Query Critique 31

Dear Ms. Nelson:

Eleven-year-old Olivia Boogieman’s family makes her classmates thinks she eats PB&J (pancreas, brain, and jugular) sandwiches for lunch.  Why shouldn’t they, at first I thought this they was talking about the family considering her mother is a curse-flinging mummy and her father a hairy, scary, howl-at-the-moon werewolf.

Even worse is living in the shadow of her trouble-making, shape-shifter brother, and having a skeletal little sister that Olivia’s dog sees only as a chew treat. Olivia wishes for nothing more than a normal life, however, ordinary families don’t have pet dragons in their back yards.    This may just be me, but I get a little bored with characters who just want to be normal. Especially since there is other conflict, I would focus on that.

A meddling social worker places Olivia in a foster home, and for once, Olivia knows life with a family just like her– normal.  When horrible, vengeful things happen to girls that pick on her, Olivia discovers she is not as normal as she thinks.  She’s a witch.  This seems like the inciting incident, and if it is, we should get to it faster.

Olivia sneaks out of her foster home to prove her parents snatched her away from her birth mother.  What reason does she have to suspect that they did this? She fights off sentry garden gnomes who protect the entrance to the land of her birth, filled with ogres, trolls, and one mean, nasty little fairy. I say choose either mean or nasty (though nasty is a little stronger). The two are close enough in meaning and having both makes it feel a little clunky.

When Olivia finds her birth mother, she understands her parents stole her for a good reason– her safety.  Olivia’s birth mother wants to destroy any reminder of the child she never wanted.  Using her new powers, Olivia must defeat the evil witch if she ever wants to reunite with the family that loves her.

OLIVIA BOOGIEMAN is a middle grade magical realism novel complete at 40,000 words.  To me, this doesn’t sound like magical realism so much as straight up urban fantasy.


Not Nasty Fairy

I think this query has some good elements. However, I think it needs to find the core conflict and focus on that more. So get to the inciting incident and main conflict sooner and then stay focused on that.



Query Critique 30

Dear Ms. Nelson,
A VOICE AMONG THE THORNS is a 71,000 word contemporary YA novel.
Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa (Jax) Mason is allergic to drama. But that’s what she gets when her boyfriend dumps her on a crowded dance floor. I sort of think these two sentences could should be combined into one compound sentence, but that might just be personal preference. She would have preferred a text message. Amanda Rosenbaum’s reappearance and rumors of her time in the “looney bin” help take Jax’s mind off the break-up thing. This seems a little abrupt, since we’ve been given no clue to who Amanda is before now. I know it’s explained in the next paragraph, but the transition here could be a little smoother. Maybe say something like “Luckily, local runaway Amanda Rosenbaum’s reappearance…” The luckily connects it to the drama mentioned before a little more smoothly and the local runaway would explain briefly who she is.
Amanda ran away when she was seventeen and Jax was four. Thirteen years later, Amanda returns to their sleepy town of Rudds Mill to live with her mother. Jax escapes to Amanda’s moss-covered patio when things get tense at home. She’s drawn to the fragile, unstable Amanda despite the fact that they spar over everything. Amanda has one foot in this world; the rest of her lives in a dark place inside her mind. But she’s aware of things that Jax has never considered. Important things about hope and life. And she knows all about the secrets Jax hides. How can someone so lost in her own world see inside of Jax’s?
Ethan, the new guy in town, starts hanging out on Amanda’s patio too. Chemistry sparks between him and Jax, but Amanda cryptically predicts they’re not meant to be. They try to blow her off. Amanda’s crazy after all. And she can’t always be right. As summer marches towards autumn, Amanda slips deeper inside herself, battling her mysterious past. Jax and Ethan need to save her before she disappears altogether. This is good. It establishes the stakes. The wording seems a little abrupt maybe? Maybe just a little transition word in the last sentence, or something.
I’m aware that authors need to promote and market themselves. In addition to writing a blog and maintaining a Facebook author page and Twitter account, I’ve hosted A Voice Among the Thorns Gab Sessions for teen girls at a local coffee shop to get their perspective for the novel. I successfully raised $5000 through crowd-funding on Indiegogo in order to attend a writers’ conference in New York. This campaign also introduced many people to my work.
I strive to improve my writing by attending conferences and workshops, and taking college level courses in creative writing. I enjoy facilitating the Lake St. Clair Writer’s Group of Metro Detroit and am a member of SCBWI. My husband and five children keep me sane amid the insanity of writing. I’d maybe find a way to trim down the bio part while still keeping critical information. It’s sort of a small thing, but two paragraphs of bio is pretty long, even though it has relevant writing credentials.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warmest Regards,

Every Rose

Query Critique 28

Dear Agent,

I have recently completed a Young Adult Thriller Manuscript, I don’t think thriller or manuscript should be capitalized. Definitely not manuscript. consisting of 65,000 words. I read your listing on [here] and [here]. My manuscript titled PROPHET’S GAMBIT, is a dark plot-driven thriller that borders on horror. Based on your interests, I think my manuscript might be what you’re looking for. I think this paragraph could be tightened up a little. “PROPHET’S Gambit is a Young Adult thriller complete at 65,000 words. Based on your interest in…” And I’d maybe move it to the end, since your hook is so grabbing.

17-yearold Daisy Fitzpatrick has doled out more death sentences than the Texas Prison system. And, it’s going to get her killed. Great hook.

Daisy’s a famous teenage psychic with a controlling, alcoholic, stage-parent of a mother. She’s not allowed a cellphone, computer, not even a TV. She has to sneak out just to see her best friend. Years of death threats have turned Daisy’s mother into a warden, sheltering her from the world outside, that is, when she’s not forcing her to do interviews. I feel like there are quite a few pronouns in these sentences. Daisy’s gift, seeing a person’s death in freaky detail, makes her a target.

For ten years Daisy has been a media spectacle. Her gifts are exploited by her mother. I’m a little confused. Her overprotective mom put her in the spotlight? Why would she do that? Little did either of them know that the spotlight would put both of their lives at risk. When a cryptic letter arrives and warns Daisy that a cult, The Order of God’s Temple have focused their efforts on her, her life is thrown into turmoil. Even Daisy isn’t sure she’ll make it through the month alive. I think the stakes need to be a little more established, and I think the best way to do that is by elaborating on how big of a threat this cult is.

Since I know you are actively seeking Young Adult, I am writing to ask if you would be interested in reading more of my material. I think it sounds a little smoother to just say “The completed manuscript is available upon request.”

Thank you for taking the time to read my query, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. This is a multiple submission.


Grave Business

Query Critique 27

Hi Ms. Nelson,

A message from an ex-classmate leads seventeen-year-old Sam Daley to question what everyone else had taken at face value—that his gifted, easygoing twin had hanged himself in his room one night.  I think I’d like the focus of the hook be more on the note. The note gives more of a mystery vibe, while the focus on the suicide makes it seem more like the story is about coping with his death.

The message was a single line—ask Zack about David’s death. I think I’d try to find a way to work this message into the hook. Before Sam can question the ex-classmate, the guy dies in a hit-and-run. Calling him the ex-classmate is getting a little clunky. It also raises a question as to why he’s not a classmate anymore, but I don’t feel like the answer to that is actually important to the story. Maybe just refer to him her as the guy who gave Sam the note. And Zack, super-rich party boy, insists he had nothing to do with the suicide. Determined to punch the truth out of Zack, Sam collars him in the school parking lot. But Zack’s girlfriend jumps in between, surprising Sam. Not because nerdy, introverted Mira Patel would have the guts to stand up to him, or even that Zack and she would be a couple, but because she was his brother’s best friend and study partner. This sentence is a little on the long side, and gets a bit hard to follow.

Though devastated by her friend’s suicide, I’d go ahead and use David’s name here, since we already know who he is. Mira has her own problems: unrealistic parental expectations and a sister who breaks every rule in their traditional Indian household. On top of that, she finds herself confronting her deceased friend’s twin brother, though he’s always made her nervous. Why does Sam make her nervous? I’d go ahead and use Sam’s name as well. But when her sister dies of a drug overdose, Sam offers her the support and empathy she needs.

As their grief draws them closer together, Mira helps Sam investigate his brother’s death. They discover clues linking the hit-and-run to her sister’s overdose and, ultimately, the suicide. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he finishes them off, too.

My YA contemporary, MIRA, is complete at 56,000 words. I’d almost say this sounds more like mystery or thriller than contemporary. Also, I’m interested in why the title is MIRA, since it seems to be dual perspective.Thank you for your time and considerationI would like to see some comparative titles in this paragraph. “This book will appeal to fans of…”

The Missing Link

My main comment would be that I’d like a little more about the tone of the book. Is it really about finding the killer, or is it about coping with the deaths? Obviously, both are important to the story. But which is it really about?

Query Critique 23

Dear Mr./Mrs….

Most people believe that Luna Nimue is a normal girl just like any other ten-year-old Irish girl in the twenty-first century. However, she knows better: She is a witch. Don’t tell me she’s normal. Jump straight to her being a witch. Read why in this post.

After Luna’s parents were abducted, together with all other wizards and witches of Ireland, she was placed in Clare Abbey to grow up to become a nun. She must hide from the person who kidnapped her parents and at the same time discover her powers. So she doesn’t know she has powers. Does she know she is supposed to be hiding from somebody? If she’s living in complete ignorance of what’s going on around her, she needs an inciting incident to transport her into the world of magic. Since Luna is the only witch in the monastery apart from one of the older nuns, she has to use her own means including time travel and the transformation into an animal to aid the monastery by saving the holy water and reviving the old school building. Luna’s greatest wish is to converse with the moon and to find out where her parents might be. But most importantly, she needs to pretend to be an ordinary child. This part could be smoothed out with some cleaner transitions. The jump from time travel to talking to the moon was a little jarring to me.

THE MOON WHISPER – AND THE CELESTIAL FRIEND is a Children’s novel/Fantasy I would say a fantasy middle grade. Middle grade is more specific than “children’s.” completed at 51,000 words and the first book in a small series. This is my first fictional book, and it is my first time seeking a fiction literary agent. No need to state that it’s your first time searching for an agent.

Thanks for your time and consideration.


Bella Luna

Awhile back I did a post about how pitching fantasy is hard. I mentioned that when pitching fantasy, it’s important to focus on the thing that is most unique about your fantasy. I’d reiterate that here.  It is very important, and very difficult, to set yourself apart from other fantasy writers.

Query Critique 22


After arriving on Mars with no memory of her life on Earth, a young girl must uncover the mysteries of her past while attending an institution training the red planet’s next generation of leaders.

When she arrives at the Academy, her file only contains her name — Aurora — and she is one of many students learning how to survive on the strange, lifeless planet.  She develops friendships, competes on the gymnastics team, and…

…there’s a boy…

Over time, life seems to find normalcy. I’d condense these two lines in with the second paragraph so that the letter follows more standard formatting. I also don’t think the part about the boy needs to be that set apart, since the romance doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to be the focus.

Until students begin to have strange, seemingly unrelated injuries.  The Administration claims these injuries are “accidents,” but Aurora and her friends are convinced that someone is attacking students.  To uncover the truth, she must dive deeper into the society developing on Mars.  She soon finds that the shadows lurking beneath its surface are intertwined with the mysteries of her past, and that her arrival on this planet may hold the key to its future. I’d elaborate a little on the elements in this last sentence. Be specific.

I am looking for an agent who believes — like I do — that young adult audiences are feeling fatigue with dystopian novels, and that an original concept can engage readers with adventure, mystery, and suspense without relying on a totalitarian setting.  I don’t love this part. Because 1) I think it’s better to focus on what the novel is rather than what it isn’t. 2) To me it shows a little ignorance about what is on the market. A lot of successful YA books recently have been genres other than Dystopia (The Fault in Our Stars, Throne of Glass, Code Name Verity, Dangerous…. To name a few). In fact, right now the NYT Best Sellers list for YA is ruled by contemporary.

At my day job in the nonprofit healthcare industry, I’ve excelled in organized and disciplined technical writing.  However, I am left with a yearning to flex the left-side of my brain, which I do by crafting stories about the adventures of a young girl on Mars.  I thought it was the right-side that was creative? When not writing, I also enjoy chasing around my beautifully opinionated, two-year-old daughter.

ADVENT MARS: THE ACADEMY is a young adult, science fiction mystery, complete at approximately 110,000 words.  If successfully published, it would be a debut novel. Just say this is your first novel. Don’t say “if published.” Be confident!

I have included the [required sample] below.  Thank you for your consideration.

Mister Martian

Query Critique 21

Well, this looks suspiciously like one of our contest winners 🙂 It’s cool to see the Twitter pitch turn into the full query.


I am querying you because of your interest in women’s fiction. PROJECT MATRIMONY is a 52,000 word women’s fiction that will appeal to readers of The Suitable Boy. I’d include the author’s name for your comparative title.

When twenty-four year old Neha is left standing alone at her wedding in Mumbai with nothing but henna designs on her hands as humiliating souvenirs, she has to swallow her pride and do the unthinkable – embrace the age old Indian tradition of arranged marriages. Try tightening this sentence up a little. I don’t think you need to specify Mumbai, since it’s clear from the rest of the query that the setting is India. I don’t think you need to specify that the henna is on her hands. Taking these out would make the sentence a little shorter.

Thanks to her nosy relatives, rumors spread about her scandal. Worried the stigma will adversely affect her younger sibling’s prospects, her parents place matrimonial ads in leading newspapers. While Neha is not entirely thrilled about being reduced to ‘Hindu software engineer girl, slim, fair seeking alliance with highly educated engineer or doctor in Mumbai’, she goes along with it for the sake of her parents. This sentence does a great job of giving the reader a lot of information very fast. Good job. With her stressed father is on the brink of a second heart attack,she agrees to marry Sameer – a man she barely knows and yet Neha knows in her heart that here is a man who would never walk out on her. This sentence is a little clunky to me. Play with it a little.

But when Neha is sent to New York on an IT consulting gig, somewhere between battling snow storms to I think this to should be an and getting mugged, she falls for another man. Now Neha is having second thoughts about her impending nuptials. But with the potential love of her life planning to marry a U.S citizen to permanently stay in America, Neha must choose between traditions and her own desires. Good. Establishes stakes.