Monday, September 25, 2017

Query Critique Winner

Hi, everyone!  Here is this month's query critique winner:


Dear Carrie,

“The Boundaries Between” is a YA fantasy novel. At 96,000 words, it is LGBT inclusive, diverse, and the first in a series.

Selia spent her childhood testing the sprites' patience by wandering through their woods. When she becomes 16 years old, she must confront the rare magic within herself that could be fatal. The boundaries between her body and the world around her slip away as she grows. She can pull energy into herself from the earth, or feel her own being drained away in a passionate kiss. She must master her abilities before she kills herself or someone else.

In this land, where the prevailing magic uses music to do everything from lighting candles to destroying castles, there is no shortage of those who would come to Selia’s aid. Still, she doesn’t know if they are offering her help or grooming her for their own purposes.

Everyone around Selia has their own secrets: the headmistress who kidnaps Selia for her own good, the sparring instructor with the wry grin, the sprites who are following her and the grief-stricken king whose people are suffering from neglect. In a world of unreliable loyalties and unknown motivations, Selia must  discover who she can trust and how to reclaim for herself the power that others would exploit. Ultimately, Selia must choose between leaving this all behind, taking a throne for herself, or fighting to help people she has never met.

I’ve been an avid hiker since I could walk and feel the most at home when I’m in a forest, especially among the redwoods or on top of a mountain. In high school, I discovered singing, culminating in receiving a Music Minor in college, which included studying at a conservatory in Italy for a semester. My BA is in English and World Literature, I worked as a Senior Editor on an activist website, and am currently a freelance writer and editor. I’ve been profoundly influenced by the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin and Patricia McKillip.

My novel has a similar lyrical quality to Novik’s “Uprooted” and shares the rebellious character qualities of Dennard’s “Truthwitch.” I look forward to your thoughts.


Sincerely,
Laura Burge

And here is my critique:

Dear Carrie,

“The Boundaries Between” is a YA fantasy novel. At 96,000 words, it is LGBT inclusive, diverse, and the first in a series. 

Selia spent her childhood testing the sprites' patience by wandering through their woods. [This is starting in the wrong place.  If you're going to talk about sprites at the start of your query, they should be integral figures.  However, we barely hear about them again and it seems like Selia's main conflict has nothing to do with them.] When Selia she [Before delving in to the plot, tell us a bit about who Selia is and why we want to read about her.] turns becomes 16 years old, she must confront the rare magic within herself...a magic that could be fatal. [Why does she need to do this?  Why does she have magic?] The boundaries between her body and the world around her slip away as time passes she grows. She can pull pulls energy from the earth into herself without meaning to from the earthand can or feel her own life force drain being drained away in a passionate kiss. She must master her abilities before she kills herself or someone else. [This sentence feels too generic.  What specifically drives her to get this under control?]

In this land, where the prevailing people use magic uses music to do everything from lighting candles to destroying castles, there is no shortage of those who would come to Selia’s aid. Still, she doesn’t know if they are offering her help or grooming her for their own purposes. However, there is no way of knowing if their involvement would truly help or lead to Selia's deadly powers being used for their own ends.

Everyone around Selia has their own secrets: the headmistress who kidnaps Selia for her own good, the sparring instructor with the wry grin, the sprites who are following her and the grief-stricken king whose people are suffering from neglect. In a world of unreliable loyalties and unknown motivations, Selia must discover who she can trust and how to harness and reclaim her for herself the power for herself, without being exploited that others would exploit.  The paths to get to this point, though, each have their own dangers: should she run away, take the king's throne, or fight to help people she has never met? Ultimately, Selia must choose between leaving this all behind, taking a throne for herself, or fighting to help people she has never met.

I’ve been an avid hiker since I could walk and feel the most at home when I’m in a forest, especially among the redwoods or on top of a mountain. In high school, I discovered singing, culminating in receiving a Music Minor in college, which included studying at a conservatory in Italy for a semester. My BA is in English and World Literature, I worked as a Senior Editor on an activist website, and am currently a freelance writer and editor. I’ve been profoundly influenced by the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin and Patricia McKillip. [Because this doesn't include relevant information re: your platform, I would suggest cutting.]

“The Boundaries Between” is a YA fantasy novel. At 96,000 words, it is LGBT inclusive, diverse, and the first in a series.  My novel has a similar lyrical quality to Novik’s “Uprooted” and shares the rebellious character qualities of Dennard’s “Truthwitch.” I look forward to your thoughts.

Sincerely,
Laura Burge

This is an interesting query, but the writing feels choppy, with large chunks of information and description missing that is really needed to draw the reader in.  As it progresses, it becomes more compelling, but anything involving fantasy always needs descriptive much world-building!  Laura, I hope this critique was helpful to you and wish you the best of luck with this.  Everyone else, chime in with thoughts below!

1 comment:

  1. Two things: first, I don't feel like I really know what the story is about. There's a lot thrown in here, but I don't personally get much feel for either the character or the main conflict.

    Second, I'm not really sure how to approach this question, so I may ramble a bit. The opening line says "'The Boundaries Between' is ... LGBT inclusive, diverse...." yet there's no evidence of this in the query itself. There's a difference between having diverse characters and having that diversity be central to the story itself. How should an author approach this so that it doesn't look like they're merely checking off the boxes of a diversity form? (Laura, this is not meant to offend or imply that that's what you did here!) Thanks!

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