Saturday, April 19, 2014

A-Z Challenge: Q is for QUERIES

Duh. I'm a writer. How could I not pick queries for Q day?!

Soon I will enter the query trenches yet again. Querying is hard. Writing queries is hard. Being in the query trenches is hard. Getting rejections on queries is hard. It's the truth. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.*

But you know what? This won't be my first time, so it's actually not that bad. Maybe it's like having a baby. Like how you forget all about how painful the whole thing was so you get pregnant again because all you care about is the end result. I remember how crappy querying can be, and yet, it's the end result that matters. I believe in my writing. I believe that someday I will get it out there. And the way to do that? Queries.

So, I hesitate to put this here because right now it's a big 'ole mess. But here's my first draft of the query I'll be sending out soon, once it (hopefully) doesn't suck and the MS is ready. It's YA Urban Fantasy.

Eponine Thorpe doesn’t care about high school, her alcoholic parents and their petty crime sprees, or even her User abilities. All she cares about is her best friend Mark. He’s the only one who can keep the rot from her soul, the only reason she Uses her magic at all.
When Cassie Vandenberg moves to town, Poni thinks nothing could be worse than a girl who’s going to take Mark away from her. Then Poni’s parents ask for her help on a job. Upset over Mark and Cassie’s new relationship, she agrees to help even though she swore she would never go back to that life. When the mark turns out to be Cassie, Poni knows she’s made a big mistake.
Now her parents are hell bent on revenge for screwing with their plans and Mark will never forgive her when he finds out the truth. Determined to keep herself and Mark safe, and hoping to win him back somehow, Poni searches out the truth about her parents and their connection to the Vandenberg’s. But Poni uncovers deeper secrets than she ever thought possible. Secrets about the Vandenberg’s, about her parents, and about the User society she was born into. Poni must decide whether saving herself is worth more than Mark’s love, or whether saving Mark is worth becoming the person she always tried to hide from him.
So. On a scale of 1-10, how bad does it suck? Any advice or critique?
*Bonus points if you know what movie that's from

And my Q songs for the day (that's right, I got two!):
Quando Me'n Vo' sung by Anna Netrebko from La Boheme by Puccini
Quidditch World Cup by Patrick Doyle from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire



  1. It doesn't suck. :) In fact, it looks like a good book. Some suggestions, for tweaking purposes. . .

    Maybe describe what kind of magic she has? Nothing detailed, but maybe one or two words that would give us an idea? Also, capitalizing the word "Uses" threw me off.

    I wouldn't use the word "mark" in the second paragraph. I know what you mean, but make it clearer. Target, maybe. Victim?

    Who do her parents want revenge on? Her?

    I love the idea of the last line, but it needs tweaking. It is a little awkward.

    I refuse to rate this because I've had HORRIBLE query critiquing experiences. You are doing a great job!


  2. I'm hesitant to give advice since I've yet to land an agent with a query. But, I've read the entire Query Shark archive, so that qualifies me, doesn't it? :) Most importantly, you asked, so please take my comments for what they're worth. I offer them in humility, acknowledging that I'm in the same query trenches you are, often making lots of mistakes. :)

    1) Assume an agent will not re-read your query, so the MC, the premise, and the stakes have to be crystal clear at first blush. If there's anything that could be misunderstood, change it. I agree with Beth about capitalizing Uses--I didn't get it at first. Also, I didn't get that Poni's parents' "petty crime sprees" involved some kind of "hit" on people. I, too, was confused by the use of the term "mark." To me, a "petty crime" is something like shoplifting--not persecuting a particular individual in some way. I assume the "job" they want to do is fairly serious--why else would they involve Poni? If I'm completely confused, then there's a chance an agent might be confused too. But they won't ask. I might even question using "Poni" in the query, but the fact it took me a moment to realize this is Eponine's nickname may just be because I'm slow. :)

    2) Your query is 228 words long (according to Word), which is a good length--especially after you've added all the "EPONINE is a YA novel. Readers of Awesome Novel and Totally Awesome Novel will love this. I'm a really talented writer and signing me will make your career" tag at the end. :) Whatever changes you make to the query now, be sure you don't go any longer.

    3) When I write queries, I try to imagine a worst-case scenario. Ms. Agent is harried. She got up late, and is trying to catch up on queries on her cell phone in the back of a cab while applying make-up. Her mind is filled with client calls she needs to make, that editor lunch, the piles of contracts she needs to review. She's hoping something from the slush will give her 10 seconds of ecstasy--pull her out of the moment and remind her why she loves her job. I think if you aim for that, you'll get requests. :)

    So, I'd give your current query a 7, because I think you have all the right elements. You have an MC (and you don't overload us with characters), you have a premise, and you have conflict. What I think you need to do is go back over the query and make sure the premise and conflict are transparently clear on the first reading. And if you can do that in the voice of the novel, all the better.

    Not much to ask, is it? Failing that, see my A-to-Z post for today for an alternative plan... ;)

    All the best to you, Melanie. :D

  3. I'm going to share what I learned for writing my first query. I read Noah Lukeman's book How to Write a Query. It worked. I didn't land an agent but a publisher. The minute I changed my query to 3 short paragraphs, I got a hit. First paragraph is the book details, second paragraph is one to three sentences synopsis (!!) and the third is your bio. He says agents/publishers read so many queries, the shorter the better. He also stated to never use any names when writing the 3 line synopsis (!!). I add the exclamation points because I had to completely rework my query, taking out all names and condensing my novel into 3 small sentences.. He used to have this e-book for free on his website:) I wish you all the best in your quest for the perfect query!! (I almost did "query" for today's post;)

  4. Thanks you three for your advice!!! I need all the query help I can get! :D

  5. Ah, queries. Yes, I can relate to this.

    As for yours, I might tweak the first paragraph like so:

    Eponine Thorpe doesn’t care about high school, her alcoholic parents, their petty crime sprees, or even her User abilities. All she cares about is her best friend Mark. He’s the only one who can keep the rot from her soul, the only reason she Uses her magic at all.

    Sounds interesting!
    but that's just me...

  6. first, i like how you think with previews and organization!

    now let's talk about your query - it sounds like a solid story, a YA paranormal or urban fantasy. love the nickname Poni, great opening paragraph, good intro of the rival girl. then it gets a little confusing - Poni's parents are magical alcoholic hitmen? i'm surprised she's upset that her rival is the mark (btw, Mark and mark is something i had to read twice and agents don't like to re-read, might want to rephrase?) and who screwed with whose parents' plans? the last paragraph is a little confusing, too, with two sets of parents and two she's. last sentence is great! i would just clear up who's who and maybe mention the "User Society" a little sooner.

    i know how hard writing queries is. it's always good to get the perspective of someone who doesn't know the story - you know what's going on, but telling a new reader the best points of the story without giving things away is brutal work!
    great job!

  7. I think it also sounds like a great book, but I agree too long. I just went to writers conference & agents said what they like. One thing was, make it so it fits on their page without having to scroll down. So, by the time you add your short bio, they would have scroll. I agree with the Jennifer Hawkes comments. Good luck!