Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Query Extravaganza Lucky #7

The agent round for Query Kombat is in two days and I need something to keep me occupied. This is the last query in my stockpile so anyone who wants a walloping before Christmas in July starts feel free to let me know.

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. SO here goes, Lucky Query #7:

Dear Mr. Secret Agent Man, Or woman!

As a young man, 115-year-old Horace learned blacks were inferior to whites in every way. Recommend you drop the clause at the front for a sharper start. 115-year-old Horace learned from childhood that blacks... An assumption he never questioned until the day he heard Scott Joplin, a young piano player not being allowed to share a stage with white musicians. Something is off with this sentence. It centers around the 'not.' And it's not an assumption, it's a lesson. You don't have to exactly match your ms, sometimes exaggerating helps. A lesson he fails to question until he witnesses genius piano player Scott Joplin forced off the stage for mediocre white musicians.

Horace emblematizes how much the world has changed, that a young black man, who a hundred years ago was not allowed to play for white men, could now run for president. In this way, the Last Chance shows all the true chances that are the future heritage of America. You've slipped into telling us what the book is about instead of showing the story. This feels more like a wrap-up for the word count paragraph.

Horace Chance’s life reflects the influences of lost friends that have brightened his journey. Whether it be a couple bicycle shop owners from Ohio that teach him all about flight, his short career playing the National pastime, friends that changed our musical theater, or a chance meeting with a champion of civil rights. The tragic loss of loved ones that defined his life, made his life worth a damn, and ultimately left him, The Last Chance. Horace’s life is tragic, but he has made an indelible difference in the souls met along the way. Here again you're telling the story in list fashion. It should be more like a back book cover. What are the stakes for Horace? What does he accomplish and what happens if he fails. I would assume the importance is on him changing. How is it that he changes. Why does he need to? For his family? For himself? To keep pace with the world?

The first paragraph spoke to us as if his journey was still underway. The next two paragraphs darted ahead to the end of his story. You need to keep it as if the way is still undecided.

Horace is shatter by the death of his wife, unable to find his way, until ...He must learn to accept blank or blank will happen to him. He must learn to embrace life or be swallowed in self-pity.  

THE LAST CHANCE is a 106,000-word historical novel that transports the reader into the early twentieth century, and won’t let go of them until relived every that monumental century. Seems like some words got lost here. And I doubt the last part adds anything. Bring a box of tissues. Show this above by the tone you use, by the active verbs that describe his loss. It’s titled THE LAST CHANCE for a reason. 

Readers that enjoyed national bestsellers A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith and Forever: A Novel by Pete Hamill will enjoy The Last Chance. This is good, shows you read in your genre.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The prize-winning wrap up.

This query needs to stay in keeping with the first paragraph. The query is a mini-story of your bigger story and it needs to entice, even when based on historical facts. I haven't read much historical fiction, but I can compare this to something I do know, Forrest Gump. Forrest met many historical figures, but behind all that was the story of Forrest. You need to focus on the story of Horace--and it rhymes with Forrest, see what I did there--and use the historic parts to highlight him.


  1. Hey there, owner of Query #7!

    First of all, I have to say it's very brave to put your work out there (my query is up next week!). I think Michelle has made some fantastic suggestions for your query above, and I'll add a few comments of my own for you to consider (but as Michelle said, it's all so subjective!).

    First of all, I found the fact that Horace is 115 years old to be very off-putting. I thought I was reading the start of a fantasy novel about someone with exceptionally long life, but nothing else in the query reflects this.

    Also, this seems to be telling us reasons why we would want to read Horace's story, rather than showing us the contents of the book. What IS Horace's story? Show us with some compelling sentences. If he's been alive for 115 years, it must be fascinating, and that's what you need to get across in the query. What happens to Horace in the book? A good place to start is always the inciting incident (is the inciting incident the death of his wife? After reading through a few times, it seems like that might be the case...).

    From what I can tell about your comp. titles (this isn't a genre I read in, but I looked up the books you mentioned), they seem to be fitting for your novel. Great job!

    I do think you have a fascinating story here, but the query needs to show what happens to Horace in the story, rather than giving us information on what the book is about. Good luck with this!

  2. I've revised, but here is why I have an 115 year-old protag. I read an article about a 116 year old woman in France, she could remember details of her life, even from an early date.

  3. I do like the premise of this story. I was also initially confused about the age of the protagonist from the wording of the first sentence. It was almost as if you were introducing a Benjamen Button type character.

    He must have experience many incredible things. What is this his "Last Chance" for? Or, "Last Chance" to do? Aside from his observations, what is the conflict?

    I'm also coming here for query help so kudos to you for putting yourself out there. :>

  4. He is the Last Chance. He is the only one that has survived through the years.

    1-his first wife was killed for a loaf of bread during the depression.
    2- his son was onboard the USS Arizona during Pearl Harbor
    just to mention 2

  5. Wow! After reading your critique, comments, and responses, I agree with everyone. I love that your MC has all of these experiences and would love to hear more in the query to really draw the agent into the historical part of your MS. Historical fiction is a hot genre and I think you have a great idea.