Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pitch Wars Early Bird Critique 13 - Query - YA High Fantasy

If you'd like to read the first 500 words of the manuscript (and its critique) that this query represents, go here.

When I read a query, or query blurb of a story, I'm looking for five major elements communicated crisply, quickly, and clearly:

Who is the book about, where are they (and when, if applicable)? What does the protagonist want? What's the conflict, and who or what is the antagonistic force? And for your final hook, what specific obstacle will potentially stop the protagonist from achieving their goal, and what will happen to them if they fail?

If a query can outline that in under 250 words, it's a winner.  So let's take a look at this query and see how it stacks up:

Dear __:

I noticed on __ that you are interested in a witch manuscript. Therefore, I would like to present [TITLE], which is a YA Paranormal Romance complete at 83,000 words with series potential.

Good opening. If you’re targeting agents based on their MSWL and the like, you’ll have a much better chance of success. 

[TITLE] was handpicked from a slush pile of over 1,200 entrants and mentored by two authors, one of which is New York Times bestselling author Brenda Drake, through a twitter contest called #PitchMadness.

I go back and forth on whether this is the right placement for this. So I’ll just tell you what works about it and what doesn’t, and let you choose:

      - It adds some credibility to the query, as in “other professionals have taken an interest, and you know this manuscript has been critiqued/revised.”

      - It begs the question “If they liked it, why didn’t it get picked up?”

      - Most (not all) agents who give guidelines for how to write a query, state that all commendations, awards, or writing achievements should be at the end, after the blurb. This falls within that category of information.

      - Most queries are written on the “No more than one paragraph before the blurb” , because, in the end, the agent wants to know if the subject of the book appeals to them. So, apart from why you chose to contact them, they don’t want to read details about you/your writing until after they know that.

Having written all this out, my recommendation would be: Put this at the end. Mainly because, it doesn’t matter what awards or interest the ms has had. The agent will request based on whether they like/don’t like the blurb and/or writing. Really, this paragraph is something that will affirm any their natural affinity for your work, but won’t sway any who don’t find it appealing. It won’t create interest, if that makes sense.

Raven Teresi is addicted to the anesthetic only magic can provide. When her power pricks beneath her skin, it’s nearly impossible—almost painful—to repress.

The good news: I recognized your first chapter based on this blurb opening, so that’s a good start.

The bad news: The concept of Magic as an “anesthetic” confused me/I had to re-read and think it through. I’d drop the anesthetic bit because it complicates unnecessarily. Just state that she’s addicted to magic, and use the second sentence to indicate why.

Despite her aunt’s constant warnings about the dangers of magic and how it destroyed her grandmother’s life, Raven uses recklessly and excessively. After her fourth overdose, she wakes to find herself in Runicerie, a rehabilitation center for the magically addicted.

Great conflict. 

Determined to make her stay at Runicerie as brief as possible, Raven attends MAA(Magic Addiction Acceptance) group, participates in garden detail, and follows all the other rehab rules. But, when two bewitching love interests equally try to win her affection—Haydn with his ability to know her thoughts and desires—Derek with his incredibly, seductive capability to share his magic with her—she is forced to choose between the two of them, and ultimately between finally allowing herself to love again and freedom from Runicerie.

Cut the word "equally"- it's implied, and breaks your flow. 

This had me right up until the final conflict—where it feels like the resolution will be…to choose a guy to love? While that’s a real driver for readers like me who adore romance as a main plot line, it didn’t deliver as the end of your blurb. I guess I didn’t feel like there was enough at stake?

I don’t know if the addictive quality of magic and the second guy’s “seductive sharing” will factor in your story this way, but I would have posed that whole final decision as more along the lines of what the two guys represent. It sounds like she has the chance to give in to the addiction, and the love of a guy that would feed it, or a guy who shows her the best of herself (and loves the worst of her), when she might have to battle with her addiction for the rest of her life.

If that’s actually how it comes together, use that. While the personal growth of a character is immensely satisfying as we follow them through it in a book. It doesn’t land as the WHAT WILL HAPPEN? conflict of a query.

Create a choice, and tell the reader what the stakes are if she makes the wrong decision: “Haydn offers X, Derek offers Y. But Raven will have THIS CONSEQUENCE if she makes the wrong decision.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.



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