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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Query Critique: In Honor of GUTGAA

So I'm participating in GUTGAA (check out the badge in the right hand sidebar for more information!) It's totally cool, a ton of help, and agents around to boot. In honor of it, I'm picking out query critiques from those of you who've submitted for Three Hundred Thursday and posting one a day for the rest of the week.

So on to courageous Victim #3

Dear Agent/Editor,

As you have successfully represented/published Awesome Author and her novel, "Really Cool Book," Or books by other authors can be in small caps: really cool book. I think you would be interested in my young adult science fiction novel EXISTENCE.
Good opening. In his post on query letters, guru Nathan Bransford expounds on how important researching and personalizing is.

Seventeen-year-old Chrissie Fox can't imagine a life which that doesn't include Time Curving. She and her father have been working against Time Flyers, a group intent on changing the past to destroy the future. She's put off any thoughts of friendship or romance in order to keep her trips to the past a secret. Great hook. Small, minor, opinion on construction here. I'm totally interested in "Time Curving." I'd suggest using this opening paragraph to give me at least a hint of what it is and saving the explanation about the Time Flyers for the meat of the query. 

Her father gets stabbed when someone tries to steal the pocket watch that has allowed them to Curve through time. POW! Wait. Can we start here ... somehow? If not, it jumps a little. Perhaps some kind of transition? 

With his last breath, he tells her that the watch has a key that will let her travel through time at will, instead of specific destinations. This sentence seems redundant (above -- "watch that has allowed them to Curve through time), but maybe I'm just not understanding the specifics? I totally understand how MIND CONSUMING it is to have to take 60k plus words and get the good stuff of it into a query (seriously, it's been my biggest struggle on my query), but the important stuff must be explained concisely and specifically. Even though she wants nothing more than to have her father back, she knows changing the past could rip the fabric of time and transform the future. This sentence doesn't seem to jive right with the last, especially considering what's coming. Her father has given her the key to go to exact destinations, but she chooses to abandon everything all together? Why? It's safer to leave Time Curving behind.

When a boy she can't get rid of Why does she want to get rid of him?, Ashton, discovers the watch and turns the key without knowing what he's done, she is forced to go with him. She finds herself at the scene of her father's death moments before the crime happened. Face to face with her father's murderer, Chrissie and Ashton set out to bring her father justice. 
If they are face to face, why must they "set out"? Does he escape? Etc.

Instead of finding that justice, her watch is stolen by the Time Flyers. In a race against time, Chrissie must recover her watch or risk the world's existence.
GREAT stakes, but stated somewhat generically. (Do I sound repetitive lately ...?) How specifically does losing the watch lead to the end of the world.

EXISTENCE, complete at 60,000 words is a young adult science fiction novel with series potential. Readers of Clockwise, Across the Universe, and Daniel X Book titles should have quotation marks or, since they are books by other authors, small caps would enjoy this book.
Great sentence to include. Shows you are a reader and you know where your books fit.

{Redacted credentials}. I am member of the Utah League of Writers and I blog at XXXXX.

IMHO you have great structure here, though it seems to run a little long. Queries should be between 250-350 words. Take the most important, most vital, most unique part of your plot and focus there, building on the details surrounding it. As I said above, perhaps considering beginning with the father's murder and climax to the stakes involved when she's forced to go back in time. I think with a little polish, this will seriously shine.

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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