Monday, September 28, 2015

Query Critique Winner

This month's query critique winner was Chris Owens!  Below is his original query letter:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,

If being shy around girls were a serious disease, sixteen-year-old Jason Martyr would be on the critical list. When Lorelei Quinn shows interest in him, it seems too good to be true – and it is. Their first date ends with Jason drugged and abducted.

Lorelei is the recruiter for a secret government time travel program: Project Rewind. Their scientists believe Jason has a rare genetic ability for time travel. To gain his cooperation, they promise him information about his parents, who are locked up in Gitmo on unspecified charges.

Jason has to stop the Masters of Infinity, a secret society of chrono-terrorists, from travelling back to 1937 and replacing FDR with a fascist dictator. If the Masters succeed, the U.S. might never take part in World War II, setting off a catastrophic domino effect across history.

Jason wonders whether he’s working with the good guys after all when he discovers that his parents are in prison for conducting genetic experiments for the Masters. In 1937, he faces a gang of time traveling mercenaries assigned to stop him. With the future of the world and his own life at stake, Jason must sift through secrets and lies to choose which side of the battle he’ll join.

THE DESTINY MATRIX, a YA Sci Fi novel with a diverse case of characters, is complete at 83,000 words. It will appeal to fans of the Tempest series by Julie Cross, and Roland Smith’s Cryptid Hunters series. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and MBA with emphasis in marketing, both from the University of Missouri.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Chris L. Owens

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,

If being shy around girls were a serious disease, sixteen-year-old Jason Martyr would be on the critical list. When Lorelei Quinn shows interest in him, it seems too good to be true – and it is. [Because you talk about Jason being shy around girls, I was waiting for something describing that here.  Talk a little about their first date and how his shyness leads to being drugged/abducted or what his shyness has to do with it.] Their first date ends with Jason drugged and abducted.

Turns out, Lorelei's interest wasn't as innocent as it seemed. She Lorelei is the recruiter for a secret government time travel program: Project Rewind. Their scientists believe Jason has a rare genetic ability for time travel. To gain his cooperation, they promise him information about his parents, who are locked up in Gitmo on unspecified charges. [When did this happen?  This comes out of the blue...I'm also wondering what Gitmo is.  Give us a little lead in and explanation here.  Have Jason's parents never been around or are they imprisoned suddenly after he is kidnapped?]

Jason has to stop the Masters of Infinity, a secret society of chrono-terrorists, from travelling back to 1937 and replacing FDR with a fascist dictator. If the Masters succeed, the U.S. might never take part in World War II, setting off a catastrophic domino effect across history. [Is he working with Lorelei on this?  Or does she only drug in and bring him into the agency, and then he never sees her again? Because Lorelei is mentioned by name in the query letter, it makes me think she is part of the story in a more integral way.]

Jason wonders whether he’s working with the good guys after all when he discovers that his parents are in prison for conducting genetic experiments for the Masters. In 1937, he faces a gang of time traveling mercenaries assigned to stop him. With the future of the world and his own life at stake, Jason must sift through secrets and lies to choose which side of the battle he’ll join. [I love this last sentence, but again, does Jason's shyness come into play with things he has to overcome to save the world?  If not (and if Lorelei isn't a major player either), I suggest cutting the critical disease bit and just say that Jason thinks it's too good to be true when a beautiful, random girl asks him on a date.]

THE DESTINY MATRIX, a YA Sci Fi novel with a diverse case of characters, is complete at 83,000 words. It will appeal to fans of the Tempest series by Julie Cross, and Roland Smith’s Cryptid Hunters series. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and MBA with emphasis in marketing, both from the University of Missouri.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Chris L. Owens

This is a great query letter!  It draws me into the story and gets me interested to read more, and Chris did an excellent job of using comp titles and saying that the title is standalone but has series potential!  The only thing I really ran up again was assuming that certain things were going to be bigger in the story than they were, only to not hear of them again, namely Jason's shyness and Lorelei.  Other than that, I think this is great!  What do you guys think?  Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below!

4 comments:

  1. I thought this was a great query letter and Carrie pointed out the one question I had: how Lorelei factors into his mission. Also, did you mean to say diverse "cast" of characters?

    Good luck, Katherine

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  2. Jumping in without having read the critiques, as is my habit. Keep in mind that I am no agent or expert, and YA is not exactly my thing.

    I find myself uncertain about this query. Maybe that's because time travel stories often make my brain stop functioning as I try to figure out how it would work! I like the opening paragraph--it's quick and effective, and has that twist. The second paragraph, the mention of Jason's 'rare genetic ability' seems like it's there to explain why he's been recruited in the first place. Without it, I guess you'd say, "Why him?" But with it, I feel like it needs to come into play again, and it doesn't. For Carrie: if he was just kidnapped and recruited, would you feel (in the context of a query) that you needed to know why?

    The other part about the query that leaves me slightly confused is where you say Jason's not sure about whether he's working for the good guys or bad guys. If his parents were working FOR the Masters of Infinity, the ones who are trying to rewrite history, wouldn't that make THEM bad guys? Jason, I expect, believes he's working for the good guys; this would seem to confirm that. What makes him uncertain who's good and who's bad?

    The story does sound interesting, best of luck to you!

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  3. Intriguing story. I'd love to read more. That being said, I'm a fan of Matt's over at the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (he's not very active anymore). He used to talk a lot about the 3 Cs--character, conflict, choice. One thing to watch for is making the query sound too much like a synopsis. But as I mentioned, I'd be interested in reading more.

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  4. Hey, a fellow Mizzou alum!
    I think it sounds great, an interesting premise- similar to Richard Unger's recent middle grade series, The Time Snatchers, which Chris should check out to keep a pulse on the market if he hasn't. I do think the first paragraph is great though- nice cliffhanger. I just found myself confused once I got to the fourth though- about Jason wondering who he's working for.

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