I'm glad to have Laura Heffernan help out today. Laura was my first Query Kombat pick to get an agent this year and it seems right to have her back at the end of the year.
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.
The Holiday Query hop is closed. Please make sure you get your 10 critiques done.
The random number generator picks 24!
Dear Agent Awesome,
note: Yay! I love Beauty and the Beast re-tellings!]
Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin has never seen the world outside of theplantation, but he can peek peeks at it through the
slits in the fence. Mama says the islanders would
understand his bat wings, bull horns, cat’s eyes, or lizard’s tail—the
manifestations of a curse laid on his great-great-great grandfather for
swindling land away from the island’s
locals. They would kill him.[I feel like this last sentence doesn't work for me,
considering how strong the line before it is. It's completely subjective, but
I'd cut that line. The first paragraph of a query is usually for your hook, and
I think the hook is stronger with just the first two sentences.]
as Mama keeps George locked away from the world, she can’t protect him from himself. [I'm confused, because nothing you mention after this
suggests that George is a danger to himself. The danger appears to be Grace
sneaking onto the plantation. I would cut this sentence, because it doesn't
seem to add anything, and it's confusing.]One day, a hoodoo
priestess in-training, Grace, sneaks onto the plantation. She hopes to kill the
beast she thinks is attacking her village, but instead of a beast, she finds a
scared teenager. George promises to help Grace track down the real monster—something she calls a
Boo Hag, a skin-changer, who haunts the marshes—if she helps him escape the plantation.[Why does he need help to escape? It sounds like the only
thing keeping him on the plantation is the fear his mother instilled in him -
does Grace have to help him overcome his fears and face the outside world? A
few details might help grab the agent's interest in reading more about your
world. The meat of your query is only 213 words even before the sentences I
suggested deleting, so there's some room to add more details about the monster
and the conflict.]
When George flies the coop, he learns Mama
isn’t wrong about
the world; it’s
dangerous for a creature like him. [Why? How?
What happens?] The longer he lingers, the more his fledgling
feelings for Grace magnify
his shame over his monstrosities. [What does
this have to do with a dangerous world?] But she knows something
about the Boo Hag that not only will unlock the mysteries of the Sumerlin Curse… it may even present a
way to break it. [I'm torn here, because I
really like this sentence, but I want more concrete stakes. What happens if the
curse isn't broken? Will the townspeople kill him? Will he just go back to his
old life? And if so, what's so bad about that (other than it being lonely)?
Giving the reader an idea of what George has to lose can help make an agent
desperate to move on to the pages.]
at x, [Take out the comma] words [Add comma] THE SUMERLIN CURSE is a YA
Southern Gothic steeped in the Gullah/ Geechee folklore of the Georgia Sea
Islands. Beauty and the Beastmeets The
Brother’s Grimm [No apostrophe] told from the viewpoint of the
monster as a teenage boy. It should appeal to readers of Half Bad and Beware the Wild.[I see
some mixed fonts in this paragraph, but that might be from the PC to Mac
conversion. I'm throwing it out there in case it's in the original.]
Holidays,Thank you for your time
and consideration. [Always end with this. It's a business letter.]
I hope you
find these comments helpful. Good luck!
Laura writes women’s fiction, represented by Jen Karsbaek at Foreword Literary. She wrote her first "short story" when she was five years old, detailing a family's Saturday morning on their Commodore 64 (it may have somewhat auto-biographical). She’s been writing ever since. In her spare time, she loves playing board games, baking, and binge watching anything by Joss Whedon. She also really likes parenthetical phrases (but not in fiction) and the Oxford comma.