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Query Workshop: Day 1


Last week I posted an open call for queries to workshop here on the blog. It's not too late to throw yours in the mix-- I'll be selecting a new one on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I'll simply ask a random number generator to select the query of choice.

A few things first:
A) These are only my opinions. Your mileage may vary. Remember how subjective everything is and weigh all of the feedback with your own thoughts and opinions.

B) Please be exceedingly nice in the comments trail. Really, Really nice. I mean it. These brave souls are sharing their queries very publicly so let's make it a good experience. Be as constructive as possible. I reserve the right to delete anything too harsh, especially if its not being helpful.



Okay, so here is the query-- I put all my comments in red!

Dear  Ms. Hubbard,

Sixteen-year-old Ana Tate should be dead, only she doesn’t know it.

[ Not totally wild about this. Partly, because the query can stand alone without it. And partly because if you're going to lead in wtih a single, stand-alone line, it needs to be really punchy and have a big impact. I would drop it and start with the opening paragraph below, replacing the first "she" with Sixteen-year-old Ana Tate..... ]


Since surviving a car accident, she finds her secret ability to read auras and emotions harder to handle. She longs to be a teenager with meaningless concerns, and not some ninja warding off teenage drama in school. But meeting the mysterious yet irritating Viktor Castle changes everything, or so she thinks. That’s because she doesn’t know he’s the reason she’s alive.

[ My radar went on high alert at this point. I'm not sure if you've read EVERMORE, but here's a case of where I'm reading queries and think, "I'm pretty sure I already read this book." For those writing paranormal romance, it's more important than ever to stand out as fresh and original. EVERMORE features a girl who can read thoughts after a car accident, and the boy who shows up and silences the noise. And *SPOILER ALERT* He's the reason she survived the accident. Sound similar? I would really revamp this to make it sound unique.  Other than revamping the angle of the pitch, I'd also consider swapping the car accident for something else. A ski accident? An ATV crash? A stamped of buffalo? (kidding.)

 Also, the use of ninja really threw me. I see that as being sort of snarky and fun but the tone of the query is serious. And I'm not sure how staying out of drama can be likened to a ninja.]



At her accident, Viktor took her mortal essence, an act which saved her life but also bound her to his three-hundred-year-old curse. Only breakable by a mortal, the curse has left her one way out—be his cure or fall victim. But Ana is more different than Viktor and even she knows. Seeking answers turns dangerous as the unsettling truth about her mom who abandoned her is uncovered, exposing her true purpose in Viktor’s life which could be the death of them both.

[Not wild about the use of "Mortal essence." Kind of made me stumble. Did he turn her into an immortal? If so, just say that. So...she needs to get out of the curse. But what is the curse, exactly?  And when you get to "be his cure or fall victim" I went, Huh? Whose cure? And what does fall victim mean-- isn't she already a victim if she's cursed? From there, you get vague and throw in a lot of extra stuff.

With paranormal romance (So listen up, if that's what you're querying!) the key word is ROMANCE. Aside from his name, I do not know a thing about Viktor. What he looks like, how he acts, and heck, the fact that Ana is even romantically interested in him. You called this a romance, but.... where is the romance in the pitch?

The more romantic tension you can put in this, the better. I want to see the internal/romantic conflict. I want to know who Viktor is. I want to see how disastrous it is for the two of them to fall in love.  I am a SUCKER for romance!]


Toss in a renegade energy predator, a siren with a hold over Viktor, and a teeny gargoyle with an attitude, and you’ve got the makings of my 85,000 word YA paranormal romance, [TITLE REDACTED]

[I often see last lines/paragraphs with a list like this, and I'm not a huge fan of that approach. Your pitch should be enough without saying, "but wait...there's more!" With humor ones throwing in a list of the totally wackiness that is in store, sometimes it works. But usually, I'd just skip the list.  Just my opinion, though. ]


I have written a short story which received honorable mention in the Town Line Publication, and I am a member of the SCBWI, the MW&PA, and YALitChat.
[Good. As someone who participates in YALitChat, I know what good information is shared and swapped, so its nice to see that you're a participant. I also love SCBWI. On MW&PA, I don't know what it is, so maybe skip the acronym and spell it out.]

The manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
[Professional and courteous.]

Okay so overall, I think your project has a lot of really great elements going for it-- it's all about finding the balance of how you want to portray those elements, and making them feel fresh and exciting and original.


Okay, dear readers.... what did you think of the query? What would you change? Did it intrigue you?

[[PS! IT's NASCAR week over on the Harlequin blog. Stop by and win free books!]]

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
katzhang
May. 24th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
I'm currently polishing up my query, so I'm so glad you're starting this series now. :)
mguibord
May. 24th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
I found this query really intriguing! It sounds like a story I would enjoy.

But I was kind of confused...I would have like Ana's dilemna spelled out more clearly, ie: exactly what does it mean to be "either his cure or fall victim"?
And I agree about giving a bit more of the romantic plot.

But overall it seems well done!
angelwingsbaka
May. 24th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
I would like to know more about the curse. It doesn't have to be blatantly spelled out or anything. But maybe just a little more of a hint as to what makes the curse so bad?
(Anonymous)
May. 24th, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
This sounds interesting with great romance potential :o)

There are a lot of vague details here and I'd like to know more plot info. You set up the problems very well, but I'd also like to know what the characters do about them. What actions do they take?

I don't think it would be a huge spoiler to tell the reader exactly what the curse is. It would add to the intrigue and make your story stand out from the other paranormal stories out there.

Best of luck! :o)
~Erin Schultz
katrinangel
May. 24th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
I love paranormal romance.
First of all, LOVE the name Viktor Castle. Great romantic lead name. I saw this sentence as being the most interesting:

"Seeking answers turns dangerous as the unsettling truth about her mom who abandoned her is uncovered, exposing her true purpose in Viktor’s life which could be the death of them both."

It identified a major internal conflict for the M.C., which purportedly ties into an external conflict that affects both her and her romantic interest/antagonist. I just wanted to see a more specific nod to this. "...could be the death of them both" was too vague for my liking.

I know it's frustrating for people to ask for more specificity in a query, even as they're telling you to be brief (I still struggle with this personally), but this story does sound compelling, and the central conflict needs to be spelled out clearly in the query if you're going to hold people's interest.

Good luck! I hope we get to see this query's revamped version when you're done!
aekubo
May. 24th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for putting this series up. I`m always following your blog, and your posts help out a lot.

I think the query is good, but I agree that you need to change it a little to prevent it from sounding like Evermore. It needs to stand out as a new story.

sherlarsen
May. 25th, 2010 03:17 am (UTC)
I would like to thank you, Ms. Hubbard, for pointing out the flaws in the query. I especially appreciate you mentioning the lack of romantic flare. I had thought of that but was unsure how to add it. You have, however, stimulated a new view of the story for me.

The story is nothing like EVERMORE, which I have not read. So you can understand my shock, but I am grateful you mentioned it. In those flaws being pointed out, I can see where I need to edit. (A note: Ana is born with her gifts, the accident doesn't bring them on. And at the accident, Viktor believes he's saving her, but in all actuality she ends up saving him.)

I am forever grateful to all who commented. I will take all your advice to heart and re-work it. Thank you.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
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