Monday, November 26, 2018

Query Critique Winner


Hi, all!  This month's lucky #8 is Teagan--congrats!  Here is her original query:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,

Thanks to her father’s last-ditch attempt, seventeen-year-old Raenalia has been cursed her whole life.

At first, Raen thought being cursed to stay in her own city was bad, but then her city was ambushed and occupied by a subterranean monster race, the Tauren, and now Raen knows that it could still get worse. The Tauren killed many of the inhabitants of her city and the rest have fled, including whatever was left of Raen’s family. Now Raen and the remaining humans are forced into labor. The Tauren are matriarchal, fierce, scaly, horned, and nothing to be trifled with, as they constantly remind Raen with slaps and scratches. After years of patient service, she hears of her father’s plan to retake the city, but simple confrontation won’t be enough; the Tauren are clearly stronger warriors. Raen must be subtle. She, along with her dog and throwing knives, starts working counter-operations. Soon she and a young Scout from her father’s army are running information, releasing prisoners, and sabotaging the Tauren. Because Raen is cursed to stay in her city (or rather, under it), the only way she can be free is if the Tauren are forced out, as impossible as that seems. Raenalia has no choice but to try. 

Bindings, my YA fantasy novel, is a fast-paced adventure, complete at around 100,000 words. It was a finalist in Simon451’s “Student Writing Contest” in 2014. I was born and raised in Minnesota and I am a M.F.A. recipient from Minnesota State University, Mankato. I very much look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Teagan

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,

Thanks to her father’s last-ditch attempt ill-thought-out protection spell, seventeen-year-old Raenalia has been cursed to stay within the boundaries of NAME City her whole life. [This is a confusing start for this query, since the phrase "latch-ditch attempt" is never explained further or referenced again in the pitch.  I edited to make more sense, but feel free to change if I got some of the details incorrect!]

At first, Raen thought being cursed to stay in her own city unable to leave the city was bad, but then her city was ambushed and occupied by when a subterranean monster race, the Tauren, razes NAME, and now Raen knows realizes that it could still get muchworse. The Tauren killed many of the inhabitants of her city and the rest have fled untold numbers of the city's inhabitants, except the rare few who are able to flee, including whatever was left of Raen’s family. Without her parents and a way to fight back, Now Raen and the remaining humans are forced into labor. The Tauren are matriarchal, fierce, scaly, horned, and nothing to be trifled with, as they constantly remind Raen with slaps and scratches. [This detail doesn't add anything to the story, so we can cut it.] After years of patient service, she hears of her father’s a whispered rumor that her father is still alive and has a [I edited this, because doesn't she think all her family is dead??] plan to retake the city, but simple confrontation won’t be enough; the Tauren are clearly stronger warriors. Raen must be subtle. She, along with her dog and throwing knives, starts working counter-operations. Soon .  Filled with hope for the first time in ages, she and a young Sscout from her father’s army are begin running information, releasing prisoners, and sabotaging the Tauren in any way they can. Because Raen is cursed to stay in her city (or rather, under it), the only way she can be free is if the Tauren are forced out, as impossible as that seems. Raenalia has no choice but to try.  But Raen's activities are confined to the city's limits and if she ever wants to make a real impact in the uprising and find her way back to her family, she will have to figure out how to break her father's protection spell and escape from under the Tauren's noses before war breaks out in NAME yet again. [I worked to incorporate a sense of tension here, as well as a bit of a cliffhanger that you might see on back cover copy to encourage reader's to pick up the book and start turning the page.  It's important to have this in a query so that it feels compelling instead of like a mini synopsis!]

Bindings, my YA fantasy novel, is a fast-paced adventure, complete at around 100,000 words. It was a finalist in Simon451’s “Student Writing Contest” in 2014I was born and raised in Minnesota and [Unless the story takes place in Minnesota, we don't need this info here.]  I am a M.F.A. recipient from Minnesota State University, Mankato. I very much look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,  

Teagan

As you can see, the bones of a good query are here, but a lot of rambling, unclear sentences need to be trimmed back to let it shine.  I've said this a million times: writing fantasy is HARD WORK.  Even when it comes to queries, there is the challenge of imparting all the necessary world-building information so the reader feels grounded in the story without micromanaging or causing more confusion than clarity.  I worked on creating some of that clarity with my revisions and ironing out patches in the plot.  I hope my comments are helpful as you revise, Teagan, and wish you luck with this!

If anyone else has any comment to share, post them below!