Thursday, April 17, 2008

Query Critique - Work with me, people!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.... at least that’s my excuse...

Hi everyone, sorry for the long hiatus from the bloggy realm. Besides getting sidetracked with things like scrabulous and some other interesting time sucks around the internet, I’ve been catching up with friends and getting in some reading... I’m also planning my son’s upcoming Communion and softball and baseball seasons have officially started, so life is getting very full. In my writing time, I’ve been fine tuning my queries and really digging in and narrowing down my agent lists... As I said in a previous post, I’m not going to discuss much more of the submission process on that ms, unless there’s news, but a commenter on my last post gave me an idea:

She asked if I would crit her query letter, which is very flattering and I’d be glad to, but with the caveat that I’m obviously not an expert.... So instead of just exchanging emails and critting for her, I thought I’d open up this post for a pitch / query crit. I know a lot of my regular readers are doing really well with their writing momentum (if you’re all still around after my lengthy absences of late). Many of you guys are farther ahead in your careers than I am, and I know I got a ton of great feedback from pitch crits I participated in and JJdebenedictis’ blog and others....

So here are the rules: If you’d like to play, you can post your pitch or full query in the comments section. I’ll go through the pitches and give my feedback in my next post and the comments section will be open to participation and feedback from all of the writers reading along. Your comments will be censored by me (and remember I’m brutal)... I’ll allow anything and everything constructive in criticism, because I think it’s important to hear... I will not allow anything demeaning or derogatory – I’ve never had a problem with that on this blog as you guys are all fabulous, but I thought I’d mention it in case we get someone new around these parts who’s a knucklehead.

If you’re not done with your novel, this still might be a good exercise as it will help narrow down your pitch for when you’re ready. I worked on mine months before I was finished with revisions, and it’s been a great load off my mind to have a polished pitch so that I can really concentrate on my agent research, narrowing my opening paragraph and tailoring it specifically for that agent, and following their specific guidelines... If you already have representation, feel free to leave links to your own pitch (so other writers can see what’s worked for you) or to post in comments.

And away we go......


Travis Erwin said...

This is about a week or three too early for me and my current WIP but I might whip up something tomorrow, just to get a reaction.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Travis,

That would be great! Like I said in the post, I put mine together way before I was finished with the novel - actually, I first wrote it for bookends' pitch crit, and then revised on JJ's blog... then I worked some more with it for Moonrat's book cover contest (my pitch is what I used for her back cover copy portion of the contest).

I look forward to reading it - is this for Plundered Booty?

Gina said...

Excellent! Glad I asked. I'll be posting mine soon. Hopefully you won't be tired of reading queries by then.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Gina,

I'm glad you asked - working on critiques are actually a lot of fun for me because I always learn something and there's usually a great exchange between the writers on the blogs I've critted on... Nathan Bransford did a post yesterday about query letters that I just noticed, so I dropped a link here in case anyone wanted to participate...

Otherwise, it might take a few days for the comments here to pick up because I haven't been blogging regularly in the last month or two... But I won't get tired of the crits and I'm hoping some of my other blog buddies will stop by to work on them too - there are some great writers around these parts with really solid feedback.

Ello said...

Hey Merry - since you already critted mine, I won't post but I will read and comment!

Julie Weathers said...

Heavens, are you reading my mind. No, that's not possible since I lost it a while back, trying to write a query.

I'm trying to write a synopsis now for the Barbara Rogan workshop and it's driven me to sticking my head in the oven to end the suffering. Unfortunately, I have an electric oven.

I'll be watching with great interest.


Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Ello,

Feel free to post anyway. Other writers might have some new feedback on your revised version - I know I did a number of revisions before I got to the final pitch... either way, though, I'd love to have your input on the pitches.

Hi Julie,

Nice to have you here! I remember seeing you at Janet Reid's blog - I did get in in time to participate in her query roullette, though it was a closed board to the participants and the group she'd put it together for - she actually liked mine, which was a fantastic boost going into submissions, unfortunately she doesn't rep middle grade so I couldn't actually pitch it to her - otherwise I'd have bombarded her already.

I had a very hard time with synopsis - and some agents will tell you three pages while others want one... mine works out to about two and a half... I'd do a crit on those but I think it would have to be a closed board because I wouldn't want to publish my complete synopsis online.

Feel free to post your pitch for feedback or learning curve for other writers - but I look forward to the participation when we start getting some pitches in...

*hint... hint* anyone anyone?

Julie Weathers said...

Thank you. I may try to rework the query. After getting shot down in a huge ball of flames and smoke with my query, it could definitely use some help.

I will try to post something tomorrow.

Middle son with new daughter on his way here now! Yay, baby to hold.

Thanks for offering your blog for this.


jjdebenedictis said...

I've pointed people at you on my blog, but I don't have anything to post myself. I will try to comment helpfully on other people's work, however!

Julie Weathers said...

*Takes a deep breath*

Okay, here we go. Any help or comments would be appreciated. I have a fairly thick skin, so don't hesitate to be blunt.

Dear Perfect Agent;

(Personalized note about agent.)

The king is missing. The infant prince is being poisoned. Guards loyal to the king are systematically exiled or killed. It's a dangerous time for a sixteen-year-old girl to join a unit connected to the king's elite Horse Guards, some of his most loyal troops. It's especially dangerous for a girl who has caught the eye of a demon, a pirate and the demon caller.

Gentyl has always dreamed of joining the Horse Guards when she was old enough. However, after the last of the missing king's personal guards is executed like a common criminal, her parents enroll her in an exclusive healing school, where she will be protected. Gentyl thinks her prayers have been answered and she has found favor with the Divine One, when she is accidentally assigned to a military unit instead.

On the verge of civil war and ethnic cleansing, her kingdom is rapidly approaching a disaster unless the king is found. Gentyl is assigned to watch over the king's seemingly senile wizard, but when he includes her in his efforts to solve the disappearance of the king and his guards, she learns Saerowyn is not nearly as helpless or addled as he wants people to think he is.

She survives an assassin's blade, court intrigue, a battle with an undead champion, the pirate's attentions, and the demon's attempts to possess her, but her greatest challenge may be conquering her temper and pride.

Paladin's Pride is a fantasy novel, which is complete at 130,000 words.

I was a staff writer for Speedhorse Racing Report for seventeen years. During that time I wrote weekly stories about Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa racing in Canada, Mexico and the United States. I also wrote several stories about the history of various tracks and articles about equine health. One of my stories was nominated for the AQHA Sprint award.

Thank you for your consideration and time.

Julie Weathers

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey JJ,

Fantabulous!!! Thanks again for the link love and I look forward to your input.

Hi Julie,

Congratulations on the new grand baby! Don't worry, blunt is my middle name, though I do try to do it in a constructive way...

I've got yours saved to my word file to work on for the post, but I'm going to give a little more time to see if anyone else chimes in with offerings before I post.

Julie Weathers said...

Thank you again.

I won't comment on what seems off to me, but I can't figure out. We'll see how it goes with others.


Gina said...

Hello everyone,

A couple of notes before you pick apart my query. Complicated sci-fi plot, but I’ve tried to cut out a lot of backstory. Hopefully I’ve learned something from prior critiques. If you can, please post your rewrites of my query, those things really help (even more than comments, simply due to “show, don’t tell”).

All the names are still evolving. I know the existing ones are silly. Please overlook this.

JJ, congratulations on hooking Eleanor Wood at Spectrum!!!! I hope I’ll be able to hook someone just as fantastic. And kudos to the physics background. All those abstract ideas and math… no small feat getting degrees in that.

Here’s my query:

Dear Agent,

“Faithless” is my 100,000-word space opera set in the 70th century, in human-inhabited systems several light years from Earth.

It’s tough enough surviving the world as a human. Try doing it as a resurrected being in the body of a human. That’s Ilana, an impoverished, rebellious eighteen-year-old with strange urges and bad nightmares. She’s a Voth resurrected in the body of a human, but she has no idea—just the feeling that something isn’t right. Her world is turned upside down when her existence comes to the attention of emperor Xim, the only other known Voth resurrection. Imprisoned, and then forced into his service, Ilana manages to win over his treacherous military elite and masterminds a powerful assassination plot against him. But just as she’s poised to strike, she learns her true identity from a terrifying encounter with the alien race Cyon, former slaves of the Voth that are now hunting them. As her current life rapidly loses meaning, she is torn between searching out other Voths in the virgin depths of space, or staying with humanity. But how do you give up the money, power and fame that you struggled so hard to get… for an uncertain life among your own kind?

Here are the first few pages. The story opens in a city on planet Yurin, where eighteen-year-old Ilana is wasting time racing speeders before she is first picked up by the empire:

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,