Monday, May 8, 2017

Pitch Wars Early Bird Mentor Critique 5 - Query - Adult Romance

When I read a query, or query blurb, 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? What's at stake--and for your final hook, what specific obstacle will potentially stop the protagonist from achieving their goal?
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 Agent:
When Daphne Haddox discovers she is pregnant, she wonders how a 24 year-old, unwed barmaid from England in 1497 can hope to provide for her child.

Great set up, but I think there’s a way to phrase that so it’s not such a run-on sentence. Consider breaking it into two, tell us Daphne Haddox is pregnant. Then give us an emotive setting. I.e. “Daphne Haddox despairs when she discovers she’s pregnant. She knows it’s impossible for 24 year old, unwed barmaid to provide for a child in 1497. (That’s not a great example—you could definitely finesse it better. But I wanted to show you what I meant).

So when a mysterious bottle with the promise of a better life for her and her baby appears on her dresser one night, she drinks the potion out of desperation. She wakes to find herself at the Crossroads Home for Pregnant Women in 2014 in Austin, Texas, where she and other girls like herself can have their babies, put them up for adoption, and return to their time with no memory of it all.

EXCELLENT HOOK. My entire reader-brain just perked up to listen.

Things are going “normally,” until she meets Alan Everett, a shy computer programmer who gives her a glimpse at what a future with real love could look like. Now Daphne realizes she is about to lose everything – her precious baby, a chance at true love, and the memory that she ever had any of it – unless she can find a way to stay…

If this was a blurb on my kindle I’d download the sample. If it delivers, I’d buy it.

(Technical note, even though it works, there’s a lot of passive writing: “Things are going normally”, “programmer who gives her,” etc. Change to: “Things go “normally,” until she meets Alan Everett, a shy computer programmer who offers a glimpse of a future with real love. Daphne is about to lose everything – her precious baby, a chance at true love, and the memory of all of it – unless she can find a way to stay.”

Do you see the difference?)

[TITLE] is a Women’s Fiction novel complete at 75,000 words and ready for your consideration.

Your wordcount gives me pause—this is at least partially a historic setting, so there’s more world and character building required than a contemporary romance. I’m not sure you can deliver the fullness of this story in that wordcount, but as a mentor I’d request pages to see how it goes.

Several of my devotionals have been published in Devo’Zine, a devotional lifestyle magazine for teens. I am currently a member of the Pikes Peak Writers. I have a Bachelors in Communications Studies, Human Relations from the University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Excellent conclusion! I’m hooked.


You’ve delivered on the setting, character, hook, conflict, and stakes. Well done!

It isn’t flawless, but the mistakes are small enough that I want to keep reading, and your concept is right up my alley. I’m definitely intrigued (which makes me disappointed I’m not mentoring adult novels in Pitch Wars).

The passive writing would make me note to check the manuscript for the same. It slows the pacing—and when your wordcount is low to begin, that makes me wonder if the story has the depth it needs to truly deliver. But without a doubt I’d request pages to see how it comes together in the actual writing.

Check your manuscript for the passive phrasing, and if there’s a lot of it, consider that you might need to flesh out your characters/plot a little more to deliver on all of this. In that single paragraph which was 63 words for you, I could cut it to 51 without losing a single plot or character development. Over the course of a 70,000 word manuscript, if that holds true, you’re down nearly another 5,000 words. I’d definitely be concerned that this story couldn’t be fully developed in 65,000 words. But, I could be wrong. I’d read it to find out. And if the writing was really solid and it just needed some additional scenes or character development, I’d be all over it.

Good luck. It seems like at the worst, you’ve got a really solid concept and skeleton manuscript. At best, you’re sitting on a great novel!

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