Thursday, June 6, 2013

Query Revamped

So I got booted in the first round of QueryKombat (dang), BUT the hosts have given us a chance to post our revamped queries for another round of crits. Go to Writer's Outworld if you want to sign up- those who didn't make it into the contest can join too- or if you want to critique some queries.

OR... just stay here and crit mine. Cuz, you know, I need it. Queries kill me.

Title: Sway
Word Count: 92k
Genre: Adult Contemp Romance

When Ava Elliot was nineteen, she broke off her engagement to Eric Wentworth and fled to New York, leaving both fiancé and pretentious family behind. Eight years later, armed with a Master’s degree from Juilliard but no job, she has returned home to the twisted symphony that is her new life: her dad has lost their Hollywood Hills mansion and Eric has gone from struggling musician to successful crooner.

While Ava is trying to start over, Eric is back in LA after a sold-out tour. He doesn’t want to see Ava, but it’s hard to avoid each other when they share the same friends. Despite Eric’s spiteful songs, Ava goes out of her way to prove she’s long over him. It’s okay when he starts dating her sister’s best friend because she’s met someone new, too—Gage, a handsome actor with sweet words and chocolate kisses.

During a trip to Vegas, Ava’s long buried feelings for Eric start to replay like notes from her favorite sonata. Ava is faced with a choice: stay with Gage and finally let go of the past, or risk her heart for a second chance with her first love. That is, if Eric will even forgive her.

Will Ava’s uncertainty sway her to make the wrong choice yet again?
(ps- the big swirly title was because I didn't have a picture and I NEEDED a picture!)


  1. I'm not sure if queries for romance have different rules or not, but it feels like you are trying to throw too much into it. Keep it VERY simple--
    main character, the conflict and choice to be made, what's at stake. The travel log of NY to LA to Vegas kind of clouds the query.

    Perhaps do something like--Ava left her fiance behind (say why) and he's made a successful career out of singing spiteful songs about her. They both have new relationships, but Ava finds herself thinking about Eric more than she should. (Sentence about what choice she has to make and what she has to lose if she makes the wrong one.)

  2. I agree with Charity about there being too much going on. I would probably condense the first two paragraphs into one, and put most of the focus on the choice between Eric and Gage. Also, it would help to highlight why the choice is so difficult for Ava - right now, I'm intrigued because I have a thing for love triangles, but at the same time I don't see why I should care which guy she chooses. Which I think is probably the biggest issue with your query - make it more about the guys. What will Ava lose if she chooses the "wrong" guy?

    That being said, this still makes me want to read your book :)

  3. The first paragraph is back story, which doesn't give the reader a clear picture as to where this book starts.

    I'd show that after eight years away, she returns home to LA with her degree but no job. Her pretentious family has lost everything (give a word or two hinting how)and the struggling musician fiance she'd left eight years ago to pursue her own dreams is now a successful singer.

    That will lead in to the rest of the query. I have a feeling the story doesn't start when she's leaving LA, but rather when she's returning.

    Also, why would he need to forgive her for chasing her own dreams when he was clearly chasing his? And I'd amp up the conflict portion of the Vegas trip: But running into Eric during a no-holds-barred trip to Vegas leaves her questioning her decision to end their relationship years ago...

    That transitions it more. Because you have her leaving him. No emotion attached. Have her in the same circles as him. No emotion attached. Have her with another guy and perfectly happy. And then you have feelings being swirled and the stakes. Lead us into the stakes while building conflict.

    And also while doing this, you are showing what makes your story unique. When we trim our words down too much, it doesn't leave room for those sprinkles of special. :)

  4. I think this is a really strong query. I only have one minor nitpick and that would be to remove the question from the end of the query. I don't think you need it and agents tend to hate seeing questions in queries.

  5. Queries kill me too, so I definitely feel your pain! I think you have a really great query. It's definitely an improvement!

    I agree with tightening the first paragraph a little to lose the backstory feel. And I don't personally think there's too much going on, but if you wanted to, you could lose the "During a trip to Vegas" since her feelings are actually unburied before the trip, right? By losing the trip part, it might lessen the "travel log" in your query.

    And I actually like the question at the end. Yes, I've heard agents hate that but I've also seen quite a few success queries that end in a question. Subjectivity is what makes queries so freaking hard. :)

    A few of the previously mentioned tweaks wouldn't hurt, but like I said, I think it's great!

  6. Now I should say from the outset that I don't read romance. When people say that about my genre it always makes me feel kind of hurt—so try not to feel hurt! I also don't like eating lobster, wearing baseball caps, and Toronto. Reading for fun is all a matter of taste, and mine is possibly different from most everyone else's.

    So take my query as an ignorant person—but why does she leave her fiancé? As a person who has had his heart broken before, I would like to know what she did that for. Did she panic? Did she grow-and-change? Was she just confused and lost? Did she do something wrong? Or, as I'm guessing, did she want to make something more of her life than her family expected? I'd like to know if I'm going to be sympathetic to her. (And is this an area where the genre conventions may assume things I'm not aware of. Perhaps it's an accepted thing to do?)

    "Crooner" is an interesting word. Has he sold out his classical skills to become an easy listening sensation? That's a good conflict that you've almost implied; can you make it more explicit? Does he hate himself a little?

    And what does her family's collapse do to her?

    Again, I don't know the conventions of the romance genre, but there's no reason why you can't appeal to the rest of us as well! I'd like to know how Ava's life goals are driving her, and how coming home to her family throws a wrench into those goals. And then…what's Eric got? Does Gage deserve to be dumped for no good reason?

    I think the back and forth could be quite interesting; might even make me bigenre-curious!