Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall Query Extravaganza 6

I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques this fall.

Right now I'm full up with queries but contact me in November on twitter if you want your query showcased. Participants must comment on as many queries as they can to pay it forward. All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees.


As sent to me:


Editor:

In my 90,000 word YA fantasy FAERIE WIND, faeries are real.  They bite. 

When Loony Mooney, the crazy, old man down the street, dies, Devin steals the dead man’s undelivered letter, peers into his windows, sneaks into his secret backyard garden, and reads his journals.  Even though the entire street called him insane, Devin had seen caring in his eyes and didn’t want his life to be forgotten.  The clues she finds reveal that he had been obsessed with finding his daughter, who he proclaimed had been kidnapped … by faeries. 

Crazy … until she finds a twisted tree inhabited by the supernatural beings.  When a nasty blue beastie sinks its teeth into her arm, she transforms into fae — magic powers included.  Being part faerie grants her freedom to do what she wants and not worry about her unknown future, but living in the human world makes her sick.  She’s unable to join the faeries.  Looking for answers, she rereads Mooney’s journals, reminded of how he failed to save his daughter.  Her friends want her human again, but Devin doesn’t know what she wants.  A journal entry sends her in search of a way into their realm to find the Faerie Queen.  She faces the Fae court and discovers what happened to Mooney’s daughter.  Finding her place with the fae will be easy, letting her forget life’s hard choices and daunting future.  If she stays, she’ll lose the love and friendship of home, never discovering who she can be.                

My credits include a YA short story Marked, published in December 2008 in Leading Edge Magazine.  After two honorable mentions in Writer’s Digest Short Story Competitions, I placed ninth with my YA fantasy A Ring of Mushrooms.    

May I send you the complete manuscript FAERIE WIND?  Thank you for your time.


Sincerely,



With my comments:




Editor:  This should really read 'agent,' even though it won't be seen. Editors are on the publishing side. Unless you are sending to a publisher. Sorry for the mini lecture.

In my 90,000 word YA fantasy FAERIE WIND, faeries are real.  They bite. I like 'they bite,' but maybe go with something a little more unique to your story or with more voice. They bite, and rabies shots aren't gonna fix it. 

When Loony Mooney, the crazy, old man down the street, dies, Devin steals the dead man’s undelivered letter, peers into his windows, sneaks into his secret backyard garden, and reads his journals. The last one sounds like he broke into the house too. I'm wondering why Devin is so obsessed.   Even though the entire street called him insane, Devin had seen caring in his eyes and didn’t want his life to be forgotten. Seems a little weak motivation to go through a dead guy's stuff. Going back, there is pronoun confusion here. I assumed Devin was a boy and the first 'him' referred to Devin. The street thought Devin insane. I'd rewrite this sentence because the whole street finding Devin insane is more interesting than the whole street finding Loony Mooney insane. That's already implied by his name.  The clues she Wait, what? Where I come from Devin is a boy's name. finds reveal that he Looney had been obsessed with finding his daughter, who he proclaimed had been kidnapped … by faeries. I liked the first sentence but feel like the rest of the paragraph is going in the wrong direction. How did we go from crazy old guy to faeries.

Try something like: When Loony Mooney, the crazy old man down the street dies, Devin steals the dead man’s undelivered letter, peers into his windows, and sneaks into his secret backyard garden. Looney might have always been raving, but the kindness in the old man's eyes deserved to be remembered. Instead of finding a legacy for him, journals hidden in the garden are full of rubbish about a daughter kidnapped by faeries. 

Crazy Who or what is crazy? This does not transition well with what you had. … until she Devin finds a twisted tree inhabited by the supernatural beings. (Where does she find it? I'd probably go with something like: until Devin explores a twisted tree in Looney's yard.) When a nasty blue beastie sinks its teeth into her arm, she transforms into fae — magic powers included.  Being part faerie grants her freedom to do what she wants and not worry about her unknown future(how? I didn't know she was worrying about her future.), but living in the human world makes her sick (The first part of this sentence doesn't connect well with the final part. It's not so clear how they fit together.)  She’s unable to join the faeries. Why is she sick in the human world and why can't she join the faeries? You're giving us facts without explaining. Also I'm unsure what Devin wants. Does she want to be human again? Does she want to escape her human troubles? If it's the troubles, you better spell out what her troubles are in the first paragraph. Looking for answers, she rereads Mooney’s journals, reminded of how he failed to save his daughter. (How does this relate to what you say next?)  Her friends want her human again, but Devin doesn’t know what she wants.  A journal entry sends her in search of a way into their realm to find the Faerie Queen. (Why?)  She faces the Fae court and discovers what happened to Mooney’s daughter.  Finding her place with the fae will be easy (I thought she couldn't join them.), letting her forget life’s hard choices and daunting future.  If she stays, she’ll lose the love and friendship of home, never discovering who she can be. 

I think you have too much going on in the last paragraph. It sort of bounces back and forth. Either have this be about discovering what happened to Looney's daughter so Devin can save herself, or have this be about Devin's troubles in the real world and her indecision about where she belongs. I think trying to fit both is making it confusing. Reduce and simplify.               

My credits include a YA short story Marked, published in December 2008 in Leading Edge Magazine.  After two honorable mentions in Writer’s Digest Short Story Competitions, I placed ninth with my YA fantasy A Ring of Mushrooms.    

May I send you the complete manuscript FAERIE WIND? Sorry, but I would probably take this out. Thank you for your time.


Sincerely, Probably not needed.

I'm liking this story, but the query is still rough. That's not to say it can't be polished to a high shine. That's what we're here for, after all.

I'd say that right now, the writer is trying to fit the entire story into her query. There are two separate stakes and goals given for Devin in the final paragraph. Decide which is the most important or the most enticing and hit that one hardest. Avoid bouncing back and forth from one to the other. 

If Devin is troubled about her life, work what's troubling her into the first paragraph. It's probably why she is really driven to investigate Looney Mooney's life so that sentence would be a good place to start. Scared of leaving home and making it at college(unable to face failing grades), Devin focuses on building a legacy for the crazy dead guy who had kind eyes.

A query can't tell the entire story. There are obviously huge parts that have to be left out. Too much information sometimes equals confusion. Also make sure your sentences flow into each other and you'll have a great query. 

10 comments:

  1. Hi Author

    Your query looks very innocent to me. It reminds me of the initial drafts of my own query. I have written over thirty drafts till date, five of them from scratch. Keep some things in mind. Your query should look very simple. You might want to skeleton it based on answers to these questions:

    Who is your protagonist?
    What do they want to achieve?
    What is their motivation?
    What are they planning to do to achieve their goals?
    What stands in their way?
    What they have to do to overcome that obstacle?
    What happens if they fail? (We call answer of this question as 'stakes')

    As an author it's very tempting to include all the details, but they weigh your query down. Avoid them. Use as few points as possible.
    Just give your query a few weeks and it will grow claws and teeth, making it ready for industry. Good luck. :)

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  2. I second everything Michelle and Xander said, and can't add more. I think the premise of your story sounds fun!

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    1. Hey Martha. :) How are you doing? I still remember when my query was up here and you, Carl, and Kara were helping me out. lol. Queries are so much fun. :)

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  3. Thanks everyone! This query has been through the ringer and back. I swear it's trying to kill me. I shall take your advice, relax, quit over-thinking, and keep it simple.
    Kathy

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  4. I'm with you, Kathy. I recently tore mine apart, and it's sitting in a Word doc with the bullet points Xander mentioned written out in the most boring language imaginable. It's taunting me. I'm ignoring it and working on NaNoWriMo instead. Take a break and come back to it in a few days.

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    Replies
    1. We should have a destroy the query party! I stared over. :)

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  5. This story sounds interesting & fun, but the query sounds like a mini synopsis.

    I would suggest you take a step back and perhaps look at other similar novels (you are fond of) and try to find if those have any of their queries online, it's often a good insight.

    Then, take all of Michelle's suggestions and armed with your new 'vision' try again.

    Best of luck.

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  6. I also thought at first that Devin was a boy. Stick those female pronouns up front and center so there's no confusion. (Once I know she's a girl, I like the name.)And, yes, basically I think it's too much all at once. Queries are so hard. On the ABNA forum, when we prepare for the pitch stage, we try to pare a query down to 169 words. Almost impossible, and obviously doesn't fit every pitch, but it's good practice.

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  7. Hello!

    I agree the “they bite” is a good hook, but I needs to be tweaked a little too really sell it. If it provided a bit more of a hit that should catch everyone’s attention. I also feel like the crazy statement has that same sort of ‘problem.’ Maybe something like “Crazy is what they’d call her but she knows its real after finding a twisted…”

    As I read down a little, I feel like you should have started more then with Devin’s like of the old man before she pulls a B&E. I think it would make your hopefully new agent buy into your character more. Same with her being bitten, sell the emotion and I think you’ll have a better chance and selling the whole story.

    It’s totally awesome you have some part of credits, I don’t so I normally ignore that section totally.

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