Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance--revised

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lachrymal
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Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance--revised

Post by lachrymal » March 22nd, 2010, 1:56 pm

OK. I incorporated some of your very helpful feedback! Here's a revision. Thanks in advance for your opinions and critiques!

Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night in the aftermath of the car accident that nearly took her life. Unable to make herself seen or heard, she wonders if she’s dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic.

Seth, who happens to be the most beautiful creature she’s ever seen, discovers her wandering one evening and informs Sasha she is now a “spanner”: when her body is asleep and unaware, her soul can stroll out the door and into the ether. The guardian of their small community, Seth educates Sasha on the finer points of spanning. Teleporting? Yes. Walking on water? Sure. Floating? Of course. Avoiding being devoured by soul-consuming ghosts? Hmm. That’s challenging.

But when she is attacked by a ghost, Sasha learns she has a unique ability: she can peer into ghosts’ thoughts and use that information to convince them to move on. Seth has his own, less merciful way of dealing with them—he can conceal anything from anyone, and ghosts don’t last long if they’re deprived of all sight and sound. Seth applies his gift to his personal life—he never reveals anything about himself, and none of the spanners have met him in the physical world.

Driven by her growing obsession with Seth, Sasha neglects her body until it gives out, forcing him to come to her in person and revealing the reason he keeps himself hidden. Unselfconscious in the ether, Seth’s deeply scarred physical incarnation can’t even meet Sasha’s eyes. Her careful plans to draw him out are interrupted when a malevolent ghost tears through town, intent on destroying Seth, a trail of suicidal spanners in its wake. When the ghost’s twisted plot leaves Seth gravely injured, Sasha must sacrifice one in her battle to protect him: her love or her life.

ETHER, a paranormal romance, is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Last edited by lachrymal on March 24th, 2010, 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by charity_bradford » March 22nd, 2010, 2:32 pm

lachrymal wrote:I can't stare at this any longer. Thanks in advance for any and all feedback! I understand your pain, and will do my best for whatever it is worth.


Dear Agent,

In the aftermath of the horrific ( Is there any other kind)? car accident that killed her sister and nearly took her life, Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night, unable to make herself seen or heard, wondering if she’s dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic. (This is a really good start, but kind of long. I think you could break it up after "seen or heard" and be fine).

Into her confusion steps Seth this was weird for me. How does he step into her confusion? sounds like stepping into a mud puddle. , a beautiful, eerie ( perhaps you should pick one modifier to describe Seth. I've heard that when it comes to adverbs and adjectives--less is more. Which one conveys what you most want to share?)vision Sasha initially understands as believes is a figment of her overheated imagination. He informs Sasha she is a “spanner”: when she’s asleep and unaware, her soul can stroll out the door and into the ether, leaving her body behind.

When a ghost tries to devour her, Sasha realizes the ethereal world is not the safest of places, but also learns she has a unique ability: she can peer into ghosts’ thoughts and use that information to help them move on. (Fascinating idea, getting the ghost whisperer feel here.) Seth, the most powerful of the spanners and the guardian of their small community, mentors Sasha. He fascinates her with his grace and frustrates her with his mystery—no one has ever met him in the physical world. Obsessed with her new nightlife, Sasha dangerously neglects her body. Her carelessness forces Seth to come to her in person, revealing the tragedy that pulled him into the ether and the real reason he keeps himself hidden. Is there someway to put the fact that Seth becomes her mentor closer to where he tells her she's not crazy and he is real? I like everything, but some of the flow keeps throwing me off. Also, the first sentence in this paragraph is long with a lot of information in it. Maybe consider breaking it up. Why did the ghost try to eat her? Is that normal or important to the story? Because this is a query, you should consider saying what tragedy changed Seth's life. The agent will want to know. Me too:)

To be with Seth, Sasha must make her way through the maze of scarring (maze of scarring is very poetic, but causing weird images in my mind. You may want to be more specific.) that’s marked them both, inside and out. Her careful plans to draw him out are interrupted when a malevolent ghost arrives in town, intent on finding and destroying Seth, a trail of suicidal spanners in its destructive wake. The ghost’s twisted plot leaves Seth gravely injured, and in her battle to protect him, Sasha must sacrifice one: her love or her life.

ETHER, a paranormal romance, is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sorry, I hope this makes sense. My 3 year old kept derailing my thought processes. All in all I like your story idea and think you have a good start on your query.
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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by GeeGee55 » March 23rd, 2010, 1:30 am

Well, let me have a stare. These are just my impressions, as goes for all critiques, do what feels right to you.
lachrymal wrote:I can't stare at this any longer. Thanks in advance for any and all feedback!


Dear Agent,

In the aftermath of the horrific - someone told me, if it's horrible never say it's horrible, I think that probably applies to queries car accident that killed her sister and nearly took her life, Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night, unable to make herself seen or heard, wondering if she’s dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic. This is good

Into her confusion I know you're being somewhat metaphorical here, but I think it might be better to say On one of her nightly forays she meets Seth and just be straightforward about it steps Seth, a beautiful, eerie vision Sasha initially understands believes is a figment of her overheated imagination. He informs Sasha she is a “spanner”: when she’s asleep and unaware, her soul can stroll out the door and into the ether, leaving her body behind - I think it's obvious her body would be left behind, if it's her soul that's strolling. and also cause you mention she can't make herself seen or heard above, so I can connect the dots

When a ghost tries to devour her, Sasha realizes the ethereal world is not the safest of places, but also learns she has a unique ability: she can peer into ghosts’ thoughts and use that information to help them move on. Good sentence Seth, the most powerful of the spanners and the guardian of their small community, mentors Sasha. He fascinates her with his grace and frustrates her with his mystery - little more specific here, frustates her by refusing to reveal his physical life, something like that, you know better than me—no one has ever met him in the physical world. Obsessed with her new nightlife, Sasha dangerously neglects her body during the day. Her carelessness forces Seth to come to her in person,- not sure about this, why couldn't he just tell her when they are two souls together? revealing the tragedy - is it physical scars that would only be apparent in the physical world? that pulled him into the ether and the real reason he keeps himself hidden.

To be with Seth, Sasha must make her way through the maze of scarring that’s marked them both, inside and out. - I don't know if you need the first sentence in this para, just go to the plans Her careful plans to draw him out are interrupted when a malevolent ghost arrives in town, intent on finding and destroying Seth, a trail of suicidal spanners in its destructive wake - I don't get this last clause. The ghost’s twisted plot leaves Seth gravely injured, and in her battle to protect him, Sasha must sacrifice one: her love or her life.

ETHER, a paranormal romance, is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Hope this helps a bit. It sounds interesting, good luck with it.

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by HillaryJ » March 23rd, 2010, 2:05 am

lachrymal wrote:I can't stare at this any longer. Thanks in advance for any and all feedback!


Dear Agent,

In the aftermath of the horrific car accident that killed her sister and nearly took her life, Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night, unable to make herself seen or heard, wondering if she’s dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic. Interesting.

Into her confusion steps Seth, a beautiful, eerie vision Sasha initially understands as a figment of her overheated imagination. He informs Sasha she is a “spanner”: when she’s asleep and unaware, her soul can stroll out the door and into the ether, leaving her body behind. Interesting

When a ghost tries to devour her, Sasha realizes the ethereal world is not the safest of places, but also learns she has a unique ability: she can peer into ghosts’ thoughts and use that information to help them move on. Is this necessary in a limited query letter when we already know she is other and will be learning more about being other? I'm thinking it probably belongs in the synopsis.Seth, the most powerful of the spanners and the guardian of their small community, mentors Sasha. I assume that, because this is a romance, it is told in 3rd person, with both their points of view? Can you do that in the query? Tell her story and why she is attracted to him in one paragraph, then his story and why he's attracted to her in the next?He fascinates her with his grace and frustrates her with his mystery—no one has ever met him in the physical world. Obsessed with her new nightlife, Sasha dangerously neglects her body. Her carelessness forces Seth to come to her in person, revealing the tragedy that pulled him into the ether and the real reason he keeps himself hidden. Love that he is brought into the real world to take care of her, do not like that his background is vague. I have heard (see recent post by NB) that queries require specificity. Either say why or bump it to the synopsis.

To be with Seth, Sasha must make her way through the maze of scarring that’s marked them both, inside and out. Her careful plans to draw him out are interrupted when a malevolent ghost arrives in town, intent on finding and destroying Seth, a trail of suicidal spanners in its destructive wake. The ghost’s twisted plot leaves Seth gravely injured, and in her battle to protect him, Sasha must sacrifice one: her love or her life.BOOM! Deadly peril drawing our lovers together!

ETHER, a paranormal romance, is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
I very much like the fresh premise. I do not know why writing query letters is more difficult than writing stories. Take a look at something like this for ideas on how to structure a paranormal romance query: http://www.amazon.com/Wicked-Deeds-Wint ... pd_sim_b_5

Good luck! Hope to read it some day.
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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by lachrymal » March 23rd, 2010, 6:37 am

Thanks to each of you for your incredibly useful feedback thus far. To answer some questions (because they are the things I'm struggling with): this novel is entirely from modified third person perspective--it's all in Sasha's point of view, not from both of their points of view. Seth, the male MC, is an enigma who is slowly revealed throughout the book.

I'm happy to be specific about what's going on with him (i.e., the tragedy, the reason he keeps himself hidden), but here's what's confusing me: I really struggle with how much to reveal in queries. In the book, it's a big reveal halfway through, and until then it's not apparent whether he's even alive/comatose/existing in the real world. In the synopsis, I lay it right out there, but in the query? I feel totally stuck. Should I give away everything but the very end?

Input on this would be much appreciated!

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by theWallflower » March 23rd, 2010, 10:55 am

In the aftermath of the horrific car accident that killed her sister and nearly took her life, Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night, unable to make herself seen or heard, wondering if she’s dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic.
-That's a long introductory clause to start a sentence with. It takes a long time to get to the protagonist And it's a long sentence. Try reversing it. Something like "Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night, ever since the car accident that killed her sister. No one sees her or hears her, so she wonders if she's dreaming, sleepwalking, or psychotic."
-Take out "horrific"
-Take out "nearly took her life". That's implied from the car accident.
-Take out "possibly".
-Is there a transition that comes between being awake and sleepwalking? What does she do when she wanders the streets? Peeps in windows? Is there anything going on? What does she wear? What does she see?
Into her confusion steps Seth, a beautiful, eerie vision Sasha initially understands as a figment of her overheated imagination. He informs Sasha she is a “spanner”: when she’s asleep and unaware, her soul can stroll out the door and into the ether, leaving her body behind.
-"Into her confusion steps Seth" is a confusing turn of phrase. It's also passive.
-Take out "initially" and "overheated"
-"Spanner" sounds great, but what does it get you? Sounds like I can be a spanner. I can walk out the door and wander around the streets at night too. What's so supernatural about a spanner?
When a ghost tries to devour her, Sasha realizes the ethereal world is not the safest of places, but also learns she has a unique ability: she can peer into ghosts’ thoughts and use that information to help them move on. Seth, the most powerful of the spanners and the guardian of their small community, mentors Sasha. He fascinates her with his grace and frustrates her with his mystery—no one has ever met him in the physical world. Obsessed with her new nightlife, Sasha dangerously neglects her body. Her carelessness forces Seth to come to her in person, revealing the tragedy that pulled him into the ether and the real reason he keeps himself hidden.
-Take out "dangerously"
-There are ghosts? What kind of ghosts? Are they all bad? Do they eat people? Is Sasha like Pac-Man?
-So her "ghost telepathy" is additional to her being a "spanner"? Sounds like "The Sixth Sense" or "The Ghost Whisperer" or "Medium"
-"He fascinates...world" should be removed. It's not part of the plot.
-How does she neglect her body? What does she do during the day?
-Don't obfuscate Seth's mystery. It doesn't intrigue me to read the story if you have all these mysteries that don't really matter.
To be with Seth, Sasha must make her way through the maze of scarring that’s marked them both, inside and out. Her careful plans to draw him out are interrupted when a malevolent ghost arrives in town, intent on finding and destroying Seth, a trail of suicidal spanners in its destructive wake. The ghost’s twisted plot leaves Seth gravely injured, and in her battle to protect him, Sasha must sacrifice one: her love or her life.
-"are interrupted" is passive voice
-scarring?
-Is Sasha's goal to romance Seth or to save ghosts? Or to stop the malevolent ghosts that are trying to eat them?
ETHER, a paranormal romance, is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Overall:
-Shorten your sentences to under 20 words in length
-There are too many adjectives that make your prose sound purple. Words like "overheated", "beautiful, eerie", "careful", just pad out the query and tell the agent nothing useful. You need to be plot-centric.
-You want to state the protagonist (her character archetype), what problem she faces, and what she's going to do about it. I'm not sure what Sasha's personality is? How is the reader going to connect to her? What is her problem with being a spanner? Is her entire goal to make Seth her boyfriend? Cause that's what it sounds like. And I have no idea how she's going to accomplish her goal.
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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by charity_bradford » March 23rd, 2010, 1:45 pm

lachrymal wrote:I really struggle with how much to reveal in queries. In the book, it's a big reveal halfway through, and until then it's not apparent whether he's even alive/comatose/existing in the real world. In the synopsis, I lay it right out there, but in the query? I feel totally stuck. Should I give away everything but the very end?

Input on this would be much appreciated!
I have the same problem with my query. I think, "If I tell you the mystery why would you want to read it?" However, everything I've read says to keep things clear in the query, don't try to save the mystery because agents are too busy. They need to know in that one page if it is worth their time to look at your work. I think that as long as your query is plot based and lets the agent know where you are going with the story you will be alright.

Have you read Query Shark at--> http://www.queryshark.blogspot.com/? Agent Janey Reid post queries and her comments on what works and doesn't work. I've learned a ton just reading through her archives.
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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by PaulWoodlin » March 23rd, 2010, 7:30 pm

It's okay for a romance to only be from the woman's point; in fact, I thought that was the norm in paranormal romance, since the mystery behind the man was part of the appeal.

And I have also been told that editors and agents want to know the ending of the story because they don't want to read a whole book and realize the writer cheated on them at the end.

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by gonzo2802 » March 24th, 2010, 11:01 am

Here are some of my thoughts, hope they help. Queries can be nerve wracking!
lachrymal wrote:

Dear Agent,

In the aftermath of the horrific car accident that killed her sister and nearly took her life, Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night, unable to make herself seen or heard, wondering if she’s dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic. I would probably split that into two sentences if you can. End the first sentence after the phrase "streets at night" and maybe do something like "Unable to make herself seen or heard, she wonders if she's dreaming, sleepwalking, or possibly psychotic."

Into her confusion steps Seth, a beautiful, eerie vision Sasha initially understands as a figment of her overheated imagination. He informs Sasha she is a “spanner”: when she’s asleep and unaware, her soul can stroll out the door and into the ether, leaving her body behind. I agree that "Into her confusion" is too quirky for a query. I get it, but I can see where a lot of people might be thrown off by it.

When a ghost tries to devour her, Sasha realizes the ethereal world is not the safest of places, but also learns she has a unique ability: she can peer into ghosts’ thoughts and use that information to help them move on. Seth, the most powerful of the spanners and the guardian of their small community, mentors Sasha. He fascinates her with his grace and frustrates her with his mystery—no one has ever met him in the physical world. Obsessed with her new nightlife, Sasha dangerously neglects her body. I would remove "dangerously" and just be a tad more specific on the neglect. Maybe "Sasha neglects her body by spending too much time in the etheral realm" or whatever it is that she's doing to cause the neglect. Her carelessness forces Seth to come to her in person, revealing the tragedy that pulled him into the ether and the real reason he keeps himself hidden.

To be with Seth, Sasha must make her way through the maze of scarring that’s marked them both, inside and out. Her careful plans to draw him out are interrupted when a malevolent ghost arrives in town, intent on finding and destroying Seth, a trail of suicidal spanners in its destructive wake. The ghost’s twisted plot leaves Seth gravely injured, and in her battle to protect him, Sasha must sacrifice one: her love or her life.

ETHER, a paranormal romance, is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.
-- I disagree with wallflower about taking out the part of her almost losing her life in the car accident. Just because there is a car accident that kills her sister doesn't mean Sasha was in the car at the time, I think you're fine to leave that part in.

-- I also disagree that you have to tell us exactly what happened to Seth in order to send him into the ether world. It's pretty obvious there is something about Seth's appearance that will explain that arc of the story. For a query letter, it should be enough for the agent to know there is a complexity to the hero, so he's not as likely to be a flat character.

The whole point of the query letter, is to give enough of the plot points to show the meat of the story, but there isn't time enough to explain everything. Hence the reason for the synopsis. The important thing is making the details we choose relevant and making sure they are gripping enough that an agent wants to read the sample materials. I think you've got a really good premise here and have done a fairly good job of conveying that. Just a little tightening on some of the wording and I think you're almost there with this pitch!

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance

Post by JTB » March 24th, 2010, 12:07 pm

I've fretted over queries more than writing the fr***n story. My sense is that a good query is short and to the point. Here's my suggestion

Dear ...

In the aftermath of a car accident Sasha Bennett roams the streets at night wondering if she’s dreaming. Into her confusion steps Seth, a beautiful, eerie vision who informs her she’s a ghost. Obsessed with what she thinks is an afterlife, Sasha dangerously neglects herself falling deeply in love with this vision called Seth. Then, a malevolent ghost arrives in town, intent on some twisted quest to destroy Seth, Sasha is forced to make a decision, to sacrifice her love or her life.

ETHER, a paranormal romance set in .... and with a ..., is complete at 99,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance--revised

Post by ryanznock » March 26th, 2010, 12:23 pm

It's intriguing, though I'm not normally a paranormal romance reader.

I will say, the opening line at first made me think she was unconscious, and only existed as a night being. If she has both a waking and sleeping life, you might want to clarify that.

Also, does the sister's death tie in somehow?

(Crap, gotta run. I'll post more in a bit.)

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Re: Query critique: Ether, paranormal romance--revised

Post by Ellie G » March 26th, 2010, 2:04 pm

lachrymal, your second version is much closer! I did have three main stumbling blocks. Like ryanznock, when I heard "wandering the streets after a car accident, unable to be seen or heard" I assumed she was in a coma or dead or something; if this happens at night but she leads a normal life during the day, you need to clarify that. Second, I'm not sure what you mean by "careful plans to draw him out" after he's already visited her in person. Third, I think all the talk of powers pulls focus from the core plotline. Trim out anything that doesn't directly influence the final showdown where Sasha's love and life are at stake.

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