Saturday, February 6, 2016

Query Critique Winner

Daniel was lucky #8 this query critique go-around!  Here is his original query below:

Hi Carrie,

I’m writing to you to seek representation for my upper middle-grade fantasy adventure novel, “The Princess of Tangled Days”, complete at 83,000 words.

Little Princess Athlendora never sleeps past sunrise, yet no one ever knows just when she’ll wake up.

That’s because for the princess, days don't follow one after another like they do for you and me. Oh, her body may look the same each morning, but her mind and her memories?  They’re always from some random point in her future or her past.

Athlendora has been cursed, you see. Cursed to live all the days of her life out of order, so that from her perspective the world has always been little but a swirling confusion, where people and places—even her own body-- are never the same from one day to the next. It’s little wonder she never learned to speak, little wonder she lies in bed staring blankly on her best days, or flails in terror at anyone who comes near on her worst.

But then 12-year-old Mattie, an orphaned, lonely scullery maid, is sent to assist in the royal chambers, and this lowborn, stuttering servant girl manages to accomplish what the kingdom’s best physicians, priests or astrologers never could: Mattie finds a way to connect Athlendora’s disparate days to one another... and begins to teach her.  In the course of just a few weeks (weeks with more than the average share of glowing hedgehogs, secret tunnels, murderous cooks and killer crows) these two luckless children develop a unique bond that, in a way, spans an entire lifetime.  But... when the very same witch that cursed the princess marshals a foul army to invade the kingdom, Mattie and Athlendora are the only ones that stand a chance of altering the grim future that awaits them all.

Problem is, even if you can remember what’s to come, changing it--for the better at least--is another matter entirely.

“The Princess of Tangled Days” is a classically told tale of friendship, time and second third fourth chances, full of colorful characters, smart young female protagonists and a rich plot that avoids the standard fantasy tropes. I’m a first time novelist living in Tampa, Florida where I work for a small software company that makes software for high-end color printers. I have a lovely wife, two barely grown children and a nearly perfect dog named Lucky. With the kids now out of the house, I plan to produce many more books—I’m currently hard at work on number two.

Thanks so much for your time!

Daniel E. Barrett

And here is my critique:

Hi Carrie,

I’m writing to you to seek representation for my upper middle-grade fantasy adventure novel, The Princess of Tangled Days, complete at 83,000 words.

Little Princess Athlendora never sleeps past sunrise, yet no one ever knows just when she’ll wake up. [This sentence really confuses me, which is not good, especially since it starts off the query!  If she never sleeps past sunrise, wouldn't everyone know she'll wake up then?]   

That’s because for the princess, days don't follow one after another like they do for you and me. Oh, her body may look the same each morning, but her mind and her memories?  They’re always from some random point in her future or her past. [The tone of your voice hear seems a bit too childish and more lower MG than upper MG.  Also, how does this have to do with waking up at sunrise?] 

Athlendora has been cursed, you see. Cursed to live all the days of her life out of order, so that from her perspective the world has always been little but a swirling confusion, where people and places—even her own body-- are never the same from one day to the next. It’s little wonder she never learned to speak, little wonder she lies in bed staring blankly on her best days, or flails in terror at anyone who comes near on her worst. [The idea of her just lying in bed, catatonic, or flailing about also confuses me--how is she going to be an engaging character for your readers?  Will we see the world from her POV? 

But then 12-year-old Mattie, an orphaned, lonely scullery maid, is sent to assist in the royal chambers, and this lowborn, stuttering servant girl manages to accomplish what the kingdom’s best physicians, priests or astrologers never could: Mattie finds a way to connect Athlendora’s disparate days to one another... and begins to teach her.  [HOW?????] In the course of just a few weeks (weeks with more than the average share of glowing hedgehogs, secret tunnels, murderous cooks and killer crows) these two luckless children develop a unique bond that, in a way, spans an entire lifetime.  But... when the very same witch that cursed the princess marshals a foul army to invade the kingdom, Mattie and Athlendora are the only ones that stand a chance of altering the grim future that awaits them all.

Problem is, even if you can remember what’s to come, changing it--for the better at least--is another matter entirely.

The Princess of Tangled Days is a classically told tale of friendship, time and second third fourth chances, full of colorful characters, smart young female protagonists and a rich plot that avoids the standard fantasy tropes. I’m a first time novelist living in Tampa, Florida where I work for a small software company that makes software for high-end color printers. I have a lovely wife, two barely grown children and a nearly perfect dog named Lucky. With the kids now out of the house, I plan to produce many more books—I’m currently hard at work on number two.

Thanks so much for your time!

Daniel E. Barrett

This query is off to a good start, but needs some clarification and polish before it is ready to go out.  Although I get the general gist of the story, it needs to be told in a more dynamic way to grab an agent's attention.  There are also several problem areas I would want to see fixed: mainly, editing the part about Princess Athlendora waking up at sunrise, clarifying if then novel is from her POV, and explaining a bit about how Mattie is able to fix the witch's curse (and perhaps why the witch bothered to curse the princess in the first place).  Other than that, I thought this was an engaging query and particular enjoyed the last half--I really love the idea of a story along the lines of ELLA ENCHANTED, set in a unique fantasy world with a classic fairy tale-esque problem.  Chime in with your thoughts on Daniel's query in the comments section below, and if you have any questions you want me to answer, post them there, too, with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

3 comments:

  1. I'm going to be quite honest, I found this utterly confusing. As I read this, I kept thinking, "Yeah, but how does this work?"; as a result, I'm thinking about the wrong thing, and am getting hung up on how the princess' problem is a problem. I can't seem to get past that.

    On another note, there are a couple of things in the query that I think might run the risk of being seen as gimmicky or cutesy--italics for emphasis in three places, using ellipses, the strike through in the last paragraph. While you want to stand out, my impression (and Carrie, please weigh in with the agent's perspective here) is that too much of this can make you look gimmicky.

    I'd be really intrigued to see this one after a revision. Good luck, Daniel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The strikeouts don't bother me, but you're right that overusing different "stand out" things can make the query gimmicky, which agents rarely like. It also makes the book sound very young, whereas the problem the princess faces seems very YA to me (because I feel like it deals a lot with her psyche, insanity, etc.).

      Delete
  2. Hi Carrie,

    We tried replying to your email to us, but it came back as undeliverable.


    This tutorial should help your profile area: http://www.designerblogs.com/tutorial-how-to-configure-the-profile-gadget/.

    Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete