May 24th, 2010


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!]]