Here to do the next critique is the inventor and host of PitchSlam, Leatrice McKinney! She's seen and helped with her share of queries.
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 still taking entries, see here for details.
The random number generator picks 13!
Dear Ms Perfect Agent for Me,
A couple of sentences on why this is the perfect
agent for can go here or when you introduce the book by title.
When sixteen-year-old Cammie's forced off the
road and nearly killed by the richest man in Sleepy Valley SC, she needs
evidence to prove her sister’s boyfriend is the culprit before he murders both
I’m confused at this pointing because it seems as
if we have two Hes but the sentence reads as if there is one. Is the richest
man her sister’s boyfriend? If not, we have four people introduced in the first
paragraph: Cammie, rich guy, sister, sister’s boyfriend. That is already
pushing the limit of the number of people that should be mentioned in the
entire query to avoid the reader getting lost in trying to keep up with
Also, how is she nearly killed by said richest
man? I assume it has to do with them nearly running into one another what with
her being forced off the road, but it’s not clear. The hook is buried beneath
guesswork and character description. Some mystery is good, questions can make a
person want to know more, but they have to be the right kind of questions.
This is also the perfect place throw in a little voice.
How would Cammie describe the situation? Would she say “being run off the
fricken road” or “nearly being crushed by some hoity-toity townie” or anything
other than forced from the road. Queries are the hardest to try and fit story
AND character AND voice into, it’s small instances like this that make it
Lucky she has someone to count on: her Nana, (Five characters) now in her seventies who worships the god Bahr, (Six characters. Even if the deity isn’t an actual
person in the story, the mention of a name is one the reader has to keep up
with) has more guns in her
house than the local pawn shop, bakes fantastic Norwegian cookies and keeps up
with the latest on profiling killers. But no one else believes Cammie,
including the sheriff (Seven characters), until his hunk of a nephew (Eight characters) tries to help her, but he could be one of the bad guys.
By this point there are too many people to try and
keep up with, and the introduction of all of those people has taken away from
the description of what goes on in your story. What happened to the richest man
and the boyfriend? How is the hook related to the rest of the book? We get
great characterization about Nana (who sounds like a fun if not funny woman),
but that doesn’t tell us anything about the story itself. Why can she count on
Nana? What does Nana do? Why does no one believe Cammie? How does the hunky
nephew try to help? Who are the bad guys and why is Cammie up against them?
After scheming to get the murderer (Nine characters. Is this the boyfriend or the rich
guy? I assume neither, since they weren’t identified as murderers previously
and the only killers mentioned thus far are the ones Nana keeps tabs on) to invite her and her family to
his home for dinner, (Why would she take her
family, who doesn’t believe her, with her to a killer’s house?) she makes friends with one of the maids (Ten characters) and takes
a job as a maid at his family’s palatial estate. Dressed in disguise so her
sister's boyfriend doesn't recognize her, she snoops in his laboratory (What sort of laboratory? This seems like a detail that is
sort of thrown in and doesn’t add to the telling of your story. Searching his
house would be fine. And wouldn’t he recognize her since he’s trying to kill
her? Why would he hire her?) and room,
looking for evidence, but time is closing in on her and so is the murderer. The mention of the murderer as a separate person in the same
sentence as the boyfriend leads the reader to believe that it is a completely
different character from said boyfriend.
The query reads more like a rundown of the cast of
the story, who sound like interesting people, instead of what happens. After
each of these individuals is mentioned, they go away. They don’t push the story
forward in the least. The only ones repeated are Cammie, the boyfriend, and the
murderer. We have no sense of the story itself beneath all of that. All we walk
away knowing is Cammie is run off the road, people don’t believe her about
it—I’m not sure why since it’s not something fantastical and happens to people
often—and she goes under cover to catch the guy who did it and prevent him from…
What are the stakes? What will she lose if she
doesn’t confront the man who ran her off the road? Or the murderer. Who did the
murderer kill? Why is Cammie going up against him? Why is time running out?
What will happen when it does? Why won’t anyone believe her about being run off
the road? Is she a habitual liar or does she have some sort of sordid past
where people don’t trust her? Those would be details to include instead of the
list of people.
I won first place from the Virginia Romance
Writers Association for one of my novels and second place for YA fiction from
the Florida State Writing Competition. My mystery/suspense fiction has been
published in PALM PRINTS, the University of South Florida Writers Journal, and
online at RIVERWALK.
You have impressive accolades, so you are
definitely doing something right with you stories.
Dangerous is a YA mystery/thriller with series potentialcomplete at 61,000 words. that contains unique formats, including
newspaper articles, lists, cards and emails.
This is a multiple submission. Although Dangerous is
a standalone story, it has series potential.
Your query is real estate, use only essential
words and details to fill it, even in the bio section. If you don’t mention why
the agent is perfect for you at the beginning of the query, mention it here.
I’m writing you because so forth and so on.
Per your guidelines, I've included the first chapter and
Thank you for considering Dangerous.
L.L. McKinney lives the single life in Kansas surrounded by more nieces and nephews than she knows what to do with. Aside doing the Favorite Aunt thing, she spends her weekends watching Saturday morning cartoons, defending her crown as the Mario Kart queen, and waging war against the enemies of Azeroth. For the Horde! When she’s pretending to be a grownup, she plays the part of freelance writer, published poet, and an active member of the writing community via social media outlets (which is a fancy way of saying she’s addicted to Twitter). She’s the creator and host of the bi-annual Pitch Slam contest via her blog and has spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests.