Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 14

The creator of #SFFpit is here with a critique today. Thanks to Dan Koboldt for helping out during the busy holiday season! 
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 47!
Dear Awesome Agent,

Melissa Cihlar is afraid. [I found this too general and without enough detail to grab me as an opening line.] Not of the regular thirteen-year-old girl fears, like moving in her with mom and new stepdad, starting a new school, or making friends. [These are everyday things. I don’t think you need them here; all it does is make this an everyday story.] She has more important things to worry about–like pretending she’s normal by concealing her glowing birthmarks, claiming she didn’t cause the exploding scoreboard, and fighting against her memory blackouts. [OK, now I’m excited: Thirteen-year-old girl with glowing birthmarks, possibly telekinetic powers, and strange memory blackouts. This is unique and compelling enough that I think it should be your query’s opening.]

Isolated at school, misunderstood by her parents [starting to feel cliche], and plagued by hallucinations and nightmares [This is interesting but I want specifics. What do they show? Are they worsening?], Meli begs her beloved grandmother to let her move back. When her grandmother mysteriously vanishes–just as her sister did years ago–she’s left on her own to figure out why she can push objects around without touching them. [OK, so there’s a lot going on here and I’m confused. Due to the vague pronoun, I don’t know if it’s your MC’s sister or her grandmother’s sister who’s disappeared. I’m not certain it’s relevant that she wants to move back with grandma.  also feel like you’re hitting us over the head with the telekinetic powers, now. I liked the hint in the last paragraph better]

After doctors diagnose her as bipolar, and maybe schizophrenic, a new student, Rachel, arrives and reveals Meli isn’t alone. [The diagnosis and the new friend are presented like they’re cause-and-effect events, though I suspect they’re not. Also, I’m worried about the number of characters mentioned in the query]. Hiding in plain sight are the Salani, an ancient race gifted with paranormal abilities. Meli’s nightmares are actually memories from her past of the war that wiped out their people. [Love this detail!] When Rachel divulges that Meli is the key to ending the persisting civil war, she must choose a side. [So, is Meli one of the Salani? Or just the key to saving them?] 

To save others, Meli will do whatever she can to control her power–even if it means joining the enemy. [I like that you show us your character’s dilemma here, though the presentation is a bit busy. Does she care more about controlling her powers, or saving people? And who would she save? If I ignore “To save others” and just read the rest, I simply love this sentence and think it’s a great end-hook]

THE SECRET INSIDE is a young adult urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of A Beautiful Dark, Beautiful Creatures, and Evermore. It is completed with 72,000 words [I would just put the word count in parentheses after the title and delete this sentence].

I have included below the first ten pages. [Obviously you’ll follow each agent’s specific guidelines]. Should you be interested in more pages, I would be happy to send you more upon your request. [This is assumed; you can probably cut it.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


write novels in the fantasy & science fiction genres of speculative fiction. My agent and I are currently seeking publication for THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL, an adult science fiction novel about a Vegas stage magician who takes high-tech illusions of magic into a medieval world that has the real thing.
I’m lucky to be a Codexian and a Pitch Wars mentor. I’m also the host of #SFFpit, a twice-yearly Twitter pitching party for authors of sci-fi/fantasy who are seeking representation or publication.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the clear feedback, Dan.

    Michelle, these critiques have been so helpful!