Monday, November 17, 2014

Query Critique Winner

I'm happy to report that the first query critique seems to have been a success.  There were more entries than I thought there would be (thanks to everyone who entered!) and the winner of the critique was Emy Shin.

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
In a kingdom where magic promises power and wealth, the only fate worse than death is having magic stripped from you[This sentence didn't really draw me in. It was clunky and didn't quite convey anything important...wouldn't people with magic naturally be powerful and wealthy, and want to keep that power?]  To the elite few bestowed with magic, power and wealth are only a wish away. What To eighteen-year-old Rin wishes for, however, it’s  is the perfect revenge against her father, the coward who abandoned his family for magic [So then not everyone has magic?  And how would you abandon someone FOR magic? Explain this a bit more.] and caused her mother’s death.
However, the magic-draining spell is forbidden  only very few people know how to perform the forbidden magic-draining spell, and to steal it, Rin must seek out the man who invented it himself: the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who only cares for himself. [Maybe instead of letting us know he is vain here, tell us who is he (Government scientist? Rogue magician?) and why he has the magic-draining spell and is cursed.]
The Beast needs to have his curse [What curse?] broken before the winter passes, or risks being stuck in this form forever [So he’s man? How does he know how to drain magic and yet not deal with this curse?  Who was the curse bestowed by?... This sentence is bringing up a lot of questions for me as a reader.]-- and Rin needs an excuse to remain close to him. Her bargain: She will find him his true love in exchange for a new identity as his apprentice. It’s the perfect arrangement. [The word “bargain” makes me think that she’s not STEALING the spell from him so much as telling him what she needs and giving him something in return.  Is that the case?  If so, why would she need an excuse to stay close to him?]
What Rin doesn’t count on, however, is falling for the Beast herself . Except [Except what? This reads a little awkwardly – I get what you’re trying to say, but it needs to be worded differently or it doesn’t quite make sense.]falling in love with the Beast and thinking that she might be the one to break his curse. But she has already triedkissed kissing him. And failed he is still a monster.
MORE THORNS THAN ROSES is a YA Fantasy complete at 90,000 words [That word count is a little scary.  I would leave it off and instead say that this is a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast!]]. Thank you for your consideration.
Emy Shin

I thought this was a great story idea with a lot of interesting potential, and if you have any thoughts on the critique or questions about why I did the things I did, post in the comments section below.  If there are more than eight comments (and not just one-word things, please, real comments!  I don't want to be giving away 100-page critiques like glasses of water) then Emy will win the author treatment :)


  1. Thank you so much for doing this! I'm very grateful to have my query critiqued. :)

    All of your comments and suggestions are spot on, and have given me a lot of great ideas to rewrite and improve my query. For the "bargain": Rin uses the excuse of wanting to be his apprentice in order to remain close to him for an opportunity to steal the spell, which the Beast won't just teach her outright. But I can definitely see how the original wording is confusing, and will rewrite to make it clearer.

    Again, thank you so much!

  2. I thought the critique was fabulous and especially liked the part where you suggested that it's a reworking of Beauty and the Beast. That says a ton. I am always on the lookout for diversity in MG and YA books for my kids, so I really hope this book is published. Sounds fantastic!

  3. I'm curious about the word count. What is the ideal word count for a YA fantasy? 90K seemed normal to me, but then, I write historical fiction so it's a completely different genre. Or maybe my books are on the long side as well!

    Love the idea of a Beauty and the Beast retelling!

    1. 90k is the outer limit of a usual YA novel, but for me whenever I see anything approaching 100k, my mind kind of goes "Oh, wow." It isn't necessary to share your word count, and I tend to think it is better to leave it out so that an agent can judge the story for himself/herself without thinking about how much time it is going to take to do so.

  4. What a neat re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast story!

    I think the critique offers a lot of good insight, in terms of how to strengthen the query and get to the heart of the story.

    The other thing I'll say is that if a writer finds that their query is bringing up too many questions, rather than answering all of them, it is sometimes better to find new phrasing that just eliminates some questions from being asked instead. (I.e., simplify!)

  5. I'm going to comment first on the format here: I would recommend you posting the query in its original form first, then with your comments/cross-outs/suggestions below. It makes it easier to follow what you're commenting on, if you know what I mean.

    If I'm following the original correctly, I agree that there are too many questions raised by the query. And, personally, I would avoid opening a query with "In a world/land/time/whatever where..." -- I immediately hear "Movie Preview Guy" in my head and it turns me off. Of course, I'm not an agent, so take it with a grain or two. Best of luck to you, Emy!

    1. Good idea about posting the original query as well - thanks!

  6. Assuming that Emy Shin is from Chinese heritage, and I have novel set in China, I like to help her to reach the 8+ comment and win the author treatment. My only comment is that I like to know in the query if Rin is Chinese or Asian, because it'll help Emy Shin to get interest from agents looking for YA fiction with Diversity. Best wishes to her that her query will find an agent.

  7. I found the 90k "scary" comment interesting as well. I've seen several other agents say that because it's YA FANTASY, 100k is the number they don't want to see you reach. And I've also seen some agents say they won't look at a manuscript if you don't include the word count. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, but I DO think it's proof of why it's so important to research individual agents each time you decide to query so you can be aware of their personal preferences. Great work Emy! And I hope you get the author treatment because Carrie has a ton of great points!