Sunday, June 17, 2012

Punch My Query - June 17th, 2012

HELLO! Many apologies for this delayed Punch My Query - sickness SUCKS. I’m back now though, so let’s get to Punching. Today’s query comes from Crystal and Erin ( @SnowmenWrite on twitter). Thank you for volunteering your query!

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537 BC

Aphrodite abducts Eros’ love forcing him to flee Mount Olympus.


Mariposa collides with a boy at a party who stares at her like he has seen a ghost.

(Okay, let’s start off with the good; this is a very unique opening. It should be formatted a little differently to stay more in a query-like mold, but overall it’s an abrupt but interesting way to draw attention!)

As their fates are woven together the hope in Eros’ heart is restored. (This is a little too vague here; whose ‘fates’? You have to be specific and mention the ‘who’ in the same sentence.) But Aphrodite’s jealous nature leads her to interfere once more (When did she ever interfere before? You‘re alluding to something that‘s never happened. I know mythology a bit, so I know she‘s pretty jealous, but the query has to read as if it makes sense to someone who has no idea of Greek mythology. You ensure maximum understanding and won‘t exclude an agent who may not know Greek mythos well), setting Mariposa up to betray him (how? Does Aphro make her kiss another boy? We need specifics). Now broken, (I think betrayed is the better word, here) Eros escapes back to Mount Olympus leaving Mariposa defenseless in the hands of Aphrodite.

(Wait - what happened to Aphro abducting Eros’ love in the first sentence of the query? Did Aphro send the girl down to earth? Reincarnated her and wiped her memories? Include that.)

To fight for a chance to get Eros back, Mariposa sets out to prove her worth by enduring excruciating tasks. (Who sets her on these tasks? Why does she want to get Eros back? You haven’t established that she loves him or that he loves her - I’m just not feeling their connection through your choice of words.) But when she is sent to the underworld (by who? Why? Did she do something bad?) her chances of survival are lost in the mouths (jaws maybe? Has more impact) of the three-headed hound that guard its gates (you can shorten this sentence, a lot of people know Cerberus). Eros must find a way to look past his shattered heart and find her before her fragile human life is eternally lost. (So who exactly is the hero? Do we follow the journey of Mariposa or Eros? This last sentence muddles things more than defines them.)

BROKEN EROS (cute play on words!) is our debut young adult mythological retelling (you need a genre here. Young Adult is not enough. Is it Fantasy? From what I’m getting, it’s paranormal romance, but since that term is so overused, you could go with Fantasy) completed at 79,000 words.

Overall, this is an above-average query. The sense of the stakes is woven throughout the book, if only because the stakes are romantic (ie, losing a love one, winning a loved one back, etc). I don’t get a strong sense of the characters or their love. It seems their love is supposed to be strong simply because they were *sparkles* meant to be *sparkles*. This is a common mistake in a lot of queries and easily fixed with a strong, voice-y sentence that tells of their dastardly mutual attraction.

The voice of the query is very stiff and formal, almost to the point of choking the story, but in this case I think it sort of works - this is a story about Greek gods of old, and old language was formal. If nothing else, this query gives a strong sense of the voice of the overall book, and that’s something you always want to strive for.

Let’s try to rewrite it in a different way, shall we?

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537 BC - Aphrodite abducts Eros’ love, and he flees Mount Olympus. Thursday - Sixteen-year-old Mariposa collides with a boy at a party who stares at her like he’s seen a ghost.

(Put whichever age she is, I substituted sixteen. I feel it flows better as one sentence, and the italics help contrast what the original query left to a whole line of space.)

Now reunited, Mariposa and Eros find comfort in each other, and their love becomes stronger than ever. In jealousy, Aphrodite pulls the two apart by tricking Mariposa into betraying Eros. Eros, heart wounded, flees to Mount Olympus.

Determined to win him back, Mariposa descends into the Underworld with a guarantee from Aphrodite that if she survives the trials within, the Goddess of Love will admit her trickery to Eros. Winning Eros back may kill Mariposa, but her life without him is already like death.

BROKEN EROS is a completed 79,000 word YA/Fantasy retelling of the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros. (Do mention the specific myth you are retelling, please.)

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Since I haven’t read the story, the query was a bit hard to put together. Overall I would detail more about the ‘trials’ Mariposa has to go through, and I would spend more time trying to elaborate on their chemistry. A perfect sentence that encompasses their attraction to each other can go a long way, and make both characters likeable. You also need to tie in how Mariposa ended up on earth after her abduction, and why her memory was (presumably) wiped (It needs to be spelled out clearly.)

Hopefully that was helpful! Thank you again, Crystal and Erin, and here’s wishing you the best of luck in your querying adventure!

Stay tuned next week for another Punch My Query!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Punch My Query - June 8th, 2012

Welcome to the second Punch My Query! Today, the lovely Nikki  (@NikkiUrang on twitter) has volunteered her query for us! Thank you Nikki. My thoughts will be in purple text, as usual.

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Sixteen year old telekinetic Emma Jackson is trying desperately to control her new ability. (This is a very decent hook! But I feel like there could be more of Emma’s character injected in this sentence.) When her emotions become too strong, objects around her explode. (Again, nice detail, but more voice! More uniqueness!) If she doesn’t get a handle on her ability soon, she might accidentally kill someone. Like her boyfriend. (Awesome. This is the hook - that she might kill someone at anytime.)

Emma and her cousins form the Scarlet Order, a group of four girls chosen to protect an ancient power. (Okay, this is a little abrupt. You go from Emma to suddenly four other girls, and they’ve formed an order? Why? How? What is this ancient power? That ancient power bit is especially too vague to grab an agent’s attention. How the heck did they get chosen? Divine will, I’m guessing. But I shouldn't be guessing. If I'm guessing, the agent is guessing too.) An energy so strong that the Fallen will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means killing all four girls. (I assume this was meant to be in the last sentence. Connect it with a hyphen or comma) And (Starting a sentence with ‘and’ can be voicey, but I’m afraid in this instance it doesn’t work) if the Fallen (Who? Who the heck are the Fallen? Again, you’re jumping around a bit here) get their hands on the power, there is nothing left to stop them from manipulating the energy around them (Um, what energy around them? From the ‘ancient power’? Is the ancient power everywhere? The Scarlet Order must have a hard time protecting it if it’s everywhere), enslaving mankind, and absorbing energy from humans to make them stronger. (This is book logic and really doesn’t need to be in the query - leave the explanations for the story.) Because (again, starting sentences with an ‘and’ or ‘because’ might seem voicey, but it’s not working in this case) if the Fallen don’t absorb from humans, they become human themselves. (Okay, so the Fallen aren‘t human. What are they? We need to know what they are right away, and much more clearly than you‘ve let on here. At this point, I’m really confused and feeling lost. What happened to her boyfriend? Getting control of her powers?)

But Emma’s loyalty to The Scarlet Order is shattered when she discovers her family’s darkest secrets, that she is part Fallen and the father she thought was dead lives right across town. (Okay, these are two huge things that distract from the plot. You have not established that Emma has loyalty to the Scarlet Order at all in the paragraph before this. I don’t get a sense that she likes or even wants to be in the order - you didn’t give us any reasons why she joined/started it. I’m just not believing your character’s motives at all, because you haven’t spelled them out - don’t make the agent guess at motives, it’s an instant turn-off.) When Emma’s boyfriend reveals his own secret, that he’s also part of the Fallen, her perfect world crumbles. (Why? What perfect world? Her world was perfect when she was guarding an apocalyptic power from evil? Her world was perfect when she figured out she could blow people up? She wasn’t devastated at all by those things, either? Her world falls apart JUST because her boyfriend says he’s an evil dude in comparison to her duties/powers just seems unbelievable.)

Now Emma is faced with a choice: stay with the Scarlet Order and fight for everything she’s supposed to believe in (What is she supposed to believe in? Have the Order really laid down concrete rules? Why would they?) or trust the Fallen and fight against the people she’s not sure she hates despite their lies. (Way too confusing. She’s not sure she hates them despite their lies? What lies? Why does she hate these Fallen again? Totally confusing sentence.) Confused about which side to choose (why does she have to choose? Does someone force her to? Does she feel she needs to? And why? Again, motives need to be clear), she must follow her instincts if she is going to survive. (What? Why? Is she going to die if she doesn’t choose a side immediately? If so, say that.) But Emma isn’t prepared for her instincts to push her toward the Fallen, the father she never knew, and the boy she’s always loved. (You’ve presented the stakes at the end, which is good, but the stakes are so weak they don’t compel me to read more. Who cares if she chooses the Fallen side? What are the ramifications of choosing that side? Why is it so bad to choose that side? What will happen if she does? End with strong stakes and a question, not a statement.)

THE SCARLET ORDER, a YA Urban Fantasy novel, is complete at 65,000 words.

Overall, this was a very vague query. I felt lost constantly and could not get my bearings as the query jumped from point to point without linking them together. It had little to no voice, and by the end of it I didn’t want to read any more. I’m not saying this a bad query, it certainly tried very hard, but an agent would not request much off this query. If they do, that’s great! Nevermind me.

Let’s try to rewrite the query with what we have.

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For sixteen-year-old Emma, getting mad means things around her go boom.

(This is your hook. Telekinetic powers have been overdone, which is why I don’t mention them in the first sentence.)

Emma’s telekinetic powers rampage when her temper flares, and to tame them she joins a group started by her likewise gifted cousins called the Scarlet Order. Together, they keep a powerful concentration of energy safe from evil scumbags called the Fallen. The Fallen want to use it to make themselves gods. (This is all the relevant information packed into a few sentences instead of spread out over two paragraphs. Since your information on the Fallen was very vague, I tried to construct some kind of stakes and left most of the technicalities of the Fallen (the human energy sucking, which still wasn’t very clear) to the book.)

But the Fallen are close. Too close. Emma’s boyfriend is one. Her father is one. Her choice to remain faithful to the Scarlet Order or defect to the Fallen will change the world for good - pitch it into a darkness ruled by the Fallen with humans as their slaves, or keep the world in mundane, tranquil light.

(I’m sorry about the vague ending, but the stakes you presented were just not high enough. I couldn’t do much other than end with the generic light/dark, girl chooses to save/destroy the world.)

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Overall, I did what I could with this query. The stakes are simply not high enough to constitute a truly good punch, and for that I apologize. Thank you, Nikki, for being a great sport, and I hope this query crit has helped in some way!

Feel free to let me know if you feel I was too harsh.

Stay tuned next week for our next Punch My Query!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Punch My Query - June 1st, 2012

(Note: That is not actually me or anyone I know. Thanks google!)

Welcome, one and all, to the first ever Punch My Query! Today, the lovely Amanda  (@AmandaBurckhard on twitter) has volunteered her query for us! Thank you Amanda. Let's jump right to it, shall we? My thoughts will be in purple!

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To Alita, senior year means high school graduation and Princeton here I come! (This is a good first sentence - but the change in tense with the ‘I’ is jarring. Cute, but jarring.) That is, until she accidentally unleashes the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (Okay! You’ve got my interest!)

When she suddenly develops weird empathic, telekinetic, and clairvoyant abilities on her eighteenth birthday, the powerful combination draws a sadistic cloaked man who stalks and kidnaps her. (There are too many vague things here. ‘Suddenly develops’, ‘weird’, and the telekinetic/clairvoyant description doesn’t really tell me what she can DO. Reading minds? Levitating? You might want to list specifics just to give us an idea.) But the mysterious Alexareus (who? We need to know who this guy is from the get-go.) frees her from the man’s clutches and tries to teach her to control the stupid (A nice bit of voice with this word, but maybe you could use something more powerful.) powers that will be the death of her perfect GPA (is that really all she‘s worrying about? With this sentence, you paint her as a girl who only cares about her grades, not the way the powers affect her relationships with family, her sense of self worth, and her identity.). She falls for him. Hard. Harder than smacking the sidewalk after a ten story fall. (This is an unnecessary sentence, but I can understand the need to draw a metaphor. Metaphors mostly waste space in a query unless they are REALLY original and breathtaking, which this is not.)

But happiness (Happiness? What happiness? There was happiness? Falling hard for a boy is happiness even when you’re confronted with huge power and responsibility and learning to control them? Hm.) is short lived with a power mongering psycho (who exactly is this psycho? What happened to the other psycho in the previous paragraph? Are they the one and same?) after her. The cloaked sadist returns (Ah, see, there. Use this first. Don’t confuse your reader with that previous psycho reference.) and despite her wariness (wariness is not a strong enough word, and every time you talk about how your MC feels, you need to write it in her style, voice, tone), he manipulates (how? Need specifics that make us empathetic toward your MC and hate this antagonist more) her lack of control and releases the Four Horsemen. (I feel like this should be the beginning of the story. The Four Horsemen are what drew me in and what makes her special. Telepathic powers are overdone, but the Four Horsemen aspect has only been done a few times.) Rioting ensues (how? Does her town go crazy? Are they mad? How do they know about the Horsemen if they’re rioting? Or are they rioting because the Horsemen are manipulating them to riot?), diseases ravage livestock, and murder rates skyrocket (where? In her town or the country or the world? Again, more specifics.). As the world dissolves around her (dissolves is not strong enough, you need punch here), she discovers the horrible origin of her powers: she’s the product of a wager between God and Lucifer. (This threw me for a loop. You never mentioned Lucifer. The Four Horsemen aren’t strictly in league with Lucifer - they’re simple the heralds of the end. However, if you’re using this as the reason for her powers, it’s your choice. My job is to crit the query, not the story.) She’s a pawn in their bet (how? Does she have to do something to win the bet? Who’s pawn is she; god or the devil?), and the winner (How does one win?) receives dominion over the souls of Earth.

Now she's the only one who can tip the scale of celestial rule (why is she the only one?) and force the riders back into their eternal prisons (Ah, that‘s why. Try to move this part up). Except that means sacrificing Alexareus. The riders have him, and they vow that if they have to go, so does her love. (This is a great ending. You've stated the stakes. Always end with a problem - something that needs to be solved.)

THE UNLEASHING, complete at 75,000 words, is a YA paranormal suspense sprinkled (do you want to say sprinkled, or maybe a more punchy word? Woven? Layered? Laced?) with steamy romance.

All in all, this is a decent query. I feel most of the confusing aspects are due to the story, and not the query itself. Let’s try and rewrite it with what we have here.

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High school senior Alita sees herself at Princeton; taking tests, meeting boys, not developing psychic powers, not crushing on a boy who saves her from a psycho who wants said powers, and definitely not unleashing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

(Your first sentence needs to tell the agent who your MC is, and what your hook is. Blending these two can be tricky, but that’s exactly what you need to do in the first sentence. Make us like/relate to your character’s tone, and then tell us what the hook is. The most unique aspect. In this case, it’s our MC awakening the Four Horsemen. Again, there are so many elements in this book and some I don’t know since I didn’t read the book, and since we can’t change that, we’re going to work with the elements that make it stand out.)

The telekinetic abilities she’s developed on her eighteenth birthday aren’t just going to ruin her Princeton dreams - they’ve earned her a stalker who wants her powers, baited her, and used her lack of control over them to unleash the Four Horsemen. Murders, disease, and insanity ravages her town. But it’s not all doom and gloom - a dreamy boy named Alexareus tries to teach her to control her powers.

(Here we’ve outlined the consequences of the first paragraph - we’ve fleshed out things a bit. Not too much, not too little. Keep in mind you always need to weave how the story affects your MC. In this case, we kept the Princeton aspect in the forefront.)

But she can fix it all. She can send the Horsemen back to whatever stinking hellhole they came from. All it takes is sacrificing Alexareus.

The Horsemen will take her love with them.

(I didn’t elaborate on the god/devil bit, simply to keep the query punchy. In fact, you don't need to know about god/the devil at all in the query. Leave the logistics for the story. Again, ending with a question/the stakes is always good.)

THE UNLEASHING, complete at 75,000 words, is a YA paranormal suspense laced with a heaping helping of steamy romance.

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Overall, this was a great first query to start with - it shows many of the mistakes a beginning querier might make. Thank you Amanda for being a great sport, and I hope you've all learned something about making your queries punchier!

Also feel free to yell at me if you thought I was too harsh.

See you next Friday with another Punch My Query! If you wish to enter your query, please see this post for details.

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