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.

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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

Dear XXXXX,

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 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 80

Dear [insert agent’s name here],
[This is where I’d personalize the query, citing why I’m choosing to query this particular agent and why we’d be a good fit.] I’m seeking representation for my young adult novel UNDER THE SURFACE, which stands finished at 58,000 words. The book is a work of contemporary magical realism that marries the introspective, contemporary teen drama of John Green’s PAPER TOWNS and the beautifully bizarre found in texts by Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. Normally I’d say stay away from Paper Towns since it’s a movie, but I think it works here since you’re also using the other comps. Also, put Paper Towns in italics to set it apart from your title.
Seventeen-year-old Lauren Williams, self-proclaimed rebel and professional mother-disappointer, needs an escape. Causing her sister’s disappearance? Not exactly what she was going for. I like this hook.
When Lauren first hears the legend of Lake Jambo, she’s intrigued. A forgotten town sunken beneath a lake, possibly still intact? This sentence structure with the question is a little repetitive, since you used it in the last sentence. Sign her up. Lauren gathers up her two best friends, hops on a boat (somewhat illegally), and sets out to find the Atlantis of Rick County. Good voice in this sentence. One problem: Roxie, Lauren’s eight-year-old sister, begs to come along. Too focused on the algae-covered church steeple the group stumbles upon, Lauren doesn’t notice Roxie’s vacant seat on the boat until it’s too late.
Traumatized by the grief of her sister’s disappearance, Lauren becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets behind Roxie’s increasingly mysterious departure. The issue with century-old secret towns buried under lakes, though, is that they like being buried. Unwittingly, Lauren unleashes a seedy history so convoluted and malevolent it’s almost alive—and it’s doomed to repeat itself. With Roxie’s life hanging by a thread, Lauren must dive under the surface to save her sister… or live under the weight of her death.  If you could maybe give like a brief (one sentence) hint into the seedy history, being specific wouldn’t hurt. If it’s too hard to explain or would give too  much away, don’t worry about it.
I am an undergraduate at Marywood University finishing my degree in Comparative Literature and Languages. My writing is heavily influenced by my studies of Latin American writers, but luckily I don’t have the same taste for pestilence and destruction as they do. This is my first novel, and I’m proud to say that there is no reference to cholera whatsoever despite having spent many long hours with Márquez. Fun bio.
I hope you’ll be interested in learning more about UNDER THE SURFACE. Thank you so much for your time and consideration!

Query Critique 79

Dear [agent’s name],

[PERSONALISATION] As such, I thought you might enjoy my young adult novel, THE BACKSLIDERS.

Three years ago, Great Britain closed its borders and no-one has entered or left the country since. It’s now 2022 and eighteen year old Eve Mimieux wants one thing: to escape.

As the daughter of foreign born parents who are now banished from Britain’s shores, Eve is a precariat, the lowest class in New Britain. Eve survives on a pitiful wage she earns at the Military Police social club where she’s surrounded by the men who impose the rules she has come to hate. When a new Inquisitor appears and takes an interest in Eve, he gets dangerously close to learning her secret: Eve is a criminal.

Eve manages her hatred for the world she’s stuck in by gorging on the culture New Britain banned. With her twin brother, Jack, they form the Backsliders, who try to keep the books they love alive in the minds of readers. But the Backsliders clandestine existence could be about to come to an abrupt end when they encounter an Elite girl.

An Elite girl named Alice.

Alice Deering has a seemingly ideal existence, but hasn’t felt alive for a single moment of it. Smothered by her over-bearing mother and steered by The British Revival party’s strict morality laws, Alice is yet to make a single decision on her own. Alice hopes that entering the world of courtship will be everything her mother promises and more. When her first assignation is interrupted by an act of vandalism, she finds herself in the company of the criminals who are the focus of a citywide manhunt.

Overall, I would say this query is pretty strong. However, it is missing stakes. I don’t feel as much of a sense of danger as I think I should. Refer to my post on stakes for more information.

Told in a dual point of view, THE BACKSLIDERS is a 100,000 word YA speculative fiction novel. It is stand-alone with series potential and may appeal to readers of LEGEND by Marie Lu or Louise O’Neill’s ONLY EVER YOURS. Leave your title in all caps, but put comp titles in italics to set them apart. Also, this is more a problem with the industry than the query, but this sounds very typical dystopia, which is a hard sale right now. If you have non-dystopic elements, I would try to play those up. Try to categorize your genre as something other than speculative fiction, as that’s not very specific. And it sort of feels like you’re just trying to avoid calling it dystopia.

Thank you for your consideration.

Query Critique 76

Dear Agent Awesome

RIVER SPELL is a 92K word young adult fantasy based on the Russian legends of the Rusalka. Like THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, my novel shows one girl’s struggle not only against supernatural powers, but against peoples’ perceptions of who she is. RIVER SPELL will also appeal to readers of Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George. Leave your title in all caps, but put comparative titles in italics.

Seventeen year old Arresa is determined not to be a figure head in her political marriage, even if it means being a public figure instead of hiding from her problems.

Just as she settles into life at the palace, Arresa is sidetracked by dreams of a woman made of water, and by her attentive betrothed, Prince Sergei.  His actions seem connected to the woman in her dreams and, as his behavior becomes increasingly erratic, everyone blames the new girl. When he no longer shows any desire to be the next king the nobles begin to make a move on the throne. I’d maybe like a little bit more information about the water spirit. In particular, I’m interested in how the water spirit is connected to Sergei. You have the beginnings of a really strong conflict. Just flesh it out a bit.

Rejected by her prince,  Arresa must step into the spotlight, break the water spirit’s spell and free the prince she’s learned to love before she is driven from the country, and a civil war tears her people apartGood stakes.

Currently a stay at home mom of three, I graduated from BYU with a BA in comparative literature. For the last five years I have been active in the CompuServe Books and Writers Community where I conducted a monthly goals thread (2011-2012). I have been blogging for 4 years and recently started dipping my toes in the twitter stream.   Capitalize Twitter.

Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated.