Monday, 28 July 2014

I'm Back!

So, the blog has been a touch quiet of late, namely because I moved house and it took two months for the lines to be dug into the road so I could have internet again.  That said, I am officially back!  And what better way to kick start the blog than to do a little Pitch Wars pre-competition fun!

Most folks know what Pitch Wars is in the writing world, but if you're an aspiring writer and you don't know what it is, then why don't you go and check out BRENDA DRAKE'S WEBSITE for all the cool details.  After all, she is the queen of the contest.


Okay, are we all clear on the details now?  Good.  As I've missed you all so much (and I missed the fun of the query critiques and first page critiques on Brenda's website), I've decided to do a 1 week special - writers who post EITHER their blurb (the bit that explains your story in the query letter) OR a 1 page synopsis of their book will get feedback.  Please indicate whether you would prefer feedback as a reply on the post or as a private email.  The critiques will be available until the 4th of August.

I am happy to look at any genre, though you should know that I will only be looking at YA submissions for the actual contest.

I look forward to seeing what you've all got!


79 comments:

  1. Hello and thank you for being willing to do this! I've posted my query below and you are free to give feedback on the site so others can find it useful to! Thanks!!

    Twelve-year-old Simon is a kidnapper. At least, that’s what the people of Dundras believe. Their librarian is missing, and when Simon finds her magic necklace, it teleports him from Massachusetts to the secret Scottish city where he’s an immediate suspect. Even worse, the necklace transferred its powers to Simon allowing him to teleport whenever he touches a tap point. Actually, that’s pretty cool. The downside: it doesn’t bode well for his alibi.

    While the council monitors him under probation, Simon learns how to manage his new ability in the whimsical city. The place has everything from Nimmy’s Six-Legged Petshop, to spotted hornknuckles. Or are they horntruffles? Simon isn’t the best with names. All that matters is avoiding trouble, keeping the council happy, and not disappearing to Mt. Everst.

    Until he teleports with a council member’s son.

    They had been fighting for a soccer ball, and Simon lost control, transporting them into the city fountain. Unable to convince the council it was an accident, Simon is put on trial. No one will believe it’s a mistake, and Simon grows desperate to prove his innocence, even if he has to find the librarian himself. If he can’t clear his name before something else goes wrong, he could spend the rest of his days rotting in a jail for crimes he didn’t commit.

    Unfortunately for him, someone else just went missing.

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    1. Twelve-year-old Simon is a kidnapper. At least, that’s what the people of Dundras believe. Their librarian is missing, and when Simon finds her magic necklace, it teleports him from Massachusetts to the secret Scottish city where he’s an immediate suspect. Even worse, the necklace transferred its powers to Simon allowing him to teleport whenever he touches a tap point. Actually, that’s pretty cool. The downside: it doesn’t bode well for his alibi.

      THIS HAS A GREAT STARTING LINE. GOOD HOOK. HOWEVER, I AM A LITTLE CONFUSED - IS THE LIBRARIAN FROM DUNDRAS? AND DUNDRAS IS IN MASSACHUSETTS, RIGHT? SO WHY IS HE AN IMMEDIATE SUSPECT IN SCOTLAND? I THINK YOU NEED TO CLARIFY THIS, BECAUSE AT THE MOMENT IT READS AS THOUGH THE LIBRARIAN WENT MISSING FROM MASSACHUSETTES BUT THEY ARE ACCUSING SIMON IN SCOTLAND. IS THIS BECAUSE THIS IS THE HQ OF SOME MAGICAL PLACE? A LITTLE CLARITY WILL HELP HERE.

      While the council monitors him under probation, Simon learns how to manage his new ability in the whimsical city. The place has everything from Nimmy’s Six-Legged Petshop, to spotted hornknuckles. Or are they horntruffles? Simon isn’t the best with names. All that matters is avoiding trouble, keeping the council happy, and not disappearing to Mt. Everst.

      I LIKE THE VOICE IN HERE, BUT IT DOESN’T MATCH THE MORE FORMAL TONE OF YOUR OPENNG.

      Until he teleports with a council member’s son.

      THIS IS A GREAT TWIST! RIFE FOR CONFLICT!

      They had been fighting for a soccer ball, and Simon lost control, transporting them into the city fountain. Unable to convince the council it was an accident, Simon is put on trial. No one will believe it’s a mistake, and Simon grows desperate to prove his innocence, even if he has to find the librarian himself. If he can’t clear his name before something else goes wrong, he could spend the rest of his days rotting in a jail for crimes he didn’t commit.

      GREAT, GREAT, GREAT!

      Unfortunately for him, someone else just went missing.

      WONDERFUL CLOSING LINE. I AM HOOKED. THIS WOULD DEFINITELY CATCH MY EYE IN THE AGENCY INBOX WHERE I INTERN. ALL YOU NEED IS SOME CLARIFICATION IN YOUR OPENING PARAGRAPH AND TO CHOOSE WHETHER YOU KEEP THE STYLE VOICE DRIVEN OR FORMAL. (I VOTE VOICE, BTW!)

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    3. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to reply...but I've changed my first paragraph due to your advice! I'm not expecting you to re-edit or comment, just wanted to show my progress, if that's alright. Hope it's better now! Thank you again for the help!!

      Twelve-year-old Simon is a kidnapper. At least, that’s what the people of Dundras, a secret Scottish city, believe. Their librarian is missing, and Simon found her magic necklace while exploring an abandoned theme park. He thought it was tacky jewelry until it teleported him into the center of Dundras, making him an immediate suspect. Even worse, the necklace transferred its powers, allowing him to teleport whenever he touches a tap point. Actually, that’s pretty cool. The downside: it doesn’t bode well for his alibi.

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    4. Wow! This is so much better! I get the full scope of what's going on! I love it!

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  2. Thanks, Fiona. This is a wonderful opportunity. You gave me excellent feedback during the last Pitchwars. My query is below. I'd appreciate feedback either as a reply or an email, whichever is easier for you. It doesn't matter to me. My email is drsujas(at)yahoo.com.
    Seventeen-year-old soccer star Sam Daley wants to know why his academically gifted twin killed himself. His questions lead him to Zack, a popular kid at school.

    Sam’s classmate, nerdy Mira Patel, keeps her willful younger sister out of trouble and out of the way of her traditional Indian parents, while hiding her own relationship with Zack.

    While Sam pieces together the last few days of his brother’s life, Mira’s sister breaks one rule too many with Zack and her parents find out. Tempers explode in spite of Mira’s attempts, and a decision is made to send her sister to her aunt’s.

    Then her sister is found dead, a presumed drug overdose. Mira, overwhelmed with guilt, turns to Sam.

    As the two deal with their loss and their growing attraction for each other, they uncover clues that link their siblings’ deaths. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he doubles back to finish them, too.

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    1. Hey. Okay, I’ve decided to post on the website, as perhaps this is a good opportunity for others to see comments on another query (I hope that’s okay with you!). My comments will be in ALL CAPS after each paragraph of your query:

      Seventeen-year-old soccer star Sam Daley wants to know why his academically gifted twin killed himself. His questions lead him to Zack, a popular kid at school.

      GREAT OPENING LINE (YOU GUYS ARE GOOD AT THESE!).

      Sam’s classmate, nerdy Mira Patel, keeps her willful younger sister out of trouble and out of the way of her traditional Indian parents, while hiding her own relationship with Zack.

      THIS FEELS DISJOINTED FROM THE PREVIOUS PART. IS THERE A WAY YOU CAN SEGUE THIS TOGETHER IN A SMOOTHER WAY AND SHOW HOW BOTH PLOT LINES ARE CONNECTED? WHY DOES HER YOUNGER SISTER MATTER AT THIS POINT? SHE COULD JUST BE MENTIONED AT THE END OF THE PREMISE JUST AS EFFECTIVELY. AT THE MOMENT, THIS FEELS LIKE TWO SEPARATE STORIES.

      While Sam pieces together the last few days of his brother’s life, Mira’s sister breaks one rule too many with Zack and her parents find out. Tempers explode in spite of Mira’s attempts, and a decision is made to send her sister to her aunt’s.

      AGAIN, THIS AND THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH FEEL LIKE ONE STORY; THE FIRST PARAGRAPH FEELS LIKE IT IS UNRELATED.

      Then her sister is found dead, a presumed drug overdose. Mira, overwhelmed with guilt, turns to Sam.

      As the two deal with their loss and their growing attraction for each other, they uncover clues that link their siblings’ deaths. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he doubles back to finish them, too.

      OKAY, SO NOW I SEE HOW THESE ARE CONNECTED. I LIKE THE PARALLEL NATURE OF THIS STORY BUT YOUR QUERY ISN’T DOING THIS FANTASTIC PREMISE JUSTICE. YOU NEED TO WORK ON SMOOTHING IT TOGETHER AND MAKING THIS GEL.

      IT GIVES ME THE IMPRESSION THAT THE START OF THE BOOK HOPS FROM CHARACTER TO CHARACTER AND THEN THE SECOND PART OF THE BOOK SOLIDIFIES THE ACTUAL STORY. YOU SORT OF JUMP FROM SAM’S STORY, TO MIRA’S THEN BACK TO SAM’S AGAIN, GIVING IT AN IRREGULAR FEEL. YOU COULD SIMPLY MENTION ZACK'S GIRLFRIEND BRIEFLY AT THE START, FOCUS ON THE REST OF SAM'S JOURNEY, THEN SHOW HOW MIRA AND HER SISTER COME INTO IT AT THE END.

      JUST SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

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    2. Thanks, Fiona. Excellent suggestions! Thank you :)

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    3. Thanks, Fiona. I appreciate the time and all your help.

      Seventeen-year-old soccer star Sam Daley knows he has to accept his gifted brother’s suicide and move on. Until he receives a cryptic text from his brother’s friend that implicates Zack, a popular kid at school, in the death. Before Sam can follow up on the text, the friend dies in a freak hit-and-run. Sam confronts Zack and faces an unlikely adversary—nerdy, introverted Mira Patel, his brother’s former study partner, who’s also, he finds out, Zack’s newest girlfriend.

      Though devastated by her friend’s suicide, Mira has her own problems, including unrealistic parental expectations, a willful sister bent on breaking every rule in their traditional Indian household, and a boyfriend she has to hide from her strict father. When Sam storms up with his usual arrogance and accuses Zack, she sheds her reserve and gives him exactly what he deserves, a proper set down. Then her sister dies of a presumed drug overdose and she finally sees Sam’s combative behavior for what it is—a mask for his terrible grief.

      As their loss draw them closer together, Mira helps Sam investigate the text message. And they discover clues linking the friend’s hit-and-run to her sister’s drug overdose and, ultimately, Sam’s brother’s suicide. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he wises up and doubles back to finish them, too

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    4. I think this works a lot better. The only thing that stopped me a little was the term "usual arrogance". At this point, we want to root for the MC, so I think you could change that to something else (perhaps something that reflects on his grief filled anger).

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    5. Thanks, Fiona. I really appreciate this.

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  3. Welcome back. A while ago I posted on here the first part of DEATH BY HIGH HEELS. You said you would have passed it on. I thank you so much for that.

    Today that book releases with Sweet Cravings Publishing and goes live on Amazon and Barnes&Noble next week.

    Thanks for the encouragement. Looking forward to Brenda's next contest too.

    violetingram.blogspot.com

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    1. That's wonderful news to hear! Congratulations on your success and your release! Let me know the date and I'll spread the word! Here is to good sales and many more books to come!

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    2. Oh and I remember your MC had tons of spunk and voice (Kim, right?)

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    3. Yes it is. I can't believe you remembered. Sweet Cravings Publishing released it today. Amazon and Barnes&Noble will get it next week. Thank you so much for everything.

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    4. I really liked it. :-) The title is killer too! I'll spread news! :-) Congratulations!

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  5. Thank you for doing this! I have gone through a million revisions with this, but it's a mess. Queries are a different beast. You can just post it on this forum. Thanks again.

    ----

    Ever since Whik can remember, an abyss has split the sky.

    When the seventeen-year-old finds an ancient item in his teacher’s basement, the sky splits further and a phantom doppelganger follows him around. By using the item, Whik has duplicated his world. If one broken sky wasn’t enough, now there are two.

    Whik’s possession of the item attracts unwanted attention. Malachi, a banished murderer, wants revenge on Whik’s people for sponsoring an experiment that sucked his daughter into her own duplicate world. Now he has the backing of the Larks—bloodthirsty, dog-like creatures. If Malachi can find the item, he can create a dozen duplicate worlds with a dozen second chances.

    For every world duplicated, another falls apart. As Whik prepares for an invasion from Malachi and the Larks, parts of his world crumble away. To stop the sky from falling in one world, Whik will sacrifice everything in another.

    BEFORE THE SKY FELL, a young adult fantasy novel, is complete at 100,000 words and told from multiple perspectives. It has won the Wattpad Prize and has gathered over half a million reads on the site.

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    1. My comments are in ALL CAPS, and I hope you forgive that I might have got a little free handed in rephrasing (I liked this a lot and got quite into it!). Hope this helps!

      Ever since Whik can remember, an abyss has split the sky.

      When the seventeen-year-old finds an ancient item in his teacher’s basement, the sky splits further and a phantom doppelganger follows him around. By using the item, Whik has duplicated his world. If one broken sky wasn’t enough, now there are two.
      THIS IS A NICE OPENING LINE (YA’LL ARE PRETTY GOOD AT THIS). HOWEVER, I’D PERHAPS DO A LITTLE RESTRUCTURING ON THIS OPENING PARAGRAPH. NOT MUCH, JUST ENOUGH TO FIX THE LOGICAL FLOW. FOR EXAMPLE: “When the seventeen-year-old finds and uses an ancient item in his teacher’s basement, it causes the sky to split further and duplicates his world. Now, a phantom doppelganger is following him around.” THIS DOES TWO THINGS – IT KEEPS THE LOGICAL FLOW AND IT CONDENSES YOUR WORD COUNT. I THINK YOU COULD LOSE THE LAST LINE AS IT DOESN’T TELL US MUCH. ALSO, WHAT IS THE ITEM? CAN YOU TELL US?

      Whik’s possession of the item attracts unwanted attention. Malachi, a banished murderer, wants revenge on Whik’s people for sponsoring an experiment that sucked his daughter into her own duplicate world. Now he has the backing of the Larks—bloodthirsty, dog-like creatures. If Malachi can find the item, he can create a dozen duplicate worlds with a dozen second chances.
      SAME HERE. THIS STORYLINE IS COMPELLING BUT THE LOGICAL FLOW DOESN’T QUITE CLICK TOGETHER. IT’S ALMOST AS IF YOU MISS A STEP HERE AND THERE. I’D BE TEMPTED TO CONNECT WHIK AND MALACHI FIRST AND THEN MALACHI’S REASONS SECOND. FOR EXAMPLE: “Whik’s possession of the item attracts unwanted attention. Malachi, a banished murderer, is determined to relieve Whik of it, no matter the cost. Seeking revenge on Whik’s people for sponsoring an experiment that sucked his daughter into her own duplicate world, Malachi believes he can create a dozen duplicate worlds with the item, with a dozen second chances.” I HAVE TO SAY, I REALLY LOVE THAT YOU HAVE A RELATABLE BAD GUY. THIS IS AWESOME IN FICTION. YOU HAVE THE READER ROOTING FOR THE BAD GUY AS WELL! ALSO, AS YOU SEE, I THINK THE BIT ABOUT THE LARKS CAN GO HERE. THEY FEEL SECONDARY AND UNIMPORTANT TO YOUR MAIN CONFLICT.

      For every world duplicated, another falls apart. As Whik prepares for an invasion from Malachi and the Larks, parts of his world crumble away. To stop the sky from falling in one world, Whik will sacrifice everything in another.
      THIS LAST PART LETS YOU DOWN A BIT, I THINK. I THINK THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO REALLY UP WHIK’S PERSONAL STAKES. WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THE READER REALLY CARE ABOUT WHIK? WHY IS IT HIM THAT IS SPECIAL? WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO LOSE? EVERY CHARACTER CAN FACE DEATH AND INVASION. WHY IS WHIK THE ONE WE SHOULD FOLLOW? AND “TO STOP THE SKY FALLING” NEEDS A LITTLE CLARIFICATION. WHAT HAPPENS IF IT FALLS? LACK OF OXYGEN? THE SPACE TIME BARRIER CRUMBLES? WORLD PHYSICALLY RIPPED APART. THIS LAST PARAGRAPH REALLY NEEDS TO CLARIFY YOUR HERO’S STAKES SO GET VERY SPECIFIC HERE.


      BEFORE THE SKY FELL, a young adult fantasy novel, is complete at 100,000 words and told from multiple perspectives. It has won the Wattpad Prize and has gathered over half a million reads on the site.
      I THINK 100k IS A TOUCH ON THE LONG SIDE, BUT IT’S FANTASY SO YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH IT. I LOVE THE SOUND OF THIS. REALLY THINK IT’S GOT WONDERFUL QUALITY IN THE QUERY. THE BAD GUY BEING RELATABLE IS SUPER GOOD. I’D LOVE TO SEE THIS QUERY POLISHED UP AGAIN. THIS IS DEFINITELY INTRIGUING! 

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    2. Oh - and I meant to ask - how does the doppelganger fit in? Is that Malachi as well? If it's not, then you don't really need to mention it. :-)

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    3. Thank you so much for your comments. They are extremely helpful (for some reason every time I post here, it disappears the first time).

      The doppelganger is actually Whik from his alternate world. I think I can take it out of the query. The book is told in four parts – in Part 1 and 3, the story is told from Whik’s POV in one world, and Part 2 and 4 are told from his duplicate in the alternate world (and dies in this one).

      This is not known until the end, when the surviving Whik transfers into his duplicate’s world, bringing the two narratives together.

      No idea if that’s clear. What a confusing book to write! Thanks again for doing this!

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    4. That is a big plot you've taken on there! So kudos on that! I love to see a writer taking on challenges that really push the boundaries of their writing. I'm wondering if it's best to work into the synopsis about the full impact of the doppelganger as this seems a major aspect of the book, given that it takes up half the narrative. It depends on how it affects the core plot you've described though. If it has major impact and is also a main core plot as important as the one you've put out, then you might need to work it in more (I have a feeling it is quite important). Just some food for thought.

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    5. Thank you again for taking so much time and engaging with us. You’re advice on every query (I think I’ve read them all) has been awesome.

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  6. You're so nice to do this! I think I've written at least 75 queries for this MS, but I'm still not 100% sure everything is clear. A sci-fi query is a beast. Thank you in advance.

    Dear Stellar Agent:

    Sixteen-year-old Lesha Clement figures she has six months left to live if she remains on Earth. Her once-green planet has withered so fast it’s as brown as the color of her skin. She dreams of growing old in an unpolluted world and escaping the clutches of Riley, her possessive Relocation Instructor. With Operation Abandon Earth in full swing, Lesha flees to Eris, a colonized planet halfway across the galaxy. The ship veers off course and crashes in a wasteland, stranding her far from civilization with seventeen survivors... including Riley.

    The government was dead wrong when they labeled Eris safe. If lack of food and water doesn’t kill them, flesh-eating snakes just might. As fellow survivor, Malik Romero, vows to get the group to safety or die trying, his smoldering eyes pull Lesha in as much as his savior complex pushes her away. His over-protective attitude clashes with Riley’s obsession, and grates on Lesha’s frayed nerves. Having lived through famine and riots back home, she can take care of herself.

    After a missing member of their group is found as a mutilated corpse in some sick desert shrine, it becomes clear Riley and Malik's egos are the least of their worries. Something hunts them. Something predatory. Something deadly. To reach safety alive, Lesha must put aside her feelings and work with Riley and Malik before they're picked off one by one for morbid decorations in an alien desert shrine.

    Complete at 86,000 words, PHOENIX RISING is a young adult science fiction thriller with hints of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and the film, Predator. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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    1. As is my preferred style, my comments will be in ALL CAPS. Thank you so much for sharing!
      Sixteen-year-old Lesha Clement figures she has six months left to live if she remains on Earth. Her once-green planet has withered so fast it’s as brown as the color of her skin. She dreams of growing old in an unpolluted world and escaping the clutches of Riley, her possessive Relocation Instructor. With Operation Abandon Earth in full swing, Lesha flees to Eris, a colonized planet halfway across the galaxy. The ship veers off course and crashes in a wasteland, stranding her far from civilization with seventeen survivors... including Riley.

      OKAY, THIS IS LOOKING GOOD. I LIKE THAT YOU WORK IN SOME CHARACTER DETAILS IN THERE, IN A UNOBTRUSIVE BUT EFFECTIVE WAY. KUDOS FOR THAT. I’M GUESSING A RELOCATION INSTRUCTOR IS WHO CHOOSES WHERE SHE GOES, RIGHT? WHAT ABOUT HER FAMILY? DO THEY NOT CHOOSE? HOW DOES SHE FLEE HER FAMILY? IS SHE ON HER OWN? IS IT LAW TO HAVE A RELOCATION INSTRUCTOR? YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO INTO ALL THE DETAILS, BUT A LINE OF CLARIFICATION WOULD HELP HERE. FOR EXAMPLE: “…her possessive Relocation Instructor, whose job is to move her family safely/bring her where the law dictates she should go/etc.” DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?

      The government was dead wrong when they labeled Eris safe. If lack of food and water doesn’t kill them, flesh-eating snakes just might. As fellow survivor, Malik Romero, vows to get the group to safety or die trying, his smoldering eyes pull Lesha in as much as his savior complex pushes her away. His over-protective attitude clashes with Riley’s obsession, and grates on Lesha’s frayed nerves. Having lived through famine and riots back home, she can take care of herself.

      BECAUSE THEY VEERED OFF COURSE, I ASSUMED THEY NEVER MADE IT TO ERIS. YOU MIGHT WANT TO CLARIFY THAT EARLIER. I LIKE THE WARRING NATURE OF THE TWO MALE LEADS AND YOU’VE SET UP A PLOT RIFE FOR SURVIOR CONFLICT.

      After a missing member of their group is found as a mutilated corpse in some sick desert shrine, it becomes clear Riley and Malik's egos are the least of their worries. Something hunts them. Something predatory. Something deadly. To reach safety alive, Lesha must put aside her feelings and work with Riley and Malik before they're picked off one by one for morbid decorations in an alien desert shrine.

      I THINK YOU CAN CUT THE LINES “Something hunts them. Something predatory. Something deadly.” AS THEY ALL SAY THE SAME THING, AND YOUR EXAMPLE OF THE CORPSE FOUND IN THE DESERT SHRINE SHOWS THIS ALREADY. I’D ALSO LIKE TO SEE THE STAKES BROUGHT BACK INTO FOCUS ON THE LAST PARAGRAPH. OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE THE MAIN STAKES THERE – THEY’LL ALL DIE IF THE DON’T – BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PERSONAL STAKES OF LESHA? WHAT MAKES LESHA THE CHARACTER WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT THE MOST? OF ALL OF THE SURVIORS, WHY IS HERS THE STORY THAT IS THE ONE WE SHOULD WANT TO FOLLOW? IF YOU CAN SHOW THIS, YOU’LL HAVE A VERY STRONG QUERY INDEED.

      Complete at 86,000 words, PHOENIX RISING is a young adult science fiction thriller with hints of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and the film, Predator. Thank you for your time and consideration.

      I LIKE THAT YOU USE THE COMP TITLES, AS I HAVE A DEFINITE SENSE OF WHAT THIS BOOK IS GOING TO BE LIKE. YOU’VE GOT A STRONG, SOLID QUERY THAT DOES ITS JOB WELL. ALL I’D LIKE TO SEE IS THE PERSONAL STAKES COME THROUGH MORE. NICE!

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    2. *** Amendment - Keep "something hunts them" but you could lose the two after that. :-)

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    4. Thank you so much, Fiona. Excellent suggestions. Great points for the last paragraph/tying it more to Lesha specifically. I'll keep playing with it.

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  7. Thanks for doing this for us, Fiona! Here is my synopsis. Please respond via email to bsullivan (at) earthlink (dot) net.

    One-hundred and fifty years before he was born, Nehemiah Keevah’s people were carried off from their kingdom, and Shiloh, their capital city, was destroyed. Now living in the shadow of the Citadel, their new king’s palace in Petra, Nehemiah is happy where he is and can’t see why anyone would want to go back.

    When his parents are killed in an apparent random robbery, it is discovered they were planning on joining a group of families returning to Shiloh. As he lay dying in Nehemiah’s arms, his father makes Nehemiah promise he will not forget his heritage and will return to their ancestral home.

    But Nehemiah is only a teen, and he and his older sister decide it is best for them to stay in Petra for now. Using the money their parents had been saving, they buy a bigger home and Nehemiah transfers to the best school in the city. They try to put the past behind them, and soon become comfortable living the life they never could when their parents were alive.

    Nehemiah grows, fills his life with new friendships, graduates high school, and gets himself a job actually working in the Citadel. On his very first day, he meets a beautiful girl named Natalia who he doesn’t know is the personal assistant and best friend of the king’s daughter, Rivkah. It doesn’t take long for Nehemiah to fall in love, and as their relationship grows, so does Nehemiah’s respect within the city.

    When the king’s cupbearer is murdered, he has to turn to someone he trusts to take the dead man’s place. Natalia and Rivkah suggest Nehemiah, and soon enough, he is now in the most-trusted position in all the kingdom. The king wants to show his appreciation and has Nehemiah’s new assistant, Obed, find a gift to show how truly grateful the king is. So, Obed searches out the very desk Nehemiah’s father used in his study in their old family home. What only Nehemiah knows, is the desk also contains a hidden compartment.

    Overwhelmed by the discovery of this long-forgotten desk, Nehemiah looks in the compartment to discover a large envelope with he and his sister’s names written on it. When they open it, they discover all of their parent’s detailed plans for the journey to Shiloh, along with an ancient land-deed and family tree showing they are the rightful heirs to a large portion of land in the ancient kingdom.

    It is soon discovered that there is a broader, sinister plot at work in Petra tying Nehemiah’s parent’s deaths to the cupbearer’s murder. A group only known as The Three are secretly trying to kill the king in Petra while taking over the land in Shiloh, which they’ll be able to do if Nehemiah doesn’t get there in time to stop them. The only problem is Roman, one of the Gatekeeper’s of the Citadel who is actually working for The Three – and who has it out for Nehemiah. In a confrontation revealing his true identity, Roman threatens to kill Natalia unless Nehemiah hands over the deed to the land in Shiloh. Nehemiah does, but as Roman makes his escape, Natalia snatches it back at the last moment.

    Nehemiah gets the king’s approval to lead an armed force to Shiloh, to try to stop The Three, reclaim his family’s land, and re-establish the king’s presence in the far-away city. Natalia is upset she can’t go with Nehemiah, but they pledge their love to each other the night before Nehemiah’s departure.

    On the way out of Petra, Nehemiah and a small group encounter Roman on a mountain ridge Nehemiah used to visit as a boy. He wounds Nehemiah’s companions and once again demands the surrender of the land deed – which Nehemiah again delivers. When Roman escapes, what he doesn’t realize is that he only has the translated copy and not the original. As the book closes out, Nehemiah and his group head off to Shiloh as he reiterates the promise to his dead father that he would make the return.

    Complete at 100K words, CHOSEN is a young adult speculative fiction adventure.

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    1. Hi Barry. I've sent you an email with my comments. Let me know if you get it okay. :-)

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  8. Thanks so much for doing this! In case anyone else hasn't mentioned it yet (or even if they have), you're awesome! Can you leave comments on my query here, that way maybe they can help other writers? Thanks again (:

    Dear Mr./Ms. Agent,

    Emma’s had a crush on Alex for years, but she’s never had a shot with him…until the day after he’s killed in a car accident and she spots him at school. He confronts her, saying she’s the only one who can hear and see him. He swears he’s not dead or a ghost—he’s hungry, covered in bruises from the accident, and she can touch him—but he doesn’t remember the crash or what happened after. When he begs her to help figure out what’s wrong with him, she agrees. They research his condition and find that this happened to someone else…and it was lethal. With no idea how long Alex can survive this way, Emma’s determined to find answers fast.

    But now someone’s stalking Emma, like he knows she can see Alex. Emma’s convinced that he works for some secret organization—maybe one that did this to Alex in the first place. Terrified of what that the stalker might do to get to Alex, Emma knows that helping Alex means putting herself, her family, and her friends in danger. But if she doesn’t help Alex, he might really die.

    THE BUTTERFLY GHOST is a young adult thriller with a science fiction twist, complete at 76,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Paul Blackwell’s Undercurrent and Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

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    1. AWW, YOU MADE MY BLUSH ;-). COMMENTS IN ALL CAPS!

      Dear Mr./Ms. Agent,

      Emma’s had a crush on Alex for years, but she’s never had a shot with him…until the day after he’s killed in a car accident and she spots him at school. He confronts her, saying she’s the only one who can hear and see him. He swears he’s not dead or a ghost—he’s hungry, covered in bruises from the accident, and she can touch him—but he doesn’t remember the crash or what happened after. When he begs her to help figure out what’s wrong with him, she agrees. They research his condition and find that this happened to someone else…and it was lethal. With no idea how long Alex can survive this way, Emma’s determined to find answers fast.

      YOUR FIRST LINE IS A GOOD HOOKY LINE. IT PEGS GENRE, CONFLICT AND GIVES ME A GOOD SENSE OF WHAT THE BOOK’S GOING TO BE ABOUT. WHEN SHE AGREES, I’D INSERT A LITTLE REMINDER OF THE STAKES – FOR EXAMPLE, “When he begs her to help figure out what’s wrong with him, she agrees; she’s curious and her attraction to him hasn’t diminished.” OBVIOUSLY, YOU’LL WANT SOMETHING SMOOTHER THAN THAT, BUT KEEPING THE THREAD OF HER REASONS WHY SHE DOES THINGS MAKES THE STAKES FEEL VERY PERSONAL. I ALSO THINK YOU NEED TO CLARIFY THE GENRE HERE, AS IT READS VERY SUPERNATURAL, WHICH I KNOW IT’S NOT FROM READING ON. YOU SAY THEY RESEARCH HIS CONDITION. THIS IS THE PLACE FOR YOU TO REVEAL OR HINT AT WHAT THEY FIND OUT. HOW DO THEY FIND SOMEONE ELSE HAS THIS CONDITION? IS IT REPORTED? DOES IT HAVE A HINTED EXPLANATION? IS IT COMPLETELY UNEXPLAINED?

      But now someone’s stalking Emma, like he knows she can see Alex. Emma’s convinced that he works for some secret organization—maybe one that did this to Alex in the first place. Terrified of what that the stalker might do to get to Alex, Emma knows that helping Alex means putting herself, her family, and her friends in danger. But if she doesn’t help Alex, he might really die.

      YOU MENTION THE SECRER ORGANISATION. DO THEY THINK THIS IS A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT GONE WRONG? IF SO, YOU MIGHT WANT TO MENTION THAT. WHY DO THEY THINK THESE PEOPLE WANT ALEX? ALSO, THE STAKES AT THE END ARE GOOD, BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EMMA IF ALEX DIES? YES, HIM DYING IS BAD (BAD FOR ALEX) BUT WHY IS IT SO BAD FOR EMMA THAT SHE’LL DO ANYTHING TO SAVE HIM? I’M GUESSING IT’S BECAUSE SHE LOVES HIM, SO YOU MIGHT WANT TO REALLY SHOWCASE THAT AS YOUR STAKES. PERSONAL STAKES HIT THE READER HARDER THAN JUST GENERAL “HE’LL DIE” STAKES. SHOW HOW IT WILL DEVASTED YOUR MC IF SHE CAN’T SAVE HIM.

      THE BUTTERFLY GHOST is a young adult thriller with a science fiction twist, complete at 76,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Paul Blackwell’s Undercurrent and Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series.

      Thank you for your time and consideration.

      YOU HAVE AN AMAZING TITLE FOR THIS BOOK, BTW. I ADORE IT. GOOD WORD COUNT, GOOD COMP TITLES, AND A NICE SIGN OFF. THIS IS A VERY SOLID LOOKING QUERY. CLARIFYING SOME OF THE ELEMENTS BY BEING MORE SPECIFIC, AND HAMMERING HOME THE PERSONAL STAKES AT THE END COULD REALLY MAKE THIS SHINE.

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  9. Thank you so much for doing this! I'd love your feedback on my query. You can post your feedback as a comment - I don't mind.

    For seventeen-year-old Cas Leung, bossing around sea monsters five thousand times her size is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission, slaughters her favorite Reckoner, and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

    There’s no time to mourn it. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. Cas will raise the pup, make sure he imprints on the ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If she fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

    But Cas has fought pirates her entire life, and she’s not gonna stop now. As she plots revenge amidst training a baby Reckoner, negotiating shipboard politics, and falling for the captain’s apprentice girl, Cas must face the most terrifying monster of all: the one she feels herself becoming.

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    1. Howdy! My comments will be in ALL CAPS. Thank you for sharing!
      For seventeen-year-old Cas Leung, bossing around sea monsters five thousand times her size is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission, slaughters her favorite Reckoner, and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
      OOOH! THIS IS VERY WELL CRAFTED. YOU HAVE SET UP YOUR WORLD AND CHARACTER NICELY. I WOULDN’T CHANGE THIS.


      There’s no time to mourn it. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. Cas will raise the pup, make sure he imprints on the ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If she fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.
      I’D CLARIFY THE THIRD LINE HERE AND SAY SOMETHING LIKE “She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on the ship…” IT’S A VERY SUBTLE ADDITION OF JUST A COUPLE OF WORDS, BUT IT SHOWS THE POWER OF THE ANTAGONIST.


      But Cas has fought pirates her entire life, and she’s not gonna stop now. As she plots revenge amidst training a baby Reckoner, negotiating shipboard politics, and falling for the captain’s apprentice girl, Cas must face the most terrifying monster of all: the one she feels herself becoming.

      OKAY, SO THE WHOLE QUERY IS VERY STRONG AND SPECIFIC, BUT THIS LAST LINE IS A LITTLE CONFUSING. WHY IS CAS THE MOST TERRIFYING MONSTER OF ALL? SHE SEEMS TO BE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT, AND ACTING LIKE ANY GOOD HEROINE WOULD DO. SO WHY IS THIS MAKING HER A MONSTER? IF THAT IS THE CORE OF THE BOOK THEN YOU’LL NEED TO SHOWCASE HOW AND WHY; IF IT’S JUST A GOOD HOOKY LINE, YOU CAN DO WITHOUT IT AS YOUR QUERY IS ALREADY SUPER STRONG.

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    2. Thank you so much for your feedback! You're completely right about the last paragraph - I think I need to clarify that A. the brutality required to fight back against the pirates is monstrous to her and B. she's in danger of being swayed to their side, especially with her feelings for the captain's girl in the mix.

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    3. I love the reason about the girl she's fallen for. This is what you need to showcase on this last paragraph. That internal conflict is wonderful. SHOW AWAY! :-)

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    4. What do you think about this as a new third paragraph?

      Cas has fought pirates her entire life, and she’s not about to stop. But when she starts to fall for one - the captain’s apprentice girl, none the less - Cas begins to see the NeoPacific in a different light. As she grapples with her old values and her new perspective, Cas must decide whether taking vengeance against her captors is worth becoming even more monstrous than the beasts she trains.

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    5. I think you could do without "none the less" as it's a strong enough sentence without it and concision is a prized skill for a writer (show it in your query and you'll impress and agent as they'll be keen to see it in your work). Other than this, this works a treat! It is a very compelling query!

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  10. Thank you so much for this opportunity! I'd be fine with either reply or e-mail, but I've read a bunch of the comments above (you give marvelous advice!) and I agree on letting other's check out the feedback and see if someone else can learn from it, too. :) Jumping right into it:

    Ava’s on the run for a crime punishable by death:

    Killing a dragon.

    No matter how hard she scrubs, the blood won’t come off her hands. Guilt claws into her sides, makes her spread her wings and fall from her home, the city in the sky. Far from the comfortable life protected by the great dragons, with their stained-glass wings and jewel-like scales.

    With everything else abandoned, one thing keeps her running. Her own dragon, the master that was paired with her, against either of their wills: Vito.

    When she ran, he followed. She should have made him stay behind. He’s always been different, always an outcast with his dull, brown scales. But it’s gotten worse in the past few years — he’s been unable to turn back into a human. Ava’s just a half-breed illusionist, keeping herself alive will be enough of a struggle without a dragon on her hands. And if he discovers her crime… She can’t bare to think about what he’d do.

    The desert below holds a quiet chaos. Ground dwelling cities have enough water, controlled and delivered by the city in the air and its inhabitants to the moats, but that same water keeps them corralled. Rebellion stirs and shifts in the desert heat. Ava doesn’t have a choice: either she’ll find her escape among the ground dwellers, or the city above will hunt her down and never let her forget her crime.

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    1. Hey! Looking forward to digging in. As always, comments in ALL CAPS.
      Ava’s on the run for a crime punishable by death:

      Killing a dragon.

      I THINK YOU CAN COMBINE THESE TWO SENTENCES WITH AN EM DASH. THE KILLING THE DRAGON PART IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE CRIME (CRIMES COME IN ALL FORMS, BUT WITHOUT KNOWING EXACTLY WHAT IT IS IN THE HOOK, IT LESSENS THE IMPACT). BEING SPECIFIC UP FRONT REALLY HELPS IN QUERIES.

      No matter how hard she scrubs, the blood won’t come off her hands. Guilt claws into her sides, makes her spread her wings and fall from her home, the city in the sky. Far from the comfortable life protected by the great dragons, with their stained-glass wings and jewel-like scales.
      YOU SAY SHE SPREADS HER WINGS, BUT WE’RE NOT SURE WHAT SHE IS OR WHETHER THIS IS METAPHORICAL. I THINK YOU NEED TO GIVE A FEW DETAILS HERE. ALSO, I DON’T THINK THE LAST SENTENCE OF THIS PARAGRAPH WORKS AS A FRAGMENT, SO I’D COMBINE IT WITH THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE.

      With everything else abandoned, one thing keeps her running. Her own dragon, the master that was paired with her, against either of their wills: Vito.

      WHY DOES HE KEEP HER RUNNING? IF THEY HAVE BEEN PAIRED AGAINST THEIR WILL, WHAT MAKES THE DRAGON CARE ENOUGH TO FOLLOW HER?

      When she ran, he followed. She should have made him stay behind. He’s always been different, always an outcast with his dull, brown scales. But it’s gotten worse in the past few years — he’s been unable to turn back into a human. Ava’s just a half-breed illusionist, keeping herself alive will be enough of a struggle without a dragon on her hands. And if he discovers her crime… She can’t bare to think about what he’d do.
      I LOVE THAT THE DRAGON IS AN OUTCAST. THAT’S A NICE ANGLE. AH, SO THEY CAN TURN INTO HUMANS. I THINK YOU SHOULD MENTION THE SENTENCE ABOUT AVA BEING A HALF-BREED ILLUSIONIST AT THE START SO THE AGENT KNOWS STRAIGHT AWAY WHAT TYPE OF CHARACTERS HE/SHE WILL BE DEALING WITH. I LOVE THE INHERENT, PERSONAL STAKES HERE FOR AVA AND HER DRAGON (VERY NICE AND PEOPLE COULD TAKE A NOTE ON PERSONAL STAKES FROM THIS QUERY). TYPO ON THE WORD “BARE”.

      The desert below holds a quiet chaos. Ground dwelling cities have enough water, controlled and delivered by the city in the air and its inhabitants to the moats, but that same water keeps them corralled. Rebellion stirs and shifts in the desert heat. Ava doesn’t have a choice: either she’ll find her escape among the ground dwellers, or the city above will hunt her down and never let her forget her crime.
      THE FIRST LINE CAN GO AS IT’S NOT SPECIFIC AND DOESN’T TELL US MUCH. YOU COULD JUST START WITH SOMETHING LIKE “IN THE WORLD BELOW, GROUND DWELLING…”. I DON’T THINK YOU NEED THE DETAIL ABOUT “ITS INHABITANTS TO THE MOATS” BUT THE REST OF THE SENTENCE IS REALLY GOOD, AND GIVES THE BOOK SOME SCOPE AND A SENSE OF SCALE.
      THE QUERY AS A WHOLE HAS A COMPELLING PLOT AND THE MAJORITY ONLY NEEDS A FEW TECHNICAL FIXES. HOWEVER…THE LAST SENTENCE WITH THE STAKES IN DOESN’T DO THE QUERY JUSTICE. SHE ESCAPES OR IS HUNTED DOWN? YOUR CONFLICT SHOULD SEEM LIKE AN IMPOSSIBLE CHOICE. AT THE MOMENT, THE CHOICE SEEMS LIKE ESCAPE SO IT LACKS THE CONFLICT YOU NEED. I’M CERTAIN YOUR BOOK ISN’T THIS WAY, BUT YOUR QUERY ISN’T WORKING HARD ENOUGH. WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW IS WHAT TWO THINGS STAND IN HER WAY? WHAT DOES SHE STAND TO LOSE IF SHE GOES BELOW GROUND (HER DRAGON DISCOVERING HER CRIME AND LOSING HER PAIRED FOREVER – A DREADFUL, UNTHINKABLE THING FOR YOUR MAIN CHARACTER – OR BEING UNABLE TO RETURN TO HER CITY UNDER THE PERIL OF DEATH (WHERE SHE LONGS TO BE – HOME, SAFE AND BACK IN THE LIFE SHE KNOWS). OBVIOUSLY, I’M MAKING SOME ASSUMPTIONS HERE, BUT YOU CAN SEE WHAT I MEAN (I HOPE). SHOW US WHAT SHE HAS TO LOSE FROM EITHER OPTION AND THE READER WILL BE DYING TO FLICK THE PAGES!

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    2. Whoops, got so caught up in editing, I nearly forgot to reply!

      Thank you so, so much for all your amazing advice, my query feels so much sharper to read now! Still having a bit of trouble with that last paragraph, but I know what has to be done so it's only a matter of time, I hope. Thank you again!

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    3. Feel free to re=post your edits here if you want. I'd love a second look!

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    4. Whoops, I'd forgotten to check back in all the PitchWars madness to check back again! *hangs head in shame* Was jsut reading through all the blogs I'd bookmarked and found this again. If you're still interested, here's the latest draft of the query!

      Ava’s on the run for a crime punishable by death — killing a dragon.

      Being an illusionist — a dragon-human halfbreed — she’s never left the protection of the great dragons with their stained-glass wings and jewel-like scales. But guilt eats at her, and the blood won’t leave her hands no matter how hard she scrubs. She spreads her wings and falls from the city in the sky.

      Part of her wants to go back, just get it over with and turn herself in, but one thing keeps her moving. Her own dragon, the master paired with her against either of their wills: Vito. He’s always been different, always an outcast with his dull, brown scales. But it’s gotten worse in the past few years — he’s been unable to return to human form.

      But he doesn’t know about her crime. And if he discovers what she did… She can’t bear to think about what he’d do.

      It should have been easy to hide in the quiet chaos of the ground and forget it all, but dragon-kind aren’t welcome here. The city in the sky controls and delivers water to the ground dwelling cities, corralling them in the otherwise uninhabitable desert. Rebellion stirs and shifts in the desert heat, bringing the discord of sky and earth crashing down around them both.

      Ava is hunted by the dragons who once gave her a home while the people on the ground rise up against her kind. The rebellion wants to have her powers and knowledge on their side. She must choose what — and who — to fight for.

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    5. I was hoping to see your revision on this. Comments, as per usual, in ALL CAPS:

      Ava’s on the run for a crime punishable by death — killing a dragon.

      Being an illusionist — a dragon-human halfbreed — she’s never left the protection of the great dragons with their stained-glass wings and jewel-like scales. But THE guilt OF HER CRIME eats at her, and the blood won’t leave her hands no matter how hard she scrubs. She spreads her wings and falls from the city in the sky.

      I ADORE THE OPENING OF THIS NOW. KNOWING ABOUT HER BEING AN ILLUSIONIST REALLY ADDS A UNIQUE APPEAL HERE. I SUGGESTED A FEW ADDED WORDS FOR CLARITY. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS OPENING.

      Part of her wants to go back, just get it over with and turn herself in, but one thing keeps her moving. Her own dragon, the master paired with her against either of their wills: Vito. He’s always been different, always an outcast with his dull, brown scales. But it’s gotten worse in the past few years — he’s been unable to return to human form.

      A FEW NIGGLY ISSUES HERE “just to get it over with” ISN'T A STRONG ENOUGH MOTIVATION. IT'S A REAL ONE IN REAL LIFE, BUT IN FICTION YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER. ALSO, AFTER “keeps moving” THERE NEEDS TO BE AN EM-DASH AS OPPOSED TO A PERIOD, OTHERWISE YOUR GRAMMAR IS OFF. AND I'D SAY “Her own dragon, Vito, paired...” THE NAME READS MORE NATURALLY THERE, IMO. ALSO, I'D JOIN THE LAST TWO SENTENCES, AS THE FRAGMENTS READ A LITTLE STILTED.


      But he doesn’t know about her crime. And if he discovers what she did… She can’t bear to think about what he’d do.

      JOIN THIS WITH THE ABOVE PARAGRAPHS AND COMBINE YOUR SENTENCES SO THE FRAGMENTS DON'T JAR. I LOVE FRAGMENTS BUT ONLY IN CERTAIN CASES.

      It should have been easy to hide in the quiet chaos of the ground and forget it all, but dragon-kind aren’t welcome here. The city in the sky controls and delivers water to the ground dwelling cities, corralling them in the otherwise uninhabitable desert. Rebellion stirs and shifts in the desert heat, bringing the discord of sky and earth crashing down around them both.

      “It should have been” WOULD BE BETTER AS “It should be” TO KEEP THE TENSE ACTIVE AND THEN CHANGE “here” TO “there” AT THE END OF THE SENTENCE.

      Ava is hunted by the dragons who once gave her a home while the people on the ground rise up against her kind. The rebellion wants to have her powers and knowledge on their side. She must choose what — and who — to fight for.


      WONDERFUL STAKES AT THE END HERE! THIS QUERY IS MUCH IMPROVED – I REALLY LIKE IT. JUST SOME NIGGLY BITS, BUT THAT'S ALL! NICELY DONE!

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    6. Thank you so, so much!!! Your comment seriously made my day, I'm glad that you like this version! :D I'll get right on applying your suggestions. Thank you again!

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  11. This is quite an undertaking for you! Thank you so much for opening these critiques up to all of us Pitch Wars hopefuls. You are welcome to respond to mine publicly.

    Lis Fairchild is excited to meet her sister’s boyfriend, right up until she recognizes him as the random stranger she hooked up with the last time she was home. When Lis tells her sister what happened, she locks herself in her room and refuses to speak to Lis.
    To assuage her guilt, Lis joins The Hallowell Agency, a group of women devoted to exposing cheating husbands and boyfriends. She might have broken her sister’s heart, but at least she can help make sure no other girl has to feel that way.
    She is assigned to investigate Will Stratford, who looks exactly like a young Captain Kirk—on whom Lis has had a crush since her dad introduced her to Star Trek at thirteen. Lis falls hard for Will, but if he responds to her advances… then he’s the kind of guy she can’t fall for.
    Lis is ready to leave the Agency and its deceptions behind, until they take on a new client: Lis’s mom. Lis can’t believe that her geeky dad would get his Kling-on with another woman. It’s up to her to find the truth and keep her family together.

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    1. Oh I am enjoying these so much! Thank you for sharing your work, and I hope you find my comments (in ALL CAPS! Lol) helpful!


      Lis Fairchild is excited to meet her sister’s boyfriend, right up until she recognizes him as the random stranger she hooked up with the last time she was home. When Lis tells her sister what happened, she locks herself in her room and refuses to speak to Lis.

      OH I LOVE THIS! THIS SETS UP YOUR CONFLICT IN A HEARTBEAT AND REALLY SHOWS WHAT TYPE OF BOOK THIS IS. VERY NICE INDEED.

      To assuage her guilt, Lis joins The Hallowell Agency, a group of women devoted to exposing cheating husbands and boyfriends. She might have broken her sister’s heart, but at least she can help make sure no other girl has to feel that way.

      AGAIN, I’M ALL IN HERE. SO FAR, NOTHING I’D CHANGE.

      She is assigned to investigate Will Stratford, who looks exactly like a young Captain Kirk—on whom Lis has had a crush since her dad introduced her to Star Trek at thirteen. Lis falls hard for Will, but if he responds to her advances… then he’s the kind of guy she can’t fall for.

      HMM, THE CAPTAIN KIRK THING THREW ME A LITTLE. THIS IS PURELY A PERSONAL PREFERENCE THING, BUT IF THE STAR TREK THING ISN’T COMPLETELY NECESSARY TO THE STORY, I’D NOT MENTION IT IN THE QUERY. I’D ONLY MENTION IT IF IT’S SOMETHING THAT BOTH OF THESE CHARACTERS (LIS AND WILL) CONNECT OVER. IF IT IS SOMETHING THAT BONDS THEM, THEN I’D KEEP IT. AGAIN, AS I SAID, TOTAL PERSONAL TASTE THERE ON MY PART AS THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS THE WAY IT IS.

      Lis is ready to leave the Agency and its deceptions behind, until they take on a new client: Lis’s mom. Lis can’t believe that her geeky dad would get his Kling-on with another woman. It’s up to her to find the truth and keep her family together.

      AGAIN, A VERY WELL SET UP CONFLICT. I LIKE HOW ONE IS PROPELLED INTO THE OTHER. I’D HAVE GRABBED THIS OUT THE SLUSH PILE AND READ THE PAGES FOR SURE. I DON’T THINK YOU NEED MUCH HELP WITH THIS QUERY AT ALL. IT’S JUST A CASE OF THE RIGHT AGENT AT THE RIGHT TIME!

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    2. Thank you very much! Lis and Will do bond over Star Trek, and it's also something that her family loves--and the title of the novel is BOLDLY GO. I think I'll keep up, but it's good to know that it might throw some people off. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to read and critique my work!

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    3. In that case, totally do it. Just checking it weaves into your storyline. Good luck!

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  12. Hi, Fiona! I'm Lindsey. Thank you so much for doing this! I don't mind if you reply right here. Here goes:

    Nineteen-year-old Absidy Jones is a ghost magnet, a sensitive person spirits flock to when they can’t cross over. After her brutal past escaping the hordes of ghosts vying for her attention, she spends her reclusive existence melting down iron into bite-sized pieces. Whether alloy or wrought, ancient paper clips or nails, consuming iron is the only thing that keeps the ghosts away.

    But when Absidy’s sister goes missing in deep space, a dangerous place brimming with rogue planets, ship-eating nebulas, and vicious aliens, Absidy vows to find her. She comes out of hiding and boards the first ship she can that’s on a direct route to deep space—a haunted ship.

    To keep the malicious ghosts from killing her, the ship’s alluring bad boy pilot gifts her a small bundle of all the iron on the ship. But their growing relationship is tested with the crew’s prying eyes and hidden secrets.

    While the ship sails into deep space, it’s not just her sister’s life that Absidy fears for. It’s her own, as well. Especially since her stash of iron has shrunk to zero.

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    1. Hi Lindsey! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope my comments (in ALL CAPS) are helpful to you!

      Nineteen-year-old Absidy Jones is a ghost magnet, a sensitive person spirits flock to when they can’t cross over. After her brutal past escaping the hordes of ghosts vying for her attention, she spends her reclusive existence melting down iron into bite-sized pieces. Whether alloy or wrought, ancient paper clips or nails, consuming iron is the only thing that keeps the ghosts away.

      OKAY, SO YOU'VE TAKEN ON THE TASK OF A PRETTY SATURATED GENRE (PARANORMAL). THAT DOESN'T MEAN A GREAT STORY WON'T GET PICKED UP (IT CERTAINLY WILL). WHAT IT DOES MEAN IS THE QUERY HAS TO WORK EXTRA HARD TO REALLY GRAB AN AGENT'S ATTENTION (NOT FAIR, I KNOW, BUT AN HONEST REFLECTION OF THE CURRENT MARKET). DON'T BE DISCOURAGED – YOU CAN DO IT! AS FOR THIS PARAGRAPH – I THINK YOU NEED TO CLARIFY WHAT THIS “BRUTAL PAST” IS. WHAT DO THEY TRY AND DO TO HER? WHY DOES SHE TRY TO OUTRUN THEM? REALLY BRING US CLOSE INTO HOW THIS AFFECTS ABSIDY.

      ON ANOTHER NOTE, I LOVE THE BITE-SIZED PIECES OF IRON. THIS IS A VERY UNUSUAL TWIST AND CATCHES MY EYE. DOES SHE KNOW WHY THE IRON KEEPS THEM AWAY? HOW DID SHE FIND THIS OUT? DID SHE SUDDENLY JUST START EATING IRON OR DID SOMEONE TELL HER, OR DID SHE LEARN IT FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE? A TINY BIT (NOT MUCH) OF CLARITY HERE COULD REALLY HELP CEMENT THE LOGIC TOGETHER.


      But when Absidy’s sister goes missing in deep space, a dangerous place brimming with rogue planets, ship-eating nebulas, and vicious aliens, Absidy vows to find her. She comes out of hiding and boards the first ship she can that’s on a direct route to deep space—a haunted ship.

      OOOH! A GENRE MASH-UP – PARANORMAL SCI-FI! THIS QUERY IS GETTING BETTER AND BETTER! LOVE THIS PARAGRAPH AND THAT SHE ENDS UP ON A HAUNTED SHIP! SQUEEEEEEEEEE! (THIS IS MY EXCITED NOISE!).

      To keep the malicious ghosts from killing her, the ship’s alluring bad boy pilot gifts her a small bundle of all the iron on the ship. But their growing relationship is tested with the crew’s prying eyes and hidden secrets.

      THIS FEELS VERY GENERIC. YOU NEED TO GET VERY SPECIFIC IN YOUR QUERY. “PRYING EYES” AND “HIDDEN SECRETS” DOESN'T ACTUALLY TELL US ANYTHING CONCRETE. TELL US WHAT GETS IN THEIR WAY. ALSO, TIE THIS TO HER JOB OF FINDING HER SISTER – BUILD THE STAKES “ To keep the malicious ghosts from killing her before she can find her sister...” FOR EXAMPLE. ALWAYS TIE YOUR QUERY TO YOUR MAIN CONFLICT.

      While the ship sails into deep space, it’s not just her sister’s life that Absidy fears for. It’s her own, as well. Especially since her stash of iron has shrunk to zero.

      OKAY, SO THIS IS A GOOD ENDING TO A QUERY. JUST A LITTLE WORK AND THIS ONE SHOULD BE GOOD TO GO! GOOD LUCK WITH IT!

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  13. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for us! So much fun to read all of these. Below is my blurb for my MG fantasy, LEGEND OF THE SCARECROW.


    Eleven year old Micah Hawthorn sees death omens around every corner. That’s what happens when the stories you were raised on are less like Cinderella and more like the Brothers Grimm. No glass slippers, only ghouls. And the heroes of the stories—scarecrows who come to life—are just as scary as the demons.
    But Micah’s attention to death omens may prove more helpful than he realized, because the stories he was raised on are true. There ARE ghouls and demons, and they want nothing more than to snuff out the Hawthorn family name for good.
    When a wraith abducts his great uncle, Hillary, Micah gets his birthright early. Now he must retrieve his uncle and protect his family—with nothing but a staff and a scarecrow named Worthless.

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    1. This excited me a lot. Let me say that up front. Comments in ALL CAPS.

      Eleven year old Micah Hawthorn sees death omens around every corner. That’s what happens when the stories you were raised on are less like Cinderella and more like the Brothers Grimm. No glass slippers, only ghouls. And the heroes of the stories—scarecrows who come to life—are just as scary as the demons.

      I LOVE THIS. THE SCARECROWS IDEA IS A NICE TWIST. YOU'VE GOT ME SO FAR.


      But Micah’s attention to death omens may prove more helpful than he realized, because the stories he was raised on are true. There ARE ghouls and demons, and they want nothing more than to snuff out the Hawthorn family name for good.

      WHY ARE THEY OUT FOR THE FAMILY? IS THIS A “FAMILY OF GHOUL HUNTERS” NOVEL? I'M GUESSING YES, SO WHAT I'D LIKE TO SEE IS AN INDICATION OF THIS. EVEN BETTER, ARE THEY NOT A GHOUL HUNTING FAMILY? HAVE THEY JUST DONE SOMETHING TO ACCIDENTALLY PISS THESE MONSTERS OFF? WHAT IS THE UNIQUE SPIN ON THIS BIT? THE SCARECROWS ARE UNIQUE BUT IS THE OTHER ELEMENT AS ORIGINAL? I'D LOVE TO KNOW AND I'D LOVE TO SEE IT IN YOUR QUERY.

      When a wraith abducts his great uncle, Hillary, Micah gets his birthright early. Now he must retrieve his uncle and protect his family—with nothing but a staff and a scarecrow named Worthless.

      WHAT'S HIS BIRTHRIGHT? TO SEE OMENS? TO GAIN A SCARECROW? WHY IS IT ONLY MICHA WHO CAN HELP? WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF HIS FAMILY? I LOVE THE SCARECROW NAME!!!!

      There is a lot about this I really adore. I got so excited seeing the scarecrow element and think it is very original. Personally, I'd love this to be less of a chosen one thing (as it's seen a lot in the inboxes). It'd be cool if it was someone who accidentally p*ssed off the ghouls, the ghouls kidnap the uncle in revenge, and the hero teams up with a scarecrow to make things right. However, that is more book based than the actual query (so I'm totally overstepping the line here). Lots to love in this query. I would catch my eye in the inbox; the only thing that would stop me requesting it would be the chosen birthright part, I'm afraid. However, every agent and editor has their own taste on these matters and if the book is as good as this punchy query, you'll go far!

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    2. Thank you so much, Fiona! Your questions are actually things I'm wrangling with right now as far as what to leave/what to revise in this ms. I LOVE to see what parts grab and what parts make you question, ESPECIALLY if the part that makes you question isn't a big part of the book, you know? Easy to shift/cut/etc., and I'm really pushing for that thing that takes this story from good to AMAZING. :) So I really appreciate your thoughts on so much more than just this query blurb. You asked amazing questions about my story at its core. Again, thank you SO MUCH for your time and thoughts! They are so appreciated.

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    3. I think you could have an amazing story on your hands her. It's fresh, original and really packs a punch. I wish I was doing MG! Honestly, I love this a lot. Yes, there's stuff I'd suggest reworking, but your concept is strong and unique and your writing is tight (can see it by the query). I hope you get an amazing mentor! Good, good luck. Now...I need to follow you on Twitter and stalk your success...

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    4. Morning = made. :) And I wish you were doing MG, too! Thank you for the encouragement. It means so much in writing, when you can flip from "This is awesome!" to "This is complete crap" in less than five seconds. Thank you for taking the time to help other writers! We can't do it alone. :) And just in case there is success to stalk, my twitter handle is @ericaivy13

      Have an great rest of the weekend!

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  14. Hi Fiona! Thank you so much for doing this for all of us PitchWars hopefuls! I don't mind if you reply publicly. :) Below is my query:

    Beware the Daimons. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline Bellaire never had reason to believe her mother’s warning until scaly, winged beasts snatched her off to rural Alaska because of a mark on her wrist.

    Locked in their castle, she comes face to face with Scorpio—a Daimon prince and the one that the strange mark binds her to. Together, they must fight a pack of possessed wolves, a loony king, a mysterious eye-gouging killer, and even their own minds.

    If they fail, death isn’t the worst thing waiting for them. No, Evangeline considers being trapped in a portal for eternity and losing their minds to be the top contender for worse place. That is, if you don’t count being tortured by a psychotic killer an option.

    LULLABY OF BEASTS AND ROSES is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST meets PAN’S LABYRINTH. My debut novel is an [projected] 85,000-word YA contemporary fantasy.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for posting! My comments (for the most part) are in ALL CAPS.

      Beware the Daimons. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline Bellaire never had reason to believe her mother’s warning until scaly, winged beasts snatched her off to rural Alaska because of a mark on her wrist.

      NICE OPENING LINES. TIGHT AND CONCISE. I AM WONDERING WHAT IS GOING TO MAKE THIS STAND OUT FROM THE OTHER BOOKS WITH MARKED TEENAGERS BEING TAKEN FOR A PURPOSE OR CHOSEN FOR A QUEST, SO I'LL BE LOOKING TO SEE THAT YOUR QUERY TELLS ME THIS SOON.

      Locked in their castle, she comes face to face with Scorpio—a Daimon prince and the one that the strange mark binds her to. Together, they must fight a pack of possessed wolves, a loony king, a mysterious eye-gouging killer, and even their own minds.

      OKAY, SO THERE IS PLENTY OF ACTION IN THIS QUERY, WHICH IS WONDERFUL FOR THE BOOK, BUT IT'S NOT FOCUSING ON YOUR CORE PLOT. YES ALL THOSE ELEMENTS COME UP IN YOUR BOOK BUT WE NEED TO KNOW WHY THEY ARE DOING THESE ACTIONS AND WHAT THEIR MOTIVATIONS ARE. ARE THEY TRYING TO ESCAPE AND FIGHTING THESE HORRORS AS THEY DO? IF SO, WHY? WHY DOES THE PRINCE HAVE TO DO THIS? IS HE EXILED? A PRISONER ALSO? HAS HE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH EVANGELINE AND AGREES TO GET HER OUT? FOCUS ON THE PERSONAL STORY OF YOUR CHARACTERS AND YOU'LL DRAW YOUR READER IN MORE THAN JUST THE ACTION ELEMENTS.

      If they fail, death isn’t the worst thing waiting for them. No, Evangeline considers being trapped in a portal for eternity and losing their minds to be the top contender for worse place. That is, if you don’t count being tortured by a psychotic killer an option.

      OKAY, SO YOU DO A GOOD JOB OF SHOWING THE STAKES AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF SHE DOESN'T GET OUT. HOWEVER, WHAT I'D LOVE TO SEE IS WHAT THE PORTAL IS ABOUT? IS THAT THE CASTLE? SOMETHING ELSE? WHAT DOES THIS MARK ON HER WRIST MEAN? WHY IS SHE BOUND TO THE PRINCE?

      LULLABY OF BEASTS AND ROSES is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST meets PAN’S LABYRINTH. My debut novel is an [projected] 85,000-word YA contemporary fantasy.

      NICE COMPARISON TITLES HERE; IT GIVES ME A GOOD IDEA OF WHERE YOUR BOOK WOULD PLACE IN THE MARKET. I'M CONCERNED A LITTLE ABOUT THE “PROJECTED” WORD COUNT. YOUR MS SHOULD BE FULLY COMPLETE AND THE WORD COUNT KNOW. HOWEVER, SINCE THIS IS PITCH WARS, I'M GOING TO ASSUME IT'S PROJECTED DUE TO THE POSSIBILITY OF EDITING WITH A MENTOR. ;-)

      Thank you for your time and consideration.

      YOU'VE GOT A GOOD QUERY IN THE MAKING HERE, BUT YOU NEED TO FOCUS LESS ON THE EXTERNAL PLOT ACTION AND MORE ON THE CHARACTER MOTIVATIONS AND HOW THEY CONNECT TO EACH OTHER. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHY THE CHARACTERS ARE DOING WHAT THEY DO (TO A POINT) AND WHY IT MATTERS TO THEM SO MUCH. BEST OF LUCK WITH THIS!

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    2. Thank you so much for your feedback! :) I decided to do an overhaul on the query to something that focuses more on Evangeline's motivations. I don't know if I'm allowed to post another, but I just want to know if this one is better. :)

      Here it is:

      When sixteen-year-old Evangeline is kidnapped, taken to a castle in rural Alaska, and bonded to a Daimon prince, she vows that she will escape from these hideous creatures no matter what. However, Evangeline’s escape attempt goes horribly wrong. The Daimon prince, Scorpio, as her luck would have it saves her from the pack of possessed wolves before they kill her.

      After they return back to the castle, she soon finds herself falling for Scorpio’s compelling fable stories and his magical world she never knew existed, and almost learns to ignore her desire to escape. But Evangeline quickly learns that not everything in the castle is what it seems. People are turning up dead with gouged-out eyes, and when her best friend Mayumi dies, Evangeline wants revenge. Only her revenge leads her right into the killer’s claws. If she has any hope of getting out alive, she will need to become like the blood-thirsty beasts that she despises.

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    3. This looks much better. I'm bonding to your MC more in this. I'd also slip in the stakes about why it's so important she gets home. Not just because she lives and dies...but who is she wanted to get home too? Her beloved little sister? A sick aunt? The best friend who really needs her? Show us a hint of that and it'll really make this shine. You have much more stakes in this, but this might give it a little extra edge.

      Also, at the end...show what turning into a beast will do to her...for example...

      "...Evangeline wants revenge. Only her revenge leads her right into the killer’s claws. If she has any hope of getting out alive, she will need to become like the blood-thirsty beasts that she despises. If she doesn't, she'll lose X, but if she does, she'll lose X."

      Make it a lose-lose situation. It builds conflict. Hope this helps! Great work here!

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    4. Yay! I'm glad the second one works better. :)

      Also thank you so much for the further suggestions on how to make it even stronger. I love the idea of ending with a lose-lose situation. :D

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  15. Hi Fiona - hope your offer is still open and thanks so much doing these critiques. Here is my YA contemporary, WAIT FOR ME:

    The night Kylie walks out to the bridge by the bay, downs a bottle of pills and chases it with vodka, she’s counting on ending her life. But what she doesn’t count on is seeing the future.

    She thought dying would be easier than living because she’d ruined everything. Even though she had the best boyfriend. Except she drove him away so that now he’s hanging out with the empty, pathetic crowd. And she had The. Best. Friend. Because how couldn’t you love the only girl in the world who doesn’t care about clothes? Who reads your lyrics and offers suggestions no matter what time of the day or night you send them. She also had this thing called depression and she couldn’t tell anyone about that. She couldn’t live with the pain, and feeling like she couldn’t breathe―and her head, like it didn’t belong to her anymore. Traitor.

    But now Kylie sees what the future looks like without her in it. The more she sees, the more she finds she very badly wants to live. She’s pretty sure her paramedic dream team aren’t going to be able to save her. Time is running out, the devastating aftermath of her death playing out for as she fights to get back:

    Jack’s being blamed for everything. He’s got reporters and the police on his tail accusing him of sexting, and he’s going to lose his athletic scholarship.

    Loyal Mel, the brainiac, turns into an activist. Trust Mel to make sure all the trash talk isn’t the way Kylie is remembered.

    Mom runs away―as far away as she can get from the grief and guilt tormenting her.

    When she wakes up in the hospital, very much alive, Kylie only knows one thing: she can’t go back to her old life. Except how can she hide and pursue her music career too? Until she finds the road to recovery might just lead her back to her first love and her oldest friend.

    WAIT FOR ME is a YA novel complete at 68,000 words. The story is told through the point of view of Kylie's loved ones as they cope with their anguish and guilt and by Kylie as she fights for her life and recovers.


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    1. Comments in ALL CAPS (and split into two replies as I have a character limit on this blog).

      The night Kylie walks out to the bridge by the bay, downs a bottle of pills and chases it with vodka, she’s counting on ending her life. But what she doesn’t count on is seeing the future.

      GREAT OPENING. THIS GIVES US THE CHARACTER AND THE HINT OF AN UPCOMING CONFLICT. IT GETS ME ASKING “WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NOW? WHAT DID SHE SEE? AND WHAT'S SHE GOING TO DO?” THESE ARE THE RIGHT SORT OF QUESTIONS YOU WANT YOUR QUERY READER TO BE ASKING.

      She thought dying would be easier than living because she’d ruined everything. Even though she had the best boyfriend. Except she drove him away so that now he’s hanging out with the empty, pathetic crowd. And she had The. Best. Friend. Because how couldn’t you love the only girl in the world who doesn’t care about clothes? Who reads your lyrics and offers suggestions no matter what time of the day or night you send them. She also had this thing called depression and she couldn’t tell anyone about that. She couldn’t live with the pain, and feeling like she couldn’t breathe―and her head, like it didn’t belong to her anymore. Traitor.

      I'M AFRAID THOUGH THAT THIS PARAGRAPH NEEDS TO BE TRIMMED BACK AND FOCUSED MORE. IT FEELS A LITTLE RAMBLY AND THAT YOUR FORGETTING TO GIVE YOUR CHARACTER A REDEEMABLE QUALITY (REMEMBER, DEPRESSED SHE MAY BE, BUT YOU NEED TO GIVE THE READER A REASON TO FOLLOW HER). SO, I'D CUT BACK THIS TO TWO SNAPPY SENTENCES (SAYING ABOUT HER RUNNING HER BOYFRIEND OFF AND HOW SHE LOST FOCUS ON HOW MUCH HER FRIEND MEANT TO HER DUE TO HER DEPRESSION, OR SUCH).

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    2. But now Kylie sees what the future looks like without her in it. The more she sees, the more she finds she very badly wants to live. She’s pretty sure her paramedic dream team aren’t going to be able to save her. Time is running out, the devastating aftermath of her death playing out for as she fights to get back:


      Jack’s being blamed for everything. He’s got reporters and the police on his tail accusing him of sexting, and he’s going to lose his athletic scholarship.

      YOU SAY JACK IS “BLAMED FOR EVERYTHING” BUT WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH KYLIE NOT BEING THERE? DO YOU MEAN HE'S BEING BLAMED FOR HER DEATH? IF SO, SAY SO. PAINT THE PICTURE BIG AND CLEAR. IS THE SEXTING TO DO WITH KYLIE? AGAIN, IF SO SAY SO. IF NOT, THEN DOES IT NEED TO BE IN THE QUERY? UNLIKE THE OPENING OF YOUR QUERY, THE LACK OF SPECIFICS AND REASONING IS BRINGING UP THE WRONG KINDS OF QUESTIONS.

      Mel, the brainiac, turns into an activist. Trust Mel to make sure all the trash talk isn’t the way Kylie is remembered.

      Mom runs away―as far away as she can get from the grief and guilt tormenting her.

      YOUR QUERY FEELS LONG, BUT IF YOU TRIM UP THE PARAGRAPH I MENTIONED, THEN IT'LL BE FINE (JUST THOUGHT I'D NOTE THAT).

      When she wakes up in the hospital, very much alive, Kylie only knows one thing: she can’t go back to her old life. Except how can she hide and pursue her music career too? Until she finds the road to recovery might just lead her back to her first love and her oldest friend.

      HMM. THEN QUERY LOSES FOCUS...IS THE MUSIC CAREER THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. THEN MAKE THAT STAND OUT EVEN MORE. OR IS IT HER FRIENDS AND HER EX? BOTH AS IMPORTANT AS EACH OTHER? DOES SHE HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN HAVING ONE AND NOT THE OTHER? I WOULD BE TEMPTED TO TAKE OUT THE BIT ABOUT HER HIDING, AND PERHAPS REPHRASE SOMETHING LIKE “IF SHE'S TO FIGHT FOR HER MUSIC DREAMS, FIRST SHE MUST COME FACE TO FACE WITH HER PAST AND DEAL WITH HER FIRST LOVE AND HER OLDEST FRIEND.” OBVIOUSLY, THAT'S RUSHED PHRASING, BUT DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? SHE NEEDS TO HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE. THE HARDER THE CHOICE, THE HIGHER THE CONFLICT.


      WAIT FOR ME is a YA novel complete at 68,000 words. The story is told through the point of view of Kylie's loved ones as they cope with their anguish and guilt and by Kylie as she fights for her life and recovers.

      AAAAH. SO IT'S NOT KYLIE'S POV AT ALL (THOUGH YOU SAY SHE SEES THE FUTURE, SO WE'D NEED TO BE IN HER HEAD FOR THAT, AS THE OTHER CHARACTER'S WOULDN'T KNOW THAT). THIS MAKES IT TRICKY. VERY TRICKY INDEED. I THINK THEN YOUR ANSWER IS TO BROADEN THE FOCUS OF YOUR QUERY. RATHER THAN FOCUSING TIGHTLY ON KYLIE'S POV (WHICH YOU SAY SHE DOESN'T HAVE IN THE BOOK), BROADEN THE WHOLE THING OUT. BE AN OMNISCIENT NARRATOR OF THIS QUERY.

      OVERALL, I LIKE THE CONCEPT. VERY REMINISCENT OF THE LOVELY BONES. BUT IT'S A TOUGH QUERY TO WRANGLE. I THINK YOU COULD START OFF WITH A BROADER FOCUS ON THIS TO GIVE A MORE ACCURATE IDEA OF THE BOOK.

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    3. thanks so much. Quick question - should I indicate the story is written in multiple POV's in my second paragraph and just get that out there so its clear?

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    4. I think you can work that in. :-)

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  16. I hope you don't mind looking at the revision. Thanks so much for doing this - I wish I'd found you ages ago! I kept the POV info at the end b/c I thought it would break the flow at the beginning.

    The night Kylie walks out to the bridge by the bay, downs a bottle of pills and chases it with vodka, she’s counting on ending her life. But what she doesn’t count on is seeing the future. She thought dying would be easier than living because she’d ruined everything. She couldn’t write her music anymore. She’d driven her boyfriend, Jack, away, and was certain she’d soon be minus one best friend. How could she tell them about this depression thing that turned her into someone even she didn’t know anymore?

    Now she’s dying. Paramedics work to revive her. And Kylie sees the future without her in it. Her body plays this inside-outside game. One moment, she’s there, watching, while the three most important people in her life deal with her death. And in the next, she’s back inside her body and she’s pretty sure her paramedic dream team aren’t going to be able to save her.

    Jack’s being blamed for her death. They’re saying he was involved with sexting and hooking up with phony Ashley. No one will believe Ashley staged those photos when he was passed out at a party.

    Loyal Mel, the brainiac, turns into an activist. She decides she can’t let trash talk be the way her friend is remembered. It’s time to do something
    .
    Kylie’s mom runs away―as far away as she can get from the grief and guilt tormenting her.

    When she wakes up in the hospital, very much alive, Kylie only knows one thing: she can’t go back to her old life. Later, just as she’s on the verge of success with her first recording contract, Kylie finds if she wants to have her music career, first, she’ll have to come to terms with her past, and that the road to recovery means she’ll have to face her first love and oldest friend again.

    WAIT FOR ME is complete at 68,000 words. The story is told through the point of view of Kylie’s loved ones as they cope with their anguish and guilt and by Kylie as she fights for her life and recovers.

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    1. I LOVE this. And your revision has actually helped make the dual POVS at the end feel like a natural extension of the query, so kudos there. Your query comes in at 351 words, so you can get away with the length (ideal is 200-350). If you can tighten sentences here and there, it will help with your concision. But overall I think this looks great. Much clearer plot logic and emotional motivations. Kudos!

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    2. Whew! Thank you so much and what a quick response! I'll work on tightening.

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    3. PS - is it fair to say the book is contemporary YA with elements of magical realism - there's so much out there about mistakes made about classifying as magical realism #soconfusing

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    4. You don't really have magic in it, so I'd put it as contemporary. When in doubt, go for your broadest category. Also, in bookstores, books aren't divided down to sub genres so it's easier for editors to pick the most significant genre you're book falls into it. So I'd go contemporary.

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  17. Oh my. Thank you so much for doing this! I hope this doesn't post twice, but I think Blogger ate my first comment. Either that or security thought I was an alien.


    Adam Shelley’s family peddles hoodoo spells for a living, so crazy house rules like ‘never ditch your evil spirit-repelling mojo-bag,’ come with the territory. At sixteen though, he’s more worried about the bag, which smells like whiskey and stinky feet, driving away his girlfriend than evil.

    When harassment for his family’s ethnicity and beliefs pushes Adam past his breaking point, he throws a punch and accidentally squishes his mojo-bag. Mama’s gonna kill him, but for one night maybe he can make-out with his girlfriend sans mojo-stench. He never imagined his tiny misstep would make him dinner for a gang of rogue Immortals. Pale, clawed, and fanged—the Immortals spill his guts over the oaks like Spanish moss. As he’s dying, Adam’s mama, a disgraced alchemist, sacrifices herself to make him an Immortal using her secret Philosopher’s Stone.

    Now Adam’s forced to live by a new crazy rule. Obey the Immortal Council’s iron will or go to Hell. His first command: surrender Mama’s stone in a measly one-hundred days.

    Adam would, gladly … except the stone’s been missing since his rebirth. Setting out to find the stone that might save his afterlife, his first lead ends with a crackpot chem teacher slicing him open. Turns out Mama didn’t heal Adam with her stone, she stuck it inside him to keep it from the Immortals who killed him. Since the stone’s the only thing keeping him alive, Adam hopes capturing the rogues will appease the Council. And revenge? That’s an added bonus.

    THE BOOK OF ADAM: DESCENT is a 95,000 word YA urban fantasy with series potential. Smallville’s coming-of-age story meets with the Southern Gothic flavor of Beautiful Creatures.

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    1. Hi! Glad to see you manage to post your query! My comments are in ALL CAPS!

      Adam Shelley’s family peddles hoodoo spells for a living, so crazy house rules like ‘never ditch your evil spirit-repelling mojo-bag,’ come with the territory. At sixteen though, he’s more worried about the bag, which smells like whiskey and stinky feet, driving away his girlfriend than evil.

      I LIKE THIS. IT TELLS ME THE MAIN GENRE, THE AGE GROUP, THE CHARACTER AND THE SUBPLOT ALL IN ONE FELL SWOOP. NICELY DONE! I DO THINK YOU CAN TRIM IT JUST A TOUCH. THE WORD “CRAZY” COULD GO, FOR EXAMPLE. AND “EVIL” ALSO, AS BOTH ARE INFERRED ALREADY.

      When harassment for his family’s ethnicity and beliefs pushes Adam past his breaking point, he throws a punch and accidentally squishes his mojo-bag. Mama’s gonna kill him, but for one night maybe he can make-out with his girlfriend sans mojo-stench. He never imagined his tiny misstep would make him dinner for a gang of rogue Immortals. Pale, clawed, and fanged—the Immortals spill his guts over the oaks like Spanish moss. As he’s dying, Adam’s mama, a disgraced alchemist, sacrifices herself to make him an Immortal using her secret Philosopher’s Stone.

      I THINK IT'S GREAT THAT THIS IS AN ACCIDENTAL MESS. TOO OFTEN IT'S THE CHOSEN ONE PLOTLINE, AND THE ACCIDENTAL ELEMENT APPEALS HERE. I THINK “SPILLED HIS GUTS OVER THE OAKS” IS A LITTLE ABSTRACT. I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GOING FOR AND I LOVE THE SPANISH MOSS (VERY GOTHIC!) IS GOEGEOUS IMAGERY, BUT YOU NEED TO BE A LITTLE MORE CLEAR CUT. DOES THE DETAIL OF OAKS MATTER?


      Now Adam’s forced to live by a new crazy rule. Obey the Immortal Council’s iron will or go to Hell. His first command: surrender Mama’s stone in a measly one-hundred days.

      I THINK THE POWER OF THE FIRST SENTENCE WOULD BE BETTER WITHOUT THE WORD “CRAZY” AS IT DILUTES THE POWER.

      Adam would, gladly … except the stone’s been missing since his rebirth. Setting out to find the stone that might save his afterlife, his first lead ends with a crackpot chem teacher slicing him open. Turns out Mama didn’t heal Adam with her stone, she stuck it inside him to keep it from the Immortals who killed him. Since the stone’s the only thing keeping him alive, Adam hopes capturing the rogues will appease the Council. And revenge? That’s an added bonus.

      I THINK YOU GIVE AWAY TOO MUCH OF YOUR PLOT HERE. QUERIES ARE A TASTER OF WHAT'S TO COME. BUT IF YOU GIVE THE DESSERT (THE ENDING) AWAY FOR FREE THEN THERE'S NO NEED TO READ THE BOOK. I'D STOP AT “...SINCE HIS REBIRTH”. AND THEN ADD IN HIS STAKES. “IF HE FINDS IT “X” WILL HAPPEN. IF HE DOESN'T “Y” WILL HAPPEN”. MAKE IT A LOSE LOSE SITUATION. THIS WILL PROPEL YOUR QUERY READER TO FLICK FAST TO THE PAGES.

      THE BOOK OF ADAM: DESCENT is a 95,000 word YA urban fantasy with series potential. Smallville’s coming-of-age story meets with the Southern Gothic flavor of Beautiful Creatures.

      LOVE THE COMPS YOU'VE GOT HERE (AND YAY GOTHIC!).

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  19. Sixteen-year-old Lucas Fuller has a way with bullies. Usually that means being face down in the dirt, too afraid to stand up for himself, but bruises and bloody lips are nothing compared to a broken heart.

    When he's betrayed by the girl he loves, Lucas decides he's had enough of life. Death, though, doesn't offer him the peace he craves. Instead, Lucas winds up in Hell, a city full of wonders, magic, and unimaginable beauty. Too bad for him, his perceived weakness makes him a shol, the lowest caste of the underworld, where rank means everything.

    Caught trying to escape his fate, Lucas gains the attention of one of Hell's ruling council, where he's used as a pawn. Thrust into the arena system to prove a point, not fighting back is no longer an option, and he can no longer contain his bottled up rage.

    Lucas showcases himself as an extraordinary killer of souls, and his low rank only furthers the popularity that follows him on his rise to the top, though there are those who fear his influence poses a risk to their control.

    Feeling their hands are forced, the council offers Lucas something they're sure he can't resist. In an unprecedented reversal of caste law, they offer to make him B'zao, a full-fledged member of the Fallen, a commander in their army, and everything he could have ever hoped for in life or death.

    All they ask for in return is a show of loyalty. He must go back to Earth and kill the girl that despite everything he can't forget, or stop loving.

    If he fails, he could lose it all--even her.

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    1. Okay, so I'm going to do a quick critique of your query and at the end I'll tell you which genre I think it best suits. My comments will be in ALL CAPS.

      Sixteen-year-old Lucas Fuller has a way with bullies. Usually that means being face down in the dirt, too afraid to stand up for himself, but bruises and bloody lips are nothing compared to a broken heart.

      OKAY, SO THIS IS AN INTERESTING HOOK. YOU SET UP YOUR CHARACTER AND HINT AT YOUR CONFLICT. GOOD SO FAR.

      When he's betrayed by the girl he loves, Lucas decides he's had enough of life. Death, though, doesn't offer him the peace he craves. Instead, Lucas winds up in Hell, a city full of wonders, magic, and unimaginable beauty. Too bad for him, his perceived weakness makes him a shol, the lowest caste of the underworld, where rank means everything.

      HOW DOES SHE BETRAY HIM? IF YOU CAN MAKE IT MORE SPECIFIC, IT WILL ADD MORE EMOTIONAL RESONANCE. I LIKE THE SOUND OF THIS TAKE ON HIM GOING TO HELL AND ENDING UP IN THE LOWEST RANKING. A NICE QUERY SO FAR.

      Caught trying to escape his fate, Lucas gains the attention of one of Hell's ruling council, where he's used as a pawn. Thrust into the arena system to prove a point, not fighting back is no longer an option, and he can no longer contain his bottled up rage.

      “used as a pawn” SOUNDS A LITTLE GENERIC. CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC HERE? WHAT IS “the arena system”. REMEMBER, YOUR READER DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THIS IS, SO MAKE SURE YOU CLARIFY. I LOVE HOW YOU SHOW YOUR CHARACTER CHOOSING NOT TO BE PLAYED. NICELY DONE.

      Lucas showcases himself as an extraordinary killer of souls, and his low rank only furthers the popularity that follows him on his rise to the top, though there are those who fear his influence poses a risk to their control.

      THIS IS GOOD, BUT YOU NEED TO CLARIFY HIS BURNING GOAL. IS HE JUST DOING THIS TO SURVIVE HELL, OR DOES HE HAVE A GREATER PLAN IN MIND?

      Feeling their hands are forced, the council offers Lucas something they're sure he can't resist. In an unprecedented reversal of caste law, they offer to make him B'zao, a full-fledged member of the Fallen, a commander in their army, and everything he could have ever hoped for in life or death.

      I THINK YOU NEED TO SHOW THIS NEED FOR POWER FROM LUCAS EARLIER IN THE QUERY SO THAT WE CAN EMPATHIZE WITH HIS DILEMMA MORE. FOR EXAMPLE, YOU CAN ADD IN HE LEARNS TO FIGHT BACK BECAUSE HE'S TIRED OF BEING PUSHED AROUND BY BULLIES.

      All they ask for in return is a show of loyalty. He must go back to Earth and kill the girl that despite everything he can't forget, or stop loving.

      I LOVE THIS PART. AWESOME STAKES HERE! AND I LOVE THAT IT TEMPTS THE READER TO THE PAGES TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS. EXCELLENT. BEST PART OF YOUR QUERY BY FAR.

      If he fails, he could lose it all--even her.

      NOT SURE IF YOU NEED THIS LINE. I THINK IT ENDS BETTER ON THE PREVIOUS ONE.


      OKAY, SO OVERALL THIS IS A STRONG QUERY. IT STARTS GOOD AND ENDS FANTASTICALLY. HOWEVER, THE MIDDLE NEEDS CLARIFICATION AND IT ALSO NEEDS TIGHTENING. TAKE OUT WHATEVER INFORMATION THAT IS NOT 100% CRUCIAL TO THE PLOT.

      YOU HAVE AN INTERESTING PREMISE HERE. I WOULD MARK IT AS FANTASY.

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    2. Thank you so much for your feedback.

      Not sure what more I can do from here, as this is already a sliver of what is a whole-lotta-plot.

      I'll try and clarify the middle more.

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