Wednesday, June 1, 2016

QK Round 1: If the Shrew Fits vs. Irish in America

Title: Finding Kate
Entry Nickname: If The Shrew Fits
Word Count: 86,000
Genre: Adult Historical



Query:
For years, Kathryn's sharp words and belligerent deeds have been her defenses in her war against an unjust world. Oh yes, this shrew has her reasons. Not even the large dowry offered by her wealthy father can tempt any man to court her and risk a tongue-lashing or a scratched face... until the day Sir William arrives in town. From the moment he blocks her escape from tedious lessons, their every exchange is a battle of wits, every word loaded with double meaning. He won't even use her own name, calling her Kate from the very first. He insists that he is the only man, the only husband, for her.

In that summer of 1485, everyone knows that a fellow named Henry Tudor awaits his opportunity to overthrow King Richard III. After a generation and more of civil wars, people have learned to keep their political leanings to themselves, and those who wish to rise in the world have become adept at saying one thing and meaning something else. So how can Sir William, just returned from the court of King Richard III, be trusted?

Sir William's courtship feels like farce—like some comic Romeo, he stages a midnight visit to her window that sets every dog in town howling—but when they are apart, she listens for his knock at the door, his voice in the hall below. She marries him, if only to escape her family's mistreatment, but she remains convinced he is only after her father’s gold.

Her new situation is hardly better, however, as Sir William's behavior is increasingly maddening. On unfamiliar ground for the first time in her life, Kathryn is unsure what to believe: is he cruel? Is he “taming” her spirit, trying to make her an obedient wife? Or is there something else at play? Their war of wills rages; advances are made and lost. But unless she can let go of Kathryn and be Kate, she will remain a victim of her past, nursing her battle scars, unable to give or accept love.
  
First 250 Words
The first glimpse Kathryn ever saw of Sir William was his horse.

She had already pulled in her breath against the thick blanket of odor that always hovered near the manure piles behind of the Brewers’ inn. After years of trudging the same cobbled street from her home to the town square and back again, she did it without thinking. Her eyes were cast down, watching her shadow where it stretched out thin before her, tripping on the heels of her father and younger sister. The two of them walked arm in arm, their golden heads close together, whispering—about what, she could not tell, which suited her well enough. Five long paces holding her breath was all that was necessary, and then she would be past the inn and in the village square, and from there the church was only a few strides across the lush green…

A smear of dull color on the corner of her vision made her turn her head. Two men were leading an enormous blood red horse out of the gaping stable door and into the pounded dirt of the yard behind the inn. Kathryn halted and her breath rushed out of her in astonishment. The beast was the approximate size and color of St. George’s dragon, or so it seemed to her, and it moved with the same sinuous, menacing grace. When it snorted, she jumped, half expecting gouts of flame to burst forth.


VERSUS




Title: Donovan
Entry Nickname: Irish in America
Word Count: 100,000
Genre: Adult Historical Romance


Query:

When Jesse Travers' father and brother die, they leave her with two things: a crumbling ranch and a deep well of distrust.


Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother's deeds, Jesse is not sorry to hear he's been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough it is Adam Donovan, the man who shot her brother, who brings her the news. Even more strange is the Irish immigrant's willingness to help her bring her ranch back to prosperity.

The Arizona Territory would not be kind to a woman alone, and Jesse's experiences with her neighbors have left her jaded. But her
 love for her canyon home overcomes her trepidation, and she accepts Donovan's help. He is gentle and empathetic, a far cry from her brother, whose relentless abuse drove her to the brink of despair, or her father, who would never believe the things Jesse told him about her brother.

As they work together, Jesse begins to trust Donovan, and feels the first stirrings of love–an experience she's never known before. Then, as if to tell her she is unworthy of happiness, her past rises up with a vengeance, and she faces a terrible choice: retreat to a life of solitude and shame, or or trust a man she hardly knows with the secrets of her tragic past.


First 250:

Jesse Travers stood in the cabin door, trying to stem the tide of rising temper. The old man who sat wrapped in a blanket by the fire had been more querulous than usual. He can’t help it, she told herself, any more than he can help being old. Or crippled. But God help us if this day doesn’t end soon.

The clearing where the cabin stood was too quiet. No breeze stirred the aspen leaves. No birds trilled, no squirrels scampered. Even the brook ran silently today.

The only restful thing was the occasional glimpse of buckskin in the sycamores. The old man had told her that always animals knew where there was danger and would run away. So maybe it’s nothing–maybe it’s just too hot for April. Maybe that’s what makes me feel so sick.


Then into the utter silence came the faint clip-clop of a horse’s hooves.

No one should be coming. No one ever came. She tasted the sharp metal of fear. As the hoofbeats came closer, she took up an old Sharps rifle and moved out onto the sagging porch, into the shadows of its roof.


Round the edge of the cottonwood grove, the horse came into sight. Its rider had dark hair, dark clothes, a dark gun sitting low on his left hip. There isn’t anyone in the Territory who doesn’t know who he is. And where he comes from. Squaring her shoulders and raising the rifle, she took a single step into the light.

28 comments:

  1. Judges, reply here with your votes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If The Shrew Fits: Interesting query. I like the sparring indicated between Kathryn and William, though I do wonder if there’s just too much here. I felt the query went on and on, without heightening stakes. I understand what the stakes are, but with a character with so much personality throughout, I’m not really feeling it.

      Nice opening 250. The writing really pulled me in and made me want to keep reading!

      Irish in America: Nice query! I’ve got nothing constructive to add, except to make sure the repeated “or” is not in your query.

      I enjoyed your opening. I must admit to being a little confused, but I think it’s the type of confusion that is answered as one continues reading, such as who the old man is, and why does she know the rider? (I’m guessing Donovan, but I’d have to keep reading to find out!)

      Oh, these matches are getting harder and harder to choose! I’m going with Victory for Irish in America!

      Delete
    2. Bernadine HarrisJune 1, 2016 at 1:55 PM

      This one was hard for me because historical isn’t my strong suit and I’d rather give you no advice than bad advice.

      If The Shrew Fits

      I think we get a great sense of your voice in both the query and the opening page. Your voice suits the genre so well! I really liked the opening line and, later, the image of this blood red horse that is the size of a dragon. I also got a good sense of the story in the query. I did have a major bump though.

      “But unless she can let go of Kathryn and be Kate, she will remain a victim of her past, nursing her battle scars, unable to give or accept love.” You do such a good job setting up her circumstances and that Sir William turns into kind of a dick who can’t be trusted when they get married, my first thought was “Why would she want to be Kate?” since you position it as Kate is who he wants her to be. If you are going to leave us with the thought that this woman needs to become what I’m assuming is a kinder, gentler person, then I wanted to see a bit more of that in the query itself. As is, it focuses so much just on their relationship…even if you use that relationship to discuss more of her personal journey it might help.

      Irish in America

      You also do an amazing job of setting up the stakes and the character. There were some small things that I bumped on a bit. All the references to a tragic past make felt a bit vague to me. I wanted a few more details to spice my appetite more. Also, Donovan seems a bit too good to be true. I’m assuming he has secrets/issues of his own and would love to have some hint of this in the query.

      In terms of the pages, I think we get such a great sense of Jesse and how she isn’t your stereotypical woman of the time. She’s afraid (love the sharp metal of fear line) but she’s also going to get her gun and handle her business. I did bump on one thing: Is the old man in the opening her dad or just an old man? If it’s her dad, I get that she’s so disconnected that she refers to him as just “the old man.” It says so much about character but then you have the slow people like me who are like “Why does she have some random old man chilling at her house?” Wondering if you can clarify a bit

      You guys are really making these choices so hard but…

      Victory: Irish in America

      Delete
    3. If the Shrew Fits:

      The premise here seems interesting, and I love the idea of a strong woman who doesn't always fit the ideals of her time. Character really shines through here, and the setting is also made clear. Conflict and stakes are a little less clear to me, and the main reason for that is the sheer length of the query, and the fact that it's just not as focused as it could be. You could probably cut the last two sentences of the first paragraph, for example, and streamline the second (I think the historical grounding is important, but it could be simplified a bit for the purpose of the query). I'd also like to know WHY it's important for Kathryn to fit Sir William's ideals... there's obviously more to it than "change for your man," but I'm not getting a very good idea of the significance of this change if your query.

      The first 250 are stronger. The voice feels appropriate for the time period without being inaccessible to modern readers, and the details immerse the reader immediately in the scene. Well done!

      ***

      Irish in America:

      This is a sharp query. Character, setting, and stakes are clearly established. The only thing I'd suggest is (as other judges have mentioned) making Jesse's past and how it has the potential to affect her future a little clearer.

      The first 250, as well, I feel is very strong. The character voice jumps off the page. I would also like to know whether the old man is her father or someone else (and if not her father, who he is in relationship to Jesse). One tiny line level suggestion: "There isn’t anyone in the Territory who doesn’t know who he is. And where he comes from." seems like it would be more effective if you wrote it as prose, and not direct thought: "There wasn't anyone..." or even "Everyone in the Territory knew..."?

      ***

      Both are enjoyable and I'd love to continue reading about both heroines' journeys. However, the one that stands out here is...

      Victory to Irish in America!

      Delete
    4. IF THE SHREW FITS: This sounds like a fun remake of an old tale! Congrats. Query: This query has a LOT of information – and feels more like a summary than a query. Can you distill this down more? What is the main conflict? What is Kathryn’s goal? Rather than go through history and explain so much, see if you can cut this to just the main issues. Maybe three paragraphs instead of four. 250: I get a good sense of setting here – I can picture it and smell it! Good work. The first sentence doesn’t feel right to me. It contradicts itself, because she didn’t get a glimpse of him. She got a glimpse of his horse. I understand that this sentence feels fun and witty (I’ve written sentences like that myself!) but if you take a good look at it, it really doesn’t make sense. Sorry. Congrats on the entry, and good luck!

      IRISH IN AMERICA: Good stuff here! The query really tells what’s happening here, and is very clear. The only part that’s a bit vague is the very end, with her past rising up to get her. If you could make that more specific, that would really help, since the rest of the query is so strong! 250: These are very, very strong and I enjoyed the selection a lot! Good intrigue and suspense. I would like to read more! Just a few nitpicks: In the 3rd paragraphs I think “animals always” would be clearer than “always animals.” And in the 1st paragraph is there a reason you don’t say who the old man is? Perhaps that comes up soon, but in this selection I would have liked to know. Congrats and the best of luck with this.

      Victory to IRISH IN AMERICA

      Delete
    5. Other than Patrick O’Brian, I’ve read zero historical fiction, so please take my suggestions knowing that!

      IF THE SHREW FITS:

      I wonder if your query is too long? Only because I felt like it became repetitive, as if it’s finding new ways to say the same thing: Kate’s stubborn and doesn’t like/trust Will until she does but then isn’t sure if she should like/trust him. I’m wondering if you can revise to make it crisper and get to that last paragraph quicker.

      For the 250, I admit I had a hard time with the first sentence because if she sees his horse, she hasn’t glimpsed him. This bothered my poor, logical brain more than it should on a Saturday morning, but it really tripped me up, so I thought I’d mention it. Otherwise, well written, a little too descriptive for my taste, but that’s totally subjective. One word of caution—watch for unnecessary language, i.e. uses of “to her” can be cut (rushed out instead of “rushed out of her” and “seemed to her” can end with seemed.) Also, “forth” can be cut from “burst forth.” Burst says it all. Even in the first sentence, “saw” is stronger than “ever saw.” Little edits like this can really make it crisp!

      IRISH IN AMERICA:

      I think this query works well! I’m not sure how her dad and brothers’ deaths are connected to distrust though—you might want to add a short clause/explanation on that point. In the last paragraph, his past rising up with a vengeance is a little vague. You might consider telling us how, i.e. “. . . vengeance when bounty hunters he’s eluded the past ten years finally chase him down” (or whatever—just something that shows it’s a legitimate issue). As for stakes, why is it shameful for her to ditch the loser? I didn’t get a suggestion of shame from anywhere else in the query, so I’m not sure where that’s coming from. Same thing with secrets. If she has secrets, then maybe mention that sooner. Up until those last couple lines, I got the sense this was a woman trying to make it work when this dude sweeps in and his issues cause problems for her because she foolishly fell in love. If she’s got other issues, i.e. secrets and shame, that’s awesome, but they should be spelled out a bit more somewhere in the query.

      For the 250, you tend to use a lot of passive voice. “Then into the utter silence came . . .” can be “The clip-clopping of horse’s hooves broke the silence.” (or something) “Came closer” can be “approached.” “Came into sight” is another one. Basically, look for uses of “came” and see if you can revise. Little things like that can make the 250 pop/crisper. Also, I think you mean restless instead of restful.

      This is a close one, but overall I think one query puts one ahead of the other . . .

      VICTORY TO IRISH IN AMERICA!!

      Delete
    6. If The Shrew Fits has a nice premise and an MC I know I’ll love. The query seems a bit long, and I was a little thrown by the second paragraph and the details about King Richard and skimmed that a bit. I expected more of a heartrending hook at the end, and I’m wondering if those rhetorical questions could be reworked into something more specific to or even more teasing as to what that element at play in their relationship is.

      SUPER great first line. Pulled me in and kept me reading. Love how this unfolds with the setting becoming a character in itself. I like the language, the writing… There’s nothing here that I’d even suggest to change. I love a historical romance that pulls me into the world on the first page, and this one does a superb job!

      IRISH IN AMERICA: omg, I think I’m in love with this nickname. I LOVE THIS PREMISE! It has a FAR AND AWAY feel to it. But this hook in the end didn’t do this story justice. It’s too vague and didn’t intrigue me. Maybe try injecting a detail in there to let me know what’s happening here. What exactly in her past is coming back? Is it a former lover? Did she actually help her brother rob that bank? And how does she need to trust Adam? Does she need to confess to him? Does she need to convince him to high-tail it out of there with her? Try to get something more concrete in there.

      The opening is telling, and if I were this author’s CP, I’d try to convince her/him to tweak this a bit. “trying to stem the tide of rising temper” could be “digging her fingernails into her palm.” or something that shows her rising temper that she’s holding onto rather than coming right out and saying it. At the end of the page, I’m not sure who the old man is and if he’s actually in this scene with her or not. Also the inner thought in the 6th paragraph seemed a bit off to me. I felt like those two sentences might read better as simply: She recognized him immediately. Just a thought.

      I felt like I had to flip a coin for this one. Loved bits about them both. :-(

      Victory to IF THE SHREW FITS

      Delete
    7. If The Shrew Fits:

      Anytime I'm looking at historical fiction I want to know a sense of time and place at the very beginning. So while the opening here was really great, I disliked finding the date and place in the second paragraph. With a historical, I want to when, who, plot--in that order. I also think that, for a query, this one feels a little scattered, like you can't decide where to place your focus. I understand you want to convey the politics of the time period but we go from Kate, to William, to Henry Tudor, and back to William/Kate. I would say that here is a place where you want to focus exclusively on Kate/William and leave William's political leanings to the wayside, because you didn't tell us about Kate's.

      Your sample was beautiful. No problem there, and I loved her seeing the horse first, because without even seeing William, we get a very good mental image of his physique and character based on the kind of animal he rides.

      Irish in America:

      Lurves me a western. Loved the query. My only suggestion here is that since this is a query, it's okay to tell the agent the tragedy in Jesse's past. Alluding to it is great in a blurb, but in a query, we need to see the antagonist--in whatever form it might take. That was a minor issue for me.

      I loved the first 250 words. The only thing I would recommend changing is this:

      But God help us BOTH if this day doesn’t end soon.

      I would remove this sentence, because when you said "buckskin" I imagined Native Americans in buckskin. -->The only restful thing was the occasional glimpse of buckskin in the sycamores.

      Other than that, I loved Jesse and her fire.

      Victory: Irish in America.

      Delete
    8. Some great stories here. I really appreciate the polish and thought that went into both entries.

      IF THE SHREW FITS

      Query:

      While I love the detail and the fact that Kate comes across as such a strong character, there isn't a clear conflict besides Kate's struggle as to whether or not she will need to change. I want to know what Kate really wants. You state in the opening she has her reasons for being hard, but we never get a sense of what those reasons are.

      I think this query could benefit from sharing Kate's motivations, worries, and conflicts and then teasing us with what she has to lose if she does not achieve these things. Right now this feels like a straight up retelling of The Taming Of The Shrew. What makes it unique? More compelling?

      First 250:

      Great job of building the setting and giving us a sense of Kathryn's voice and family situation. With historical it is hard to set the tone right away, but you've done a great job here of building Kate's world early.


      IRISH IN AMERICA

      Query:

      This query hits all the right marks giving us character, conflict, and cost in one well-written package. My only nitpick would be in the final two paragraphs where you refer to the LI as Donovan. I had to go back and look to see what his name was again. Would recommend that you change to "Adam" because that is how you originally positioned his name and Donovan seems to be a cold way to refer to the romantic interest.

      First 250:

      Enjoyed the fact that you introduced tension right in your first paragraph. It immediately gave me a sense of what Jesse was facing and felt foreboding.

      One thing I would recommend is trying to add a hint more to the setting. With historical you need to come right out of the gate and get the reader immersed in the time and place. We get nods to this with "canyon home" and a reference to the "aspens", but I wanted a hint more to know that this was the harsh, and often brutal, Arizona territory.

      VICTORY TO: IRISH IN AMERICA

      Delete
    9. If the Shrew Fits:

      Immediately connected with the heroine. Good voice and the taming of the shrew trope is always a good one. The query was a bit jumbled, though. Reads more like a summary, especially with the addition of the second paragraph. Do you need that paragraph? It distracts us from Kate. I also question why she has to let go of Kathryn and be Kate. Drill down on her conflict and stakes and consider rephrasing the rhetorical questions, which are generally disfavored. First 250 does a good job setting the scene, but I'd like to hear a little more of Kate's voice in there. It's starting to come through toward the end, but the beginning is more wide angle scene setting.

      Irish in America:

      I love this unusual setting and the Irish immigrant romantic interest. Query is already pretty solid. I'd just recommend tightening it up a bit. For instance, the first couple lines of the third paragraph sound like a repeat of what you've already covered (though you do need to get in the AZ bit somewhere). And toward the end, I want to know a little more about what from her past causes the complications. First 250 is very hooky. I want to read more! You've set the scene, the ominous mood, the stranger entering her life. I do wonder though if there's a way to better integrate the internal thoughts. The shift in type font and tense threw me off a bit and out of the great mood/tone you're setting.

      Victory to Irish in America!

      Delete
  2. I really like both these entries and since I'm not a judge, I don't have to vote! Lucky me. This is my first time commenting so if I put it in the wrong place Michelle, please move it!

    If the Shrew Fits:

    I really like your query, but I also think there's too much there and the second paragraph (setting up the time frame) actually knocked me out of the mix between William and Kate or the building of the relationship of the two. The third paragraph might be better from the lead in "he insists he's the only man, only husband for her" to "Sir William's courtship feels like a farce" versus a jump into the historical backdrop. The question of William's trustworthiness and political upheavals might come better after the line about her father's gold which gives him better ulterior motives for marrying her. There's a lot packed in here.

    I think the overall voice is really good though and it leaves me wanting more! I liked the bit about manure and Kathryn trailing behind her father and sisters, it presented a fun image.

    Irish In America:

    I really love that opening.

    "The Arizona Territory would not be kind to a woman alone" should probably be changed to "The Arizona Territory isn't" because she's already there, but that's the only big issue I spotted.

    I really enjoyed Jesse's inner thoughts on the first page, her feelings of frustration, and I got a good sense of inner strength which would keep me reading. However, I do think we had too sharp a jump in regards to the old guy versus something being wrong plus why is the old man there if no one ever comes? Is he family? A charity case?

    Other than that, I think it's good. I'd keep reading.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I’m not a huge reader of adult historical either, but I must say, both of these books sound wonderful.

    If The Shrew Fits
    I think both the query and and first 250 here are really strong. I always love a take on Taming of the Shrew and this seems fantastic. On the query, I agree with Buttercup in that there might be a bit too much detail. Personally, I think that the paragraph that opens with, “In that summer of 1485…” could probably be condensed quite a bit. I also agree that it wounds up being a bit unclear as to why Kathryn wants to become Kate so I think clarifying her personal stakes might be a good idea. In the 250, the writing is so beautiful and so visually evocative, I don’t have anything to add. Nice work!

    Irish in America
    Here too, the entry is incredibly strong. On the query, I feel like it’s a bit cagey on what the big picture conflict. I wish I had a bit more specifics on what “her past rises up with a vengeance,” means for Jesse since I think this might be an important aspect of the book’s conflict. There’s some truly fantastic writing in the 250. I love the line, “Squaring her shoulders and raising the rifle, she took a single step into the light.” I wish I had written it.

    Both entries are amazing, but since If The Shrew Fits left me with a clearer impression of its conflict, I have to give it my vote.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If the Shrew Fits. Love this title. My first question about the query: Why is Kathryn in a war against an unjust war? Is she a person with modern sensibilities in the past or has something within the context of the past been unjust? I want to identify more with this injustice. I like that there is a lot of "heat" between Kathryn and William. I'm am unsure why he is insisting on Kate. I'd like to understand the intrigue better. On, the 250 words, I like the start here especially the description of the horse, vivid and gives a nice connection to William. I thought "thick blanket of odor" didn't quite catch the oppressive nastiness of the smell that was indicated by Kate's breath holding. Overall, I'm hooked and would continue reading.

    Irish in America

    Query. There is a haunting quality in this query that I love. This does a good job of making me feel the yearning of Jesse. On critique: I don't think Jesse is an Irish name, so a more Irish name would resonate for me. I did trip over the word "village." It made me wonder if we were in Ireland or America. On the 250, I love the description of silence. That yearning in Jesse is very clear to me and I love it. I wanted bit of grounding: Who was the old man? I'm hungering for a sense of what Jesse wants in this first 250. Overall, a pleasure to read, and I would read more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. If the Shrew Fits. Love this title. My first question about the query: Why is Kathryn in a war against an unjust war? Is she a person with modern sensibilities in the past or has something within the context of the past been unjust? I want to identify more with this injustice. I like that there is a lot of "heat" between Kathryn and William. I'm am unsure why he is insisting on Kate. I'd like to understand the intrigue better. On, the 250 words, I like the start here especially the description of the horse, vivid and gives a nice connection to William. I thought "thick blanket of odor" didn't quite catch the oppressive nastiness of the smell that was indicated by Kate's breath holding. Overall, I'm hooked and would continue reading.

    Irish in America

    Query. There is a haunting quality in this query that I love. This does a good job of making me feel the yearning of Jesse. On critique: I don't think Jesse is an Irish name, so a more Irish name would resonate for me. I did trip over the word "village." It made me wonder if we were in Ireland or America. On the 250, I love the description of silence. That yearning in Jesse is very clear to me and I love it. I wanted bit of grounding: Who was the old man? I'm hungering for a sense of what Jesse wants in this first 250. Overall, a pleasure to read, and I would read more.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If the Shrew Fits:

    Your query left me with a few questions: Why is the world unjust? What are her battle scars and how does her family mistreat her? Why does she need to let go of Kathryn? I think we just need a little more on her inner conflict.

    Holy cow, LOVE your first 250! Not much to add on that.


    Irish in America:

    We get a sense of conflict with her brother, but overall, we don't know what happened in her past and what the stakes are when it comes to her past. Is her brother really alive? Is someone coming to take her house? I think if you just spelled it out, we would have a way better understanding of the stakes.

    In your 250, I would suggest re-arranging your words to "animals always knew" just to make it flow better. That tripped me up a bit when reading through the first time. Also, I'm not getting a good sense of setting. We get a lot of her internal thoughts, but not much grounding detail. But that's the only thing I saw. This book sounds so cool!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. They're both wonderful, and if I was a judge I'd be tearing my hair!

    If the Shrew Fits:

    I'm elated by this concept. Does it add a twist, an answer to the common frustration with The Taming of the Shrew's sexist side? If so, make that abundantly clear in your query, because if I was an agent I'd jump on it! Your sentences are a bit long and too full of pronouns, and I felt myself squeezing my brain to catch the meaning of all the words. It could be clearer. Your first 250 are golden.


    Irish in America:

    This is a great concept! Your query is very well sculpted and the story feels very classic without being clichéd. Your first 250 are really nice, but I'd check my metaphors. They can seem kind of clichéd, like squirrels scampering and the brook being silent.

    Excellent job to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. They're both wonderful, and if I was a judge I'd be tearing my hair!

    If the Shrew Fits:

    I'm elated by this concept. Does it add a twist, an answer to the common frustration with The Taming of the Shrew's sexist side? If so, make that abundantly clear in your query, because if I was an agent I'd jump on it! Your sentences are a bit long and too full of pronouns, and I felt myself squeezing my brain to catch the meaning of all the words. It could be clearer. Your first 250 are golden.


    Irish in America:

    This is a great concept! Your query is very well sculpted and the story feels very classic without being clichéd. Your first 250 are really nice, but I'd check my metaphors. They can seem kind of clichéd, like squirrels scampering and the brook being silent.

    Excellent job to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi If the Shrew Fits,
    Taming of the Shrew is not one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, but your first 250 may compel me to change my mind! I love that Kate is taken by Will’s steed; I can’t wait to read what happens when she meets Sir William himself. I’m curious how you handle Will’s behavior throughout the book, and I’m interested in how Kate has her say in the end. Hopefully she has her say in the middle as well. Good luck!

    Hi Irish in America,
    I had trouble with your piece from the first line. My grandmother was named Jessie. (Lived to 100, died in January.) She’d always tell us “Jessie is a woman’s name, Jesse is a man’s name.” So I stumbled with pronoun references throughout your work: who is “she” and who is “he”. I know you love your girl, Jesse, but her name distracted me the whole time I was reading. Your storyline sounds interesting, though, and I wish you luck!

    Kudos to both of you for putting your writing out into the world!

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  10. f the Shrew Fits
    Query: I love Shakespeare-related books! I wouldn't use the word "shrew" -- I think it makes the take-off on Shakespeare a little too cute and up-front. If you want to make the direct reference to Shakespeare, I'd do it at the end of the query. Also, if the marriage happens really early in the book, you might not want to talk about the courtship -- and if it happens halfway through the book or so (if the will she/won't she is a bit part of the plot), I wouldn't give away in the query that they do get married. The query starts to feel like a bit of a synopsis in the fourth paragraph. And I'd watch the use of hypothetical questions.
    250: I think the first two sentences of the second paragraph could be combined -- "she did it without thinking" could probably be shown, rather than told. I like the image of the father and sister talking. The word "approximate" sounds anachronistic in this setting, and the St. George's dragon image is interesting, but a little jarring.

    Irish in America
    Query: Great first sentence! The word "her" gets used a LOT in the query -- I'd try to use "the" or "Jesse's" sometimes. The phrase "secrets of her tragic past" sounds a little cliche -- you might want to make it more specific to Jesse.
    250: Love the voice and suspense! I'd say "was more querulous" -- past perfect tense slows things down. The word "restful" sounds a little out of place -- I had to think about it to understand that she meant "comforting."

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  11. If the Shrew Fits: LOVE Shakespearean retellings, and this one sounds fantastic. I definitely wanted to read more. Your first sentence, though, is passive and a bit wordy, and after the awesome query it kind of jolted me out of wanting to keep reading. But once I did, the rest of the first 250 were just really powerful and well done.

    Irish: Lovely. A few minor things. First sentence of second paragraph in query was confusing to me, and I had to read it several times to get what you were saying. Otherwise, I don't have many suggestions. Very nicely done and would definitely read more.

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  12. If the Shrew Fits:

    I really like the concept and your first 250 are great! I felt a little turned around in the query, and wanted more of the voice I read in the first 250 in the query, because it is great. Good work!


    Irish in America:

    Really great job in setting the tone and stakes in the query! Not to mention following through in the first 250. Well done. I just wanted to know more about her tragic past? The way it reads isn’t her entire immediate family dead at this point? Mainly I just wanted to know more because I wished there was more to read! Great job.

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  13. If the Shrew Fits:
    I’m feeling a little out of my comfort zone replying to your entry, because I’m not a Shakespeare reader, so don’t take my comment to heart.
    I struggled with the query. I thought it was too wordy, and many times I had to read a sentence a couple of times. And it kind of just went on and on. Maybe it just carried too much voice and distracted from the actual plot. But I think you could shorten it a bit and get quicker to the core of the story.
    The 250 were in interesting read, and I loved the voice in it, but again, some sentences are really long. But it is your style. Good work.

    Irish in America:
    The way you set the stakes in the query is brilliant. Reading the query makes me wonder how much Jesse endured in her life and wants me to read more.
    I’m awed by the tone of your 250 and can literally hear the clip-clop of the horse. You wrote the setting well, so I feel as if I’m watching the whole scenario from the outside. Loved it. Great job

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  14. IF THE SHREW FITS
    I absolutely love the nickname – I’d honestly be tempted to make it the real title.
    The opening paragraph of the query works really well, although I’d possibly like to know more about her “reasons” or why her world is so unjust, especially as you give more hints but still no details in the final paragraph.
    It felt like a very abrupt transition from para 1 to para 2, and at first, I struggled to understand what they had to do with each other. I think it’d work better if you changed the order. “But Sir William has just returned from the court of King Richard the third, and everyone know a fellow named Henry Tudor is awaiting his opportunity to overthrow him.”
    Para 3 is the first time we hear about her family’s mistreatment. I think it needs mentioning earlier, at least in passing. And I’d reverse the order of that sentence “she remains convinced he is only after her father’s gold, but she still marries him to escape her family’s mistreatment.” Otherwise, going to “her new situation is hardly better” doesn’t immediately make sense.
    Is this a direct retelling of the Shakespeare play or historical fiction with different characters and similar themes? Either way, I wonder if that could be explained.
    The first 250 words are great. Amazing sense of place and a good flavour of her relationship with her father and sister. And “approximate size and colour of St George’s dragon” is a fab description. My only minor concern is whether “gouts of flame” is correct.

    IRISH IN AMERICA
    The query definitely needs to mention a year. It’s obviously historical, but feels like it could be set anytime between about 1800 to 1930.
    I think it would be good to get the fact that her brother was abusive into the first paragraph, to help explain why she isn’t sorry he’s been killed. To make the “she’s a woman on her own” thing work, we probably also either need to hear how her father died or not have him mentioned at all.
    I like the idea of her brother’s killer bringing her the news and then moving in. I know there isn’t room to go into lots of detail in a query, but a tiny bit more info about him - particularly why he shot her brother (is he with the police? The owner of the bank? A brave bystander) and why he wants to help with the ranch - might be useful .
    The love story sounds beautiful and both leads sound like lovely, rounded characters. When you geet to “her past rises up with a vengeance” and her “terrible choice” I think you need to be more specific.
    Finally, lots of people have probably mentioned this, but you repeat “or” in the final line.
    In the pages, assuming the man on the horse of Donavan, its good to see the story getting moving so quickly and introducing the lead straight away. I love her superstition about the animals and the way she takes the rifle and seems able to defend herself. The one thing I’d like to see is her father being “querulous” – just one grumpy line from him would do the trick.

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  15. IF THE SHREW FITS
    I absolutely love the nickname – I’d honestly be tempted to make it the real title.
    The opening paragraph of the query works really well, although I’d possibly like to know more about her “reasons” or why her world is so unjust, especially as you give more hints but still no details in the final paragraph.
    It felt like a very abrupt transition from para 1 to para 2, and at first, I struggled to understand what they had to do with each other. I think it’d work better if you changed the order. “But Sir William has just returned from the court of King Richard the third, and everyone know a fellow named Henry Tudor is awaiting his opportunity to overthrow him.”
    Para 3 is the first time we hear about her family’s mistreatment. I think it needs mentioning earlier, at least in passing. And I’d reverse the order of that sentence “she remains convinced he is only after her father’s gold, but she still marries him to escape her family’s mistreatment.” Otherwise, going to “her new situation is hardly better” doesn’t immediately make sense.
    Is this a direct retelling of the Shakespeare play or historical fiction with different characters and similar themes? Either way, I wonder if that could be explained.
    The first 250 words are great. Amazing sense of place and a good flavour of her relationship with her father and sister. And “approximate size and colour of St George’s dragon” is a fab description. My only minor concern is whether “gouts of flame” is correct.

    IRISH IN AMERICA
    The query definitely needs to mention a year. It’s obviously historical, but feels like it could be set anytime between about 1800 to 1930.
    I think it would be good to get the fact that her brother was abusive into the first paragraph, to help explain why she isn’t sorry he’s been killed. To make the “she’s a woman on her own” thing work, we probably also either need to hear how her father died or not have him mentioned at all.
    I like the idea of her brother’s killer bringing her the news and then moving in. I know there isn’t room to go into lots of detail in a query, but a tiny bit more info about him - particularly why he shot her brother (is he with the police? The owner of the bank? A brave bystander) and why he wants to help with the ranch - might be useful .
    The love story sounds beautiful and both leads sound like lovely, rounded characters. When you geet to “her past rises up with a vengeance” and her “terrible choice” I think you need to be more specific.
    Finally, lots of people have probably mentioned this, but you repeat “or” in the final line.
    In the pages, assuming the man on the horse of Donavan, its good to see the story getting moving so quickly and introducing the lead straight away. I love her superstition about the animals and the way she takes the rifle and seems able to defend herself. The one thing I’d like to see is her father being “querulous” – just one grumpy line from him would do the trick.

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  16. Thank you to all the #QueryKombat judges and commenters. This feedback is priceless. I've already started reworking my query but I know I will come back to your suggestions again and again. I feel more empowered to face the difficult task of sending my work out into the world because I've had your help and support.

    And, to Irish in America, I concede to a worthy opponent. Your work is great and deserves to move on. Best of luck in the next round and know that I'll be right there cheering you on!

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  17. Thank you to everyone who commented for taking the time and for being so thoughtful and specific. I'm giving every one of your ideas consideration, and I know my query and 250 will be stronger for your feedback.

    If the Shrew Fits, thank you so much for your encouragement all along the way. I'm a real fan of your writing, and I can't wait to see your book in print!

    Special thanks to all the moderators and judges for giving us your valuable time and making Query Kombat an experience to remember.

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  18. If The Shrew Fits

    Oh, wow, query makes me sit up and take notice from the start! My quick research suggests Romeo & Juliet was originally published in 1597--over a hundred years earlier in 1485 would Sir William have been described as a "Romeo" at all? Sounds like Kathryn is struggling to find happiness, but it's not at all clear to me that she even wants it. If she does remain a victim of her past, what does she stand to lose?

    Not sure the end of the second paragraph of the first 250 is a good place for an ellipsis. Otherwise these lines read well. Set the scene well and allowed us to get to know Kathryn.



    Irish in America

    Loved reading the query until "with a vengeance", which struck me as cliched. There is some great voice in the first 250. Very vivid setting and the tension is palpable. We also get to see a little of Jesse's personality right from the get go.

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  19. SO sorry to be late with feedback. I do have a signed tardy note from my daughter who will get married in a week. As an almost-Mother-of-the-bride, I enjoyed these two entries. Here are some comments.

    If the shrew fits
    Query:
    I love the writing and voice and setting. I don’t care for the stakes—the implication that Kathryn will have to give up her strong self to survive. Maybe if I better understood how Kathryn was a “victim of her past” and “her family’s mistreatment” I would root for her more. If you can't explain all of that in the query, maybe remove it.
    250:
    I enjoy your writing style. I can see the scene. Thank you for that. I’m sure I would read this entire book.
    Some specific comments: If she only sees the horse and not the man, the first sentence seems odd. Was William on the horse? It seems to imply he IS his horse. She only sees the horse and not the man, right? Maybe replace “glimpse” like this “Kathryn’s first impression of Sir William was of his enormous horse.” Or something like “The first impression Kathryn ever had of Sir William was made by his horse.”
    Remove “of” in the 2nd sentence.

    Irish in America
    Query
    “…Jesse is not sorry to hear he's been killed while robbing a bank.” She’s not sorry he was killed? Or not sorry he was robbing a bank? Unclear. Reordering the 2nd two paragraphs could clear this up.
    Oops, typo: “Or or” in last sentence.
    250:
    (I’m distracted by little typos.)
    How can one stand in a cabin door? Do you mean doorway?
    “stem the tide” cliché.
    Consider making 2nd paragraph the first paragraph.
    “The old man had told her that always animals knew where there was danger...” Shouldn’t it be “animals always knew”?
    I love the last paragraph, and would definitely read on from there. Good luck!

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