Friday, August 17, 2012

Tamara Walsh's Current Query Critiqued

Happy Friday, people. I'm getting started late today, because the UK has been blowing my phone up for two hours now. Anyway, here is Tamara's query, this time with my thoughts, in red.

The letter:

Dear Agent,

Luc’s childhood is destroyed the night his best friend, Auri, falls through a rip in the fabric of Trillua and disappears into a parallel world—ours world. Hmm. This is an unconventional opening, but I kind of like it. If you could just preface this sentence with Luc's age, and maybe one adjective that describes his personality, I think you'd be in great shape. Luc soon discovers he’s still connected to Auri through his dreams. This is a cool concept, but somehow it feels like there should be a cooler way to present this. Maybe skip this line and reword the next to include the concept? In them he watches her grow from a lost, lonely child into a beautiful sixteen year old girl who doesn’t trust anyone. When the leaders of Trillua discover a way to travel to Earth, Luc risks banishment from the home and family he loves to hijack a spot on their Mission and rescue Auri. But when he arrives, Auri doesn't remember Luc or Trillua. She’s built a new life for herself--one that includes a baby foster brother and sister she's determined to take care of. Okay. I know from talking to you that this is a dual POV story, and I get that that makes for a tough query. But I know you've decided to focus on Luc, even if it's a tough choice, because neither character is really dominant. So, that being said, I think you can skip this last sentence about Auri. I know it's important to the story, but it's kind of muddying up the query right now.

Luc has one month before the Portal back home closes again--one month to convince Auri she belongs with him. But as the clock ticks down, the leaders of Trillua realize that Luc's proximity to Auri has somehow made him faster, stronger and almost invulnerable to pain or injury. Luc's unheard of powers are too much like magic--something punishable by death in his world. The leaders demand he immediately Portal home to be examined as a potential danger to Trillua. Forcing Auri to travel before she accepts the truth of her forgotten past could destroy her mind, but the leaders have threatened to exile Luc's family into the treacherous Outerlands if he doesn't return. Now Luc must choose. Abandon the girl he was born to love, or save the family who’s depending on him for their survival?

I don't know. My readers may disagree, and maybe I'm tired, or confused, but I can't find much wrong with this second paragraph. It's maybe a little long, and the writing is maybe a little wordy in places, but as far as query related content goes, you've covered the bases most excellently here, I think. I mean you've got a clear sense of conflict, and this tough choice summarized so well at the end is one of the best I've ever seen. I guess some plots are just made for queries.

The World Next Door THE WORLD NEXT DOOR is a YA light sci-fi romance with series potential, complete at 95,000 words. I believe it would appeal to fans of Alyson Noel’s Immortal Immortal series. If you're going to use comparisons, I recommend trying to word them a little more subtly. I can't think of an example, but maybe if you mention something specific about the style of the Immortal series ... I think it sounds better when you do it that way. Read my successful query examples (link), and I'm sure you'll find one that does it that way.

I’ve written twenty-five articles for the local paper, the GA Harbor Sound (The GA Harbor Sound) and been published in Woman's World Magazine Woman’s World Magazine. Thanks for your time and consideration! I look forward to hearing back from you.

Just a quick note: in query letter's WORKING TITLES of unpublished manuscripts are written in ALL CAPS. Title of Published Works (articles, short stories, novels, and the names of the publications, magazines, or papers they were published in) should be Italicized.

Sincerely,

Tamara Walsh

Okay, a quick summary, because it's now 9 AM, and I need to get this posted: I think this query is already in great shape. If you can open with a stronger sense of character, clarify a couple things about the inciting incident, and then reword your housekeeping paragraph at the end ever so slightly, I think you'd be cruising along nicely.

That's it.

What do you all think? Anything I've said you disagree with? Please share your feedback in the comments.

24 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I agree - this one is off to a great start. And good storyline.

Jay Noel said...

Yeah, that second paragraph is very tight and well-written. Story sounds interesting.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Okay, here is my one hang-up with the query (but in my mind, it's a major one). The people of Luc's world create a Portal to our world to rescue Auri. But magic is punishable by death?

This might make perfect sense in the story, but it's not presented that way in the query. Nor does there seem to be a reason for Luc to develop strange powers -- is it because he passed through the Portal or because he is near Auri? And what about seeing her in his dreams? Was that magic? Did he tell anyone?

Does Luc have forbidden powers all along he's been hiding, and they become apparent during this journey? And why is creating a Portal okay, when Luc's powers are not?

I'm not suggesting a long digression into backstory and setting. But I think the language, sentences, and presentation of information can be tweaked so that what appears to be a contradiction is explained (or isn't a contradiction at all.)

Patchi said...

I agree with Matthew that you should stick with one POV for the query. I'm also working on a dual POV story and I know the query feels incomplete, but what you want is a teaser not a tale. I like the opening sentence very much and the story seems interesting. However, all the magic seems more fantasy than sci-fi to me.

Good luck!

Joshua said...

All great notes. The only one that I could add would be to change "thanks" to "thank you" in the last sentence. I know it sounds formal, but it also sounds more professional instead of familiar.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I know that Matt said he likes the opening, but I think there are too many names in the first sentence. Also I think you have a lot of information in this first paragraph that could be rewritten. Here's the important stuff. Auri is no longer on Earth. Luc can watch Auri in his dreams, is in love with her, and wants her back.

How about trying something like this:

One day Luc's best friend Auri disappears forever, but he finds her again in his dreams. He sees her grow up in a strange world and into a beautiful sixteen year old girl. When the opportunity comes to retrieve her from this world, Luc tries but Auri doesn't remember him and doesn't want to leave.

Okay, second paragraph. You have too much information. We don't need to know the mechanics of Luc's power. Here's what's important. Luc has one month, Luc develops superhuman powers. Luc must choose between love and family. Here's a suggestion on the second paragraph as I might write it:

Luc only has one month to bring Auri home. If he fails, he loses the love of his life. But metabolic changes that make him faster and stronger breed distrust in everyone he encounters. As the clock ticks down Luc must choose between love or family. And love has no meaning when the other person has no memory.

Anyway, that is my suggestion. Cut out unnecessary information that muddies up the query. Focus on only the most important pertinent details. And gloss over the names of the places to bring Auri and Luc to the forefront. It's their story.

tamw said...

Thanks so much,everyone!! You've given me a lot to think about.Between Write On and this, my poor query has been through the ringer. haha.

I really appreciate all the input and I'll get back to work implementing some changes.

Mathew--You said to try to get Luc's age in the first sentence. What about just: Sixteen year old Luc's childhood was destroyed the night his etc...etc...
Do you think that works?

Thanks again everyone!! You guys are awesome. :)

tamw said...

P.S. (Sorry)
Mathew--you said this part should be cut: But when he arrives, Auri doesn't remember Luc or Trillua. She’s built a new life for herself--one that includes a baby foster brother and sister she's determined to take care

The original line was: But Auri doesn't remember Luc or Trillua. She's built a new life for herself--one she doesn't want to leave.

Is that better? I changed it on the advice of a bunch of people on Write On who thought I should give her reason for not wanting to leave. Is it better to just leave it vague? I'm not sure how I'd cut it completely, cause then the query wouldn't make sense.

I'm also working with some other ideas that people gave, but--for now, I was curious at to your ideas on this. thanks. :)

Bryan Russell said...

What Matt said, though I didn't the last sentence of the first paragraph, as it still seemed to defining things from Luc's point of view (she cares about these other things, not him).

Nicely handled.

tamw said...

Diane...
Aaarrgghhh...haha. You pointed out everything I was still worried about that nobody else said, so I thought maybe I was just being nitpicky.

It's really tough, because Luc has no idea why he's able to dream of Auri, or why being around her made him develop powers. The leaders suspect it's magic, which is why they want to study him. You find out later in the book that (even though its illegal) the leaders even use magic for some stuff. But the Portal is supposed to be some kind of scientific thing--to put it in laymans terms ;) My brain is now going to explode from trying to figure out how to get this info. in there, but thanks so much for the input. I agree that things should be clarified. Now if only I could figure out how!

Alison Miller said...

Agreed - great stuff in this query, and I like your suggestions. Awesome insight, Matt. I may have to summon up some courage and send you mine some day. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great suggestions Matt. And this query and story sound really good.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great suggestions Matt. And this query and story sound really good.

Rusty Webb said...

I went back and read yesterday's post before checking out this one and I felt it was pretty strong too. I'm glad I'm not way off base with your opinion.

Elise Fallson said...

I love books about parallel worlds! The query is already in good shape and I can't think of anything to add to what Matthew and the other commenters have already suggested. Good luck with this! (:

lbdiamond said...

Interesting story!

Lydia Kang said...

The story sounds pretty intriguing!

Ciara said...

I think this is a pretty solid query with an interesting concept.

maine character said...

Sounds good! Reminds me a bit of Alexander Key's The Forgotten Door - a classic from years ago.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great crit, Matthew. I think you're right - that paragraph shows up the stakes clearly and exciting-ly :-)
Not sure what "light sci-fi" is. Also, is "sci-fi" the accepted term? Is it not spelled out or simply written as SF?

Cherie Reich said...

I agree with what you've said. It does sounds like a great novel!

Mary Holm said...

Great story, Tamara! I love the conflict between Luc's need to get Auri back and her desire to remain in her new life. I like the way you rewrote that line and I think you should leave it in.

I don't think why Luc is dreaming is so important here. I love the fact he watches her grow up in his dreams.

I think the important part about Luc's magic powers is that they make him stronger and more powerful and therefore threatening to the powers that be back home. Maybe if you emphasize that, it will be less confusing.

I get the feeling there's some kind of psychic connection between these two characters, hence the dreams and the enhanced powers.

And the stakes at the end are really high. Great job.

Mary Holm said...

Argh! Where'd my comment go? OK, I'll try it again...

I love this story, Tamara! I especially like the conflict between Luc's need to take Auri home and her need to stay. I like the way you rewrote the sentence and I think you should keep it in .

I also like that Luc dreams of Auri and watches her grow in his dreams. I don't think why that happens is as important here.

I think the most important thing about Luc's magic is the fact that it makes him stronger and more powerful and that threatens the powers that be back home. Emphasizing that may help alleviate some of the confusion.

Seems to me Luc and Auri have some kind of psychic connection. Is that why he dreams of her and why it makes him stronger?

The stakes are really high at the end. Great job!

Mary Holm said...

Argh! Where'd my comment go? OK, I'll try it again...

I love this story, Tamara! I especially like the conflict between Luc's need to take Auri home and her need to stay. I like the way you rewrote the sentence and I think you should keep it in .

I also like that Luc dreams of Auri and watches her grow in his dreams. I don't think why that happens is as important here.

I think the most important thing about Luc's magic is the fact that it makes him stronger and more powerful and that threatens the powers that be back home. Emphasizing that may help alleviate some of the confusion.

Seems to me Luc and Auri have some kind of psychic connection. Is that why he dreams of her and why it makes him stronger?

The stakes are really high at the end. Great job!