Monday, September 3, 2018

Query Critique Winner

This month's lucky winner is Kasey!  Congrats to you!  

Here is Kasey's original query:

Dear Carrie Pestritto,   
Ocean’s Call, a middle-grade novel complete at 29K words, is an #ownvoices novel featuring a LGBTQ teen. Ocean’s Call will tug on the heartstrings of any who have faced turmoil in discovering who they are or have needed to overcome past trauma to embrace their present. Those who crave the beach, wished they were a mermaid, or enjoy following the complicated life of someone who has just found out she is different, will love Ocean’s Call. 
 
Thirteen-year-old Sheeon has not set foot in the blissful, yet terrifying, water since a near death experience five years ago. When the ocean tries to reclaim her love, her body listens—mutates—to show her where she truly belongs. One night, when she goes to the bakery to help her mother, scales begin growing out of her arms. Fearful that her mother would rush her to the hospital to figure out what was happening to her, and losing the big wedding order, she keeps the mutation a secret.   
When she finally gains the courage to tell her mother, the scales have vanished. Days pass without another incident, and she begins to think that she was imagining the whole thing. But after a day confronting her fear along the beach with the help of her girlfriend, Renee, she heads home to wash the sand off her skin and hair. After filling the tub with warm water, she jumps in and finds out that scales are the only mutation she has. Her legs have morphed into a mermaid tail.  
 Sheeon is determined to keep that she is a mermaid a secret so that it doesn’t affect either her life or Renee’s. With bullies already mocking Renee because of her weight, adding a freak girlfriend will only make things worse. But her worst fear is that Renee will see her as the terrible creature she has become and reject her, causing her to lose her love and best friend.  
 I have a B.S. in Psychology and am returning for get my Certificate in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University in September. Ocean’s Call will be my debut novel. 
 
Thank you for your time.  
 Sincerely, 
 Kasey 

And here is my critique:

Dear Carrie Pestritto, 
 
Ocean’s Call, a middle-grade fantasy novel complete at 29K words [That wordcount feels a touch short], is an #ownvoices novel featuring a LGBTQ teen. Ocean’s Call will tug on the heartstrings of any who have faced turmoil in discovering who they are or have needed to overcome past trauma to embrace their present. Those who crave the beach, wished they were a mermaid, or enjoy following the complicated life of someone who has just found out she is different, will love Ocean’s Call[There is waay too much telling going on here, especially for an opening paragraph.  Ideally you want to draw readers in with crisp showing moments right at the start that leave them wanting more.  I think you can cut this section and move the remaining sentence to the end paragraph before you tell us about yourself.]  
 Thirteen-year-old Sheeon has not set foot in the blissful, yet terrifying, water since a near death experience five years ago--quite a feat for someone living in a seaside townWhen the ocean tries to reclaim her love, her body listens—mutates—to show her where she truly belongs. [I'm not sure what this means.] But the ocean is about to give her a very different, unimaginable experience that will change her forever...  One night, when she goes to the bakery to help her mother while helping her mother fill a big wedding order at their family bakery, scales begin growing out of her arms. In shock and Fearful afraid to say anything that might lead to her mother would rushing her to the hospital to figure out what was happening to her, and losing the big wedding order, she keeps the mutation a secret.
 
  
 
When she finally gains the courage to tell her mother, the scales have vanished. Days pass without another incident, and she begins to think that making Sheeon wonder if she was imagining the whole thing. But after a day confronting her fear along the beach with the help of her girlfriend, Renee, she heads home to wash the sand off her skin and hair. After filling the tub with warm water, she jumps in and finds out that scales are the only mutation she has. Her her legs have morphed into a mermaid tail.
 
  
 Sheeon is determined to keep that she is a mermaid a secret so that it doesn’t affect either her life or Renee’s. [I think the language here could be more dramatic.  Right now, it feels a little flat.] With bullies already mocking Renee because of her weight, adding a freak girlfriend will only make things worse. But her worst fear is that Renee will see her as the terrible creature she has become and reject her, causing her to lose her love and best friend.  But more than disrupting her loved ones' lives, Sheeon is afraid that being a magical creature will mean that she will lose the best parts of her own life and be forced to retreat to the ocean for good.  [There needs to be something to give more of a cliffhanger ending here instead of just abruptly stopping, e.g. "But when a paranormal investigator shows up in TOWN NAME, armed with a camera and floodlights, there doesn't seem like there will be any other option...unless the ocean has yet another plan for her..."] 
 I have a B.S. in Psychology and am returning for get my Certificate in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University in September. Ocean’s Call will be my debut novel.  
Thank you for your time. 
 Sincerely, 
 Kasey 

This is such a cool idea for a story!  It makes me think of a MG Splash, which was one of my favorite movies growing up.  You have a great premise, Kasey, and with some smoothing out, I think this query will be great.  Be wary of flat, telling language, and do your best to insert more tension in the query so that we can't wait to read more and know what happens.  I hope my comments help you with that--best of luck!

If anyone has any other thoughts to share, the comments section is for you!

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