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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In Honor of GUTGAA: Query Critique #2

Another brave participant sends their query out into the world to be torn to pieces. Way to go!

60,000 WORDS


In a world ravaged by a nuclear holocaust, Vika Cannon When I first read this, for some reason I thought it was a boy. Don't ask me why. Didn't realize until later that it's a woman. This thought could be of absolutely NO importance, but I thought I'd throw it in there. Ha! (Just FYI, it didn't throw me or distract me when I realized it was a girl.) knows there are no guarantees: no guarantees of safety, no guarantees that your neighbor is not actually a spy for the government, and no guarantees you’ll be allowed to emigrate to Asia, which is a person’s only chance for survival.
Great hook. My only, little-tiny-nit-picky-thing is, can it be shortened?

New Amana (as the North and South American continents are now called) is blanketed There are two instances of passive voice in this sentence. Not really a big deal, but is it prevalent in the MS as well? Queries show your writing style. by a constant drift of fallout Let's try instead: A constant drift of fallout blankets New Amana (what the survivors now call the North and South American continents.) That parenthetical is a bit choppy, but you get the point. Food and water are scarce, acid rain has eaten away at all the structures, and generations of people suffering from radiation-caused mutations—the Nukeheads—are the new class of homeless. To control the conditions, the government operates under a totalitarian regime. These things sound important to the story, but also seem like backstory instead of setup. Again, will this hint that maybe the MS has backstory instead of setup?

Every resident of New Amana has only one purpose. Females must produce healthy progeny using Husbands who are Passive voice assigned to them by the Match Clinic. Unhealthy children are carted More passive. Who carts them away? The government, I assume? away to Asylums where experiments are run to determine what went wrong. Parents incapable of producing healthy progeny are put to death in gas chambers.
More backstory, but mixed with some important elements about the world. I wonder what all this has to do with the MC and what is the story line?

When Vika Cannon is assigned Passive voice a Husband shortly after her twentieth birthday, she expects him to be complacent and obedient as all Husbands are. This is a fabulous twist! Punch people with this. But Shale Underwood has a secret. He is a member of the Radicals, the terrorist group intent on overthrowing the government and freeing the children in the Asylums. Not only that, Shale has information about Ceres, Vika’s sister, who was taken Passive voice to the Asylums as a child. This paragraph is where the story REALLY starts and is VERY interesting, but it seems late in the query. Is the agent's attention still captured to get to this? The query is great, but it seems risky.

Now, Vika must decide whether she wants to assist Shale Doing what? or have a baby and get on a ship to a new life.
I'm guessing that having a baby is a pass to go to Asia, but don't make anyone guess, especially not an agent. Be specific.

I think this story is absolutely GRAND. Seriously. My biggest suggestion would be to cut everything you possibly could out of the second and third paragraphs and try to start out with Vika's story right away in the second paragraph after the hook. As always, easier said than done, I know.
Second suggestion: This is just the meat of the query, meaning the personalization to the agent and your biography still needs to be added in, making it a bit long. As I mentioned above, agents look at the query for your writing prowess too. Not summarizing concisely might make them wary of the story itself, in case it has the same problems (whether that is true or not!).
Still, you have a unique, dystopian story here and that's something you should run with. Good luck!

Your turn! Add your comments below and BE RESPECTFUL or they will get deleted. Just saying. :) Are you interested? Use the Contact Me page to send your first three-hundred words or your query letter for critique. Be brave!

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About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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