique 56

Dear (Agent Name),

In the three years since the plague mutated and eradicated half of human civilisation, the members of the Junior Reconnaissance Unit 5/07 have done the following:

Run an approximate distance of twelve thousand kilometres.

Witnessed a little over nine hundred deaths.

Terminated a combined total of seven hundred and twenty two infected people.

But the plaque is basically under control now, and the six of them need a break. And they’ve been promised one by central headquarters, as soon as their mission is over. I think the query would read a little easier if it was condensed from lots of really short paragraphs into a few longer ones.

Then, one of them recruits a mysterious sharpshooter, throwing team cohesion into disarray. As they struggle to adjust and continue to trust each other, love and jealousy rear their heads, and a long hidden secret begins to grow too big to hide. This last bit seems a little vague to me and isn’t as gripping as some other elements of the query. In general, I’d like a lot more details about what this mission entails.

Their mission is due to end in a week, but despite the waning of the plague, the odds of the team making it back to central headquarters in one piece aren’t looking too great.

BEAUTIFUL WORLDS is a 70,322 word, standalone New Adult fiction novel novels are by definition fictitious, with elements of romance that include LGBT+ perspectives. Told from six, third-person points of view, it explores the relationships between the six members of the team, and their personal experiences during the plague. Six is a lot of point of view characters for a book. It’s also problematic in the query, because we aren’t actually introduced to any of the characters in the query, which is a little disconcerting to me. At this point I don’t feel like I have enough details about the characters or the plot. The world sounds interesting, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to really grab my interest.

I have had the odd piece of fiction published on fictionpress.net and fanfiction.net, although those have long since been taken down. Aside from writing, I also beta read, and have offered critiques for different pieces of writing so far.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Query Critique 38

Coby married a man who ought to be dead—and he’s starting to regret saying ‘I do.’ This is a good hook. It did sort of set up expectations for something speculative fiction, but that may just be my reader’s bias because I gravitate towards spec fic.

The night Coby pulled Jimmy, half-dead at seventeen, out of a seedy back-alley, everyone told him not to get attached. They said Jimmy was going to break his heart. But he told them he could handle Jimmy. After all, fate brought them together when Jimmy needed a friend the most. And for the last ten years, despite all of the hell Jimmy’s gone through, Coby’s never given up. My one complaint with this is that I feel like it uses Jimmy’s name a lot. Obviously you have to avoid pronoun confusion. But it’s like when you say a word a bunch of times and it loses meaning. Or maybe that’s just me.

Coby made a promise to Jimmy when they got married: he’d stand by him, give him a family, and never leave him.  But when Jimmy has an atomic meltdown at work, gets admitted to the psych ward, and loses his job, Coby, the man who swore he had no breaking point, breaks.

When Jimmy is released from psych, a vicious cycle begins: Jimmy refuses to stay on his meds and starts falling back into drugs.  Coby isn’t sure anymore if his obligation is strong enough to make things work.  But with Jimmy off his meds and back-peddling into addiction, Coby is about to admit that everyone was right.

RESCUE ME is LGBT, dual POV, Commercial Fiction, complete at 82,000 words with series potential. I don’t know that you really need to specify commercial fiction or LGBT (though you can). I’d maybe say adult contemporary instead. As far as the dual POV, there’s nothing in the synopsis to suggest that it’s told from the POV of anyone besides Coby because the query essentially tells everything from Coby’s point of view. My short story ‘Anguish’ was published in Winter’s Regret by Elephant Bookshelf Press in 2014.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Breaking Point

Query Critique 26

Dear Ms. Nelson,

For seventeen-year-old Cas Leung, bossing around sea monsters five thousand times her size is just the family business. I like this hook. Cuts right to the chase of what’s interesting about her. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission, slaughters her favorite Reckoner, and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. I’d like a little more explanation of what a Reckoner is. Otherwise, this paragraph seems solid.

There’s no time to mourn it. It being the Reckoner death, right? Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on the ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Cas has fought pirates her entire life, and she’s not about to stop. But when she starts to fall for one – the captain’s prickly, swaggering apprentice girl – she begins to see the complexities of the NeoPacific in a different light. As she grapples with her old values and her new perspective, Cas must decide whether taking vengeance against her captors is worth becoming even more monstrous than the Reckoner pup she’s raising.

Complete at 63,000 words, THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US is a young adult science fiction novel with LGBT+ romance elements.  It’s the monsters of Pacific Rim and the myth of Persephone Hmm… I’m trying to think where the Persephone myth would fit in based on what I’ve read. on the seas of the future. While the story stands alone, it also has series potential. My short fiction has been published by HarperTeen as part of the online bonus content for the Defy the Dark anthology.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!


Once and the Future Sea Queen

Overall, this one is looking pretty good! The setting, conflict, and stakes have all been really well established.