Posted by Lauren Ruth
The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!
Dear Ms. Ruth,
[redacted], is a 55,000 word
s YA novel with a dark new twist to urban fantasy.
Re-reading this query, I do not see a dark, new twist to urban fantasy.
The quiet town of Rosewood, Michigan has a disturbing history. For a century and a half, young women have vanished. Locals whisper of monsters residing in the old theater house and in the woods surrounding Rosewood, but no one has ever seen one.
Until sixteen-year-old, Delilah Drislore moves to town.
I think it is best, since Delilah is the main focus of this query, to mention her before Rosewood. This query would be less disjointed if you began with the following paragraphs and worked the first paragraph into them.
Ten months ago, Delilah died for five minutes. Revived, she expects to see paramedics, but instead she stares up into the eyes of a savage little monster wearing eighteenth–century clothing and a skeleton mask. The doctor fears her five minutes of death left her with brain damage, so he condemns her to a psychiatric hospital for hallucinations and paranoia.
That seems a bit harsh. Wouldn’t the doctor just chalk it up to hallucinations? Brain damage and psychosis seem like a bit of a long shot.
Strong-willed and in complete denial about her “disability,” Delilah intends to live a normal life when she moves to Rosewood. There, she finds new friends and even starts dating the handsome Jerald Jenkins. Unfortunately, she cannot avoid the monsters forever, so when a strange man – who claims to be the King of the Rosewood monsters – develops a romantic interest in Delilah, her control over her “disability” starts to unravel. She delves into the town’s folklore and realizes she is caught in a century and a half old feud between a demon – who holds a strange resemblance to her boyfriend – and the mysterious king.
How is Delilah caught in the feud, exactly? What specific danger does she face? I think this is actually the biggest problem in this query: the conflict is not fleshed out enough. I need to know what she’s up against and how she overcomes it.
One of them is responsible for the young women who vanished, one of them keeps bringing her back from her suicide attempts, but they both have plans for Delilah. Absorbing the danger of her reality, Delilah wonders if those five minutes cost (you mean caused) her to lose – not only her parents – but her cousins, friends, boyfriend, sanity – everything.
Wait. Why did Delilah lose her parents and her cousins? Why did she lose her friends and her boyfriend? What are the plans for Delilah? The suicide attempts are thrown in very casually and I don’t know if it is realistic for a “strong willed” young woman who denies there’s anything wrong with her to be emotionally desperate enough to attempt suicide. Because all of this information, previously unknown to the reader, is piled up in this two-sentence paragraph, I’m confused and searching for answers.
I would reject this because there is information thrown down that is not explained. I have no choice but to believe this continues in the full manuscript. Remember an agent’s only impression of you and your writing is this one-page query. Whatever you do here, I’ll assume you do always.
THE CURSE OF ROSEWOOD will appeal to readers of Carrie Jones’ NEED and Clare B. Dunkle’s THE HOLLOW KINGDOM.
I always advise authors not to list the works of other authors. Here, you’re spot-on: this story is very much like NEED and THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. But this is not a good thing. Your plot seems almost exactly like that of THE HOLLOW KINGDOM: a town has mysterious folklore and women have vanished, a situation that is spun-up by the arrival of a newly arrived teenager (or teenagers), there is a king involved who seems to be the mastermind behind everything and who has devious plans for the new teenager.
I have been a member of Verla Kay’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s message board for five years and have taken two college English courses to enhance my writing.
Others might disagree with me, but I’ll advise against listing credentials unless a.) you finalized in or won a contest or been given formal accolades on your writing b.) you’ve had something published, even a short story c.) you have work experience that is very relevant to the material in your query d.) You have an MFA in creative writing. Otherwise, it’s like putting the fact that you graduated high school on your resume: you’re only highlighting your lack of higher credentials.
The good news is, you don’t have to have credentials to become a published author. For fiction, no agent is going to reject you solely because you’ve never been published or won a contest. But, if the agent is on the fence about requesting more, your credentials might be the tipping point. For this reason, I’d rather see either big credentials or no credentials at all. Let your writing speak for itself and focus on the strengths of the book you’re querying.
I would be happy to provide the complete manuscript for further review. <— The agent already knows this. This sentence does not hurt your query, but it is unnecessary.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Posted on August 25, 2011, in Advice, book publishing, publishing, queries, Query Dice, slush pile, submissions and tagged comparing to other authors, conflict development, credentials, disjointed query, dos and donts, including pages in query, making your query stand out, platform, plot, plot description. character development, plot holes, queries, query, query problems, romance, slush pile, standard query format, urban fantasy, voice, world building, writing, ya, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.