Monday, October 31, 2016

Query Critique Winner

Happy Halloween, everyone!  This month's query critique winner is Ellery Krueger.  Yay, Ellery!  Also, awesome name 

Here is her critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible.

Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited the local museum of fine art one day and fell asleep. When he woke up Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life.

Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream. All he knows is the plain, dismal life his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer.

The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist. The work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches.

That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush.

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


And here is my critique:



Dear Ms. Pestritto,

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of 
the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible

 Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited visits the local museum of fine art one day and fell falls asleep. When he woke wakes up, he is shocked when the young boy in the painting in front of him asks him why he is sleeping in the museum.  He learns that his name is Ayden Fragonard and that he has been trapped in the painting for 500 years. Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. [First: be careful with your tenses.  I noticed you switch to present tense in later paragraphs, but this section is the one that should be in the present tense and the others in past.  Second: the way this paragraph was formerly written makes it sound like Stefan isn't at all fazed by being spoken to by a boy in a painting, which either means we are in a world where magic is out in the open or Stefan is WAY under-reacting!  Either way, this needs to be adjusted to something along the lines of what I have above in blue.] Before this, Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream was a farmer with nothing magical about him. All he knows is knew was the plain, dismal life of working his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit visited his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets was Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer.

The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents 
[The fact that Botticelli has magical powers is so casually mentioned here, I didn't notice it on the first read. You should explain this more,] takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist decides to become his apprenticeHowever, The the work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter that Ayden give up his apprenticeship and tell Botticelli to leave. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches [This needs some more description so that we really understand what is going on here and how Botticelli "paints" things a certain way] That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. [This entire paragraph is very confusing.  Why is a world void of color and depth perfect for a lazy artist?  Why is Botticelli described as lazy--we see no indicator of it anywhere before this.  Does Ayden need to step out of his father's shadow or is it that he needs to be brave enough to do disobey him in some way?  Also, why does he need to battle for control of the magic paintbrush with the help of painters throughout time?  Do they all also have magic?  And finally, WHERE does Stefan come into any of this?  We never heard about him again.  Is Ayden telling Stefan this story the whole time?]

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Ellery J Krueger

Although I liked the way this query opened and the idea behind it, there needs to be a lot of ironing out done here before it makes sense to readers.  One of the thing that threw me the most was the way things were organized here: as you can see by all the questions at the end of the query, a lot of questions came up from the fact that things were explained or were brought up at random times.  When writing your story, the advice that I always give (and I think I've given it here before!), is to think about it as if it is back cover copy and you need to succinctly and compelling let readers know what the story is about and also give a snapshot of its voice.  I hope that's helpful, Ellery and everyone else working on their own pitches, and thanks so much for entering!

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below!

24 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You don't know what this means. I read your blog every month. I still cannot believe I won. Your advice was very good and touched a many points I have argued with over and over again.

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  2. I have written this query letter 1000X. It is difficult to know what works and doesn't. I can see things clearer now. I know what happens, but the reader, I can see how they would be confused in the areas you pointed out. I will begin revisions tonight! Thank you again. This is the first real critique I have ever received on my query letter.
    Ps. It is Mr. Ellery

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  3. Ellery--I must admit, I lost patience with it between paragraphs 3 and 4, though I also admit I'm not your target audience. For me, the big problem is that you start off introducing us to Vermeer--then it jumpst to Fragonard, but then it jumps to Botticelli. Who is the main character? It seems to be Fragonard; if so, start your query with him and carry it through his point of view. If it's Vermeer, keep him as the focus, otherwise, I'd say drop him entirely from the query.
    Disclaimer: I am not an agent, so take it all with a considerable grain of salt, and best of luck to you!

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    1. TY for the comment. It was difficult to figure out how to work the opening for the query. Vermeer is litsening to Fragonard tell his story, so the book has 2 openings. Fragonard as the opening for the Q? Hmmm... I might try a version of that

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    2. Thanks for clearing that up, Ellery. I think that if it's Fragonard's story throughout, then he has to be the subject of the query, if only because there's so little space to explain in the query itself. Note I could certainly be wrong, maybe there's a way to do it elegantly and succinctly. Carrie, what do you think?

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    3. I will have to find a way, but what do I do? The story opens with Vermeer. I don't want to casually throw Vermeer in there. Either way, just bought my new computer, so tonight I will seriously be going over this query

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    4. Oh yes, I think I will be putting more of the magical elemnts of Botticelli that make him unique in the query to get a better sense of that side of it. Everyone so far has given stellar advice. The query letter for me is the hardest

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  4. I loved it Ellery! Awesome job :)

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  5. I really enjoyed the premise of this novel, but will echo some of the above quotes wwith regards to clarifying certain actions in the story. Doing so will allow you to be even more creative with this already creative premise.

    For instance, explaining why the lazy artists world lacks color. Though it is perhaps implied (lazy workmanship) you could use this as a chance to delve into some philosophical aspects of life in your work. Just an example, of course!

    But it's a strong premise. It is also original, with the possibility of wild happenings throughout the story. Good luck with it!

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    1. I think you are right, the lazy world for the artist is black and white, but unclear to the reader, a good point to modifiy on my revisions of this query letter, thank you for the comment

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  6. As an art educator I would love to see a book about art history engaging for students to read like this. Way to go Ellery!

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    1. I agree, art history has been a life long passion for me. I grew up with it. Most people don't know who Grant Wood is or who MC Escher is or Fragonard or Bottiecelli. That's why I wrote this book. Thank You for commenting

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  7. Ok trying this again. Ellery I felt there was some clarification needed as all of the others have touched on here already. I found the idea for this, the idea that this story of fantasy can be an inspiring story. If there's was anything I would say tomadd, if you don't have space concerns or word count limits, is more description of the world that Botticelli created. And perhaps a little background on him and why and how he came to be this way and possess this magical powers when he paints. Overall, I believe in the idea and would definitely read this novel. This is Nicole Allen.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry i let my comment above be published with such typos. I was trying to say i felt the idea for this story to be an inspirational story was an intriguing element. And "tomadd" was supposed to be "to add".
      NA

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    2. Very insightful. It seems people want to know more about this Botticelli character and his role. I will have to do a better job of clarifying how he is involved in future revisions of the query letter. Thank you for commenting, again. I really appreciate it, Ellery

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  8. Ellery, thanks for your courage in putting your query out there so we can all learn from it. The questions Carrie asks are good ones not only for your query, but for the rest of us. We must make things clear for our readers and understand and project our characters' motivations. Best wishes on this. I think the story is very original!

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    1. It is no problem, I want to learn how to write the best query letter possible. This one has been difficult. There are two openings to the book, one with Vermeer and one with Fragonard. Clarity is something that can be hard for the author to see in that query letter, considering I know what happens, but the reader doesn't. Thank you for the comment.

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  9. Thank you, everyone for the comments and advice and thank you Carrie for critiquing my query letter. Every month I try to enter and I actually won! Your advice is awesome and I will take it to heart and revise accordingly to improve on my query, all thanks to you, Ellery

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  10. Ellery, Congratulations on submitting and winning the query critique! I was struck by Carrie's comments about how to mention magic in your query that I hadn't thought of before. It helps readers get a sense of the story if they see right away that magic is either common-place or unusual in your story world. That helps readers set their expectations.

    Debbie Watley

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    1. Thank you Debbie for the insight, writer's group was awesome as usual

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  11. Thank you for helping me with my query letter and giving me a different perspective on it. I decided to rewrite it from scratch. I really like the direction of this new one.

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