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 72

Ginnifer’s past vanished at five when her parents died in a fire. I think some of the stuff later in the query would make a better hook. A lot of books feature dead parents. Now sixteen, all that remains is endless nightmares and visions which she hardly can recall the next day. Other than the fact that someone is ALWAYS trying to kill her in them! The exclamation point is a little distracting. Also, the wording here could be a little smoother. I’d also like to see some indication if why these dreams seem more like visions than dreams.

Her adopted gypsy-born consider using Romani instead of gypsy family only tells her that the dreams will fade with time, but everything changes when three new students show up at school. Ginnifer is drawn to them; especially the bad boy that most parents warn about. (It’s the eyes…definitely the eyes) This little aside sort of provides voice, but I find it a little distracting. Suddenly, a girl dies at the football game: the very same girl she had a vision of that morning. It was a memory…so now she’s not a total mental case. I fail to see how this makes her more normal. I would be freaking out!

But as more deaths take hold of the town, Ginnifer is determined to find her connection to them. She learns that she’s an Abnormal, a half-mortal with a masked rare gene. This is The Big Idea of the book. I’d like to see it featured more prominently and sooner. Exploring this idea is more important than knowing the back story of how she learned this. One whose life will always be surrounded by blood. Then the bombshell: the killer might actually be targeting her. 

As if being a junior in high school wasn’t hard enough. Not only is she in a twisted gypsy protection program from someone who wants her dead, but she is torn between the life she knows and the life she forgot. Ginnifer is hell bent to find an in between. She must make a choice: either seek out the killer and fight or stay hidden. Beef up the stakes by giving us more of a reason why she wants to stay hidden, because right now it doesn’t seem like a very compelling reason.

ABNORMALS is a 94,000-word YA urban fantasy. This book would appeal to fans of The Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments.

Query Critique 61

Dear [Agent],
I am currently seeking representation for my supernatural novel, DEAD WRESTLERS,  which is complete at 90,000 words. I noticed that you are interested in books with a “fantastical or magical element,” and books that are “often quirky, sometimes funny.”
When Mark Chapman was just twelve years old he accidentally killed his little sister with a wrestling maneuver, a maneuver that would bring forth twenty-one years of remorse, regret…and the frequent company of the ghosts of deceased professional wrestlers, many of whom want him to save the lives of their living peers. This is an awesome hook.
Mark is now thirty-three and his grappling ghosts are engaged in a bitter battle over whether he will travel to Georgia to stop the Benoit murders of June 2007. Mark chooses not to, and wrestler Chris Benoit, having killed his wife and son before committing suicide, appears in his ghostly form at Mark’s job a broken man. The wording in this sentence is just a little bit awkward. Also, do we get a clue why Mark would choose not to stop these murders? During a wrestler-saving mission, Benoit causes an accident that nearly kills Mark and his friends. As a result, Mark’s friends and ghosts all bail on him, not wanting anything to do with Chris Benoit. There are, however, still lives to save, and, as Mark chases Billy Lincoln, a local guy who wrestles as Corpus and who Mark knows will die any day, there is a chance that the life of Mark himself could be in jeopardy. This sentence is also worded a little bit awkwardly.
Told across twenty-five years via flashbacks, DEAD WRESTLERS is the story of a man trying to save his favorite wrestlers from dying, to maintain his relationships, and to forgive himself for what he did more than two decades ago. I’d be wary of mentioning that there is a lot of flashback in the book, as that is something that is often a turn off to agents.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Smash Hit

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 24

The author of this query mentioned that she would love any additional comments readers have, so feel free to leave some in the comments!

Dear Ms. (Agent name):

In RATMAN’S REVENGE, my middle grade urban fantasy with a paranormal twist, Maybe it’s just me, but I think all fantasy has a paranormal twist. eleven-year-old Cody searches for the missing people in an underground city and finds a giant rat with paranormal powers. What sort of paranormal powers? Now Cody’s got some exterminating to do.

Cody is fed up with feeling left-out by his too-busy-to-care divorced parents. Just a heads up, I see a lot of too-busy divorced parents. When he ventures into the woods for the first time, he discovers a tunnel leading to a city hidden underground with crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome abilities like reading minds and seeing visions.

Best. Home. EVER. This line has good voice.

But Cody’s adventures take a pants-wetting turn when the Detectors, the people who protect the city, start disappearing. Without their warnings, the city could get I’d say be instead of get blind-sided by earthquakes, floods, or invasions by deadly beasts. The city’s leaders use their psychic abilities and discover someone is controlling the minds of the Detectors, but the leaders have no idea who or why.

Cody isn’t about to let his new home come crashing down around him, but every time he tries to help, a mutant, man-sized rat attacks him. Ratman roasts Cody with a hot crystal, pushes him down the Devil’s Mouth hole, and tries to drown him in the river. This last bit is a little confusing, since it references things I don’t really know about.

But Cody can’t stop. His clues point to Ratman as the one controlling the Detectors. And since Cody is the only one who sees the giant rat, no one else believes the freaky fur-face even exists. I’d maybe mention sooner that only cody can see him. It’s up to Cody to save the Detectors and the city from whatever this whiskered weirdo is plotting before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him.

RATMAN’S REVENGE is complete at 76,000 words and may appeal to readers of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven and Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember. Good comparison titles. I am enclosing the first fifty pages as an attachment per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Underground Author