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.

||||||||||QUERY CRIT|||||||||||||||

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.

|||||||||||||MY REWRITE||||||||||||||||

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.)

||||||||||FINAL THOUGHTS||||||||||||

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!


  1. Am SOOOOO giving your mine when I'm done with it.

  2. Thank you so much, Michelle! And don't worry, you weren't too harsh. The questions you posed throughout will help me write a more specific query. I'm always worried about adding too much detail and turns out I added too little. Thanks again for your time!

    1. Yay! I'm so glad it helped. Good luck on your querying, I'm crossing my fingers for you!

  3. You are Captain Hook! Your query crits rule. <3