Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Query Extravaganza #10

To become my next participant you need only comment on the queries that come before  and after you and contact me on twitter to volunteer for sacrifice this valuable opportunity.

Please keep in mind that I'm no query guru, but I have read a considerable amount of query slush thanks to Query Kombat. (And that is a lot of repeating of the word query.) I might have an edge on what works and what doesn't.  But as in all such critiquing, the suggestions are mainly subjective. Or in other words, take it with a grain of salt and see if others agree with me. 

Here is query #10:

Maria wades through grief and destruction to stamp out a new life for herself.  Her journey she finds her old world is rot with secrets that are soon compounded by the mysteries of her town. I'd cut off the front of the last sentence and try: Her old world is rotten with secrets that are compounded by the mysteries of her town. I'm afraid as a hook this is awkward and lacks details. 

Maria’s father is murdered in their tiny Texas town.  Now, her sister won’t come home from college, and her mom is unable to cope with grief unless she’s clutching a wine bottle.  And in school, she Maria (You've moved from one character, mom, to another so use a name.) meets a vivacious new friend named Lexi.  Through this new friendship two different boys zero in on her: Teo is the All-American jerk football player (We had a famous Te'o here playing at Notre Dame.) , and Joaquin De Luna Why does only this one get first and last name? Play fair or it too much of a hint. is the reserved, gorgeous, and strangely familiar soccer player. When Teo’s reckless need to possess Maria unhinges him and Joaquin comes to her rescue, she gets a glimpse of something otherworldly—both boys are shapeshifters. We're getting a lot of set-up here with the dad, mom, Lexi, and sister, but I don't see any of it coming back into the query. If it's not crucial to the story than leave it out. If only the sister is important then stick with that. When their father is murdered, Maria and her sister no longer see eye to eye. Maria relies on flirting with All-American football player, Teo, and reserved, gorgeous  and strangely familiar, Joaguin De Luna. Then use the last sentence. 

The legendary Tonkawa are mystical creatures with the genetic ability to shapeshift.  The Apache are blood thirsty werewolves made by forcibly taking Tonkawa women to gain their genetic legacy.  Their appetite for genetically strong offspring triggered a curse and their bite produces a grotesque breed called wererats. This slips into synopsis mode. I would tie the boy's names into all this, because as is, I don't know who is what. And instead of trying to get it all in at once, give it to us a little at a time. Apache, Teo is a bloodthirsty werewolf, trying to kidnap Maria to produce genetically strong offspring. After Tonkawa shapeshifter Joaguin saves her, Maria discovers they share a heritage. 

Again tragedy (Too generic) strikes Maria, driving her and her sister together. They uncover a family history that connects them to these legends. The secret reveals why they have been so sheltered, they are descendants of one of those tribes. Too generic. It doesn't tell me anything. What are the stakes? Maria needs her sister to help uncover their family history and their connection to the legend. What happens if they fail? What do they get if they succeed?  

As the Tonkawa alpha female Maria’s inheritance is at stake, and she fight to keep it pure. I'd assumed her sister was the older sibling since the college mention. Would her sister be the alpha? I'm not getting why she needs to keep it pure? To keep from giving birth to a monster?

My 92,000-word YA urban fantasy, COMMON BLOOD combines a grieving teenager like Ilsa J. Bick’s ASHES and the respectful Hispanic males of Elizabeth Reyes’ series THE MORENO BROTHERS.  Word count might be a little high, but not bad.  

Thank you very much for your time and attention. 

This query is still pretty rough. Too many details that don't matter to the story. Too many details that do matter are left as guesswork. What does Maria want? What is keeping her from getting it?

The hook is a good place to work in some of Maria's personality. Maria couldn't care less about her heritage until her dad is murdered. Now her family is in pieces and her heritage is about to come back to bite her--literally.

Also you start with the father's murder, bring that back around. If the murder figures into the ending, it would make a nice arc in your query to use it again in the tie up sentences in the last paragraph.

I hope this helps to give you some idea. 


  1. Hi! I agree with Michelle that some simplification would really help your query. If you cut any character that doesn't absolutely need to be there (Lexi, Mom, maybe her dad and sister), it will make it easier to follow.

    I like the sentence that starts with "When Teo’s reckless..." but I might like to see what action Teo does that endangers Maria. From there, I think you could bring in what she learns about her family and the Tonkawa/Apache (incl which boy is which), and the resulting quest/goal Maria has.

    I find your first two sentences kind of non-specific, so I suggest starting somewhere else. You mention Maria's grief more than once, but I don't see how it works with the story. If you could add that, it would be great. Or maybe it just belongs to her character, and a simple "grieving for her recently murdered father..." would be enough.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I will get to work on all the suggestions.

  2. Carolyn Chambers ClarkJuly 11, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    I agree with Laura and Michelle. Find a first sentence to hook us, then focus your query letter on the main character, her goals, the obstacles that keep her from her goals, and what could happen if she doesn't reach her goal.

    Don't even name the other characters unless it's absolutely necessary. This reads more like a synopsis to me. From what I've read, a query is supposed to hook the agent into reading pages, not tell too many details.

    Good luck with your revision.

  3. Take this with a grain of salt, since I am new at this, but I also think your query reads more like a synopsis and less like a pitch you would see on the back of the novel to entice readers into opening the book. It sounds like a great premise, but I'm thinking you might want to leave a little bit of mystery without being too vague (I guess that's the trick) in your query to make agents/editors want more too.

  4. Thank you for your comment!
    You are so right, finding those perfect words to entice an agent/editor is the trick. Hopefully with all the help, I will find that sweet spot.

  5. Michelle,
    Thank you so much for your help. The breakdown really helps me pinpoint the problems and hopefully, I can get it polished into a perfect pitch.
    Thanks so much for your time.
    Regina Castillo